Aix-en-Provence had 444 restaurants at the last official count and here’s the best of the cheaper, local ones that offer something different or better to the usual fast food chains that you’ll find everywhere else.
You’ll be sure to find all the usual fast food chains and cheap eats in Aix as well as a new explosion of bagel restaurants that are dotted around town, but here are the ones where only the locals go – that offer great value using local ingredients.
Ever since it opened 18 months ago, Mana Espresso has been flying the flag for good coffee in Aix, and most people (by a mile) think it’s the best in town. It also does vegan cakes and very reasonable tartines (an open sandwich coated with yummy vegetables, like avocados for example). It’s called Mana after the Mana Pools National Park along the Zambezi river, where the owners, Alex and Ben, spent an extraordinary camping holiday. They have all the Harry Potter books to read while you hang out and it’s one of the few coffee shops open all day on Sundays, and it has WiFi. Check out Facebook for daily specials.
The library in Aix is one of the nicest places to work, for free. Tucked away to the side, outside, is its restaurant, the Bistro Méjanes. If you sit down to eat, it’s about the same price as most other brasseries in town, but you can also order very cheap sandwiches to take away for €3. They don’t list them on the menu so you’ll need to ask at the bar, but they’re always very fresh and the service is friendly.
Open a few years ago, Via Italia is regarded as one of the best value Italian places in town. What’s more, you can get a piadina (an Italian folded crepe, stuffed with vegetables and pesto) for under €5. It’s cosy, with a few tables inside and a few outside, where you can watch the owners prepare the fresh pasta (with daily sauce choices) or cooking the piadinas. The staff are very friendly and the Italian desserts to die for. Check out Facebook for up-to-date menus and news.
The Italian restaurant, Piacere, has raving fans because of its high quality Italian food (fresh pasta and piadinas) but also because of the affordable prices. Try a piadina for €5 or a tasty fresh pasta menu for €6.50. It’s in the centre of Aix with upstairs, downstairs and outside seating. The clientele are hip and the waiters young and friendly.
This little restaurant isn’t much bigger than a hole in the wall but it does have about four seats inside and 20 or so outside. It’s fast food but one of the best in Aix, which you’ll be able to tell during term time when you see the queues of students at lunchtime. The menu is €6 for a burger or falafel with fries or €6.50 with a drink. The owner is very friendly and will happily cook your meal exactly the way that you like it (no pickles, extra mustard, no sauce, etc.) which isn’t always true in the south of France. A firm favourite for no-nonsense fast food.
Pittz is a falafel fast food takeaway joint that is located inside a frozen yoghurt shop. It’s in the street where you’ll find hundreds of other fast food restaurants of varying quality. Pittz is clean, delicious and amazing value. Try falafel wrapped in pita bread with sauces and salad plus a drink for €6.50. If you’re less hungry (and the big ones are big) try a half for €3.50 and some chips for €1. Check out Facebook for more details.