For many travellers, finding a decent meal at a reasonable price is not often easy, particularly in a ski town such as Chamonix with a plethora of fine dining, fast-food stands and more traditional ‘tourist traps’ with standards such as steak frites and salade niçoise of mixed lettuce and other unidentifiable items, often made up of the cheapest ingredients found with lots of filler and not much else. I am not really a ‘foodie’ but I really hate being taken for a ride when I head out for a meal.
My little list is far from exhaustive, but will give you an idea of what is available in Chamonix, whether you are a budget traveller or looking for a fine dining experience.
La Maison Carrier
The Maison Carrier is located opposite of ENSA (The national mountaineering school) and the main roundabout into Chamonix from Geneva, is a step down from the Albert 1er, Michelin stars and all, yet retains all of the charm and quality of one of the high-end eateries without all of the hype and fanfare found in more traditional French restaurants which are more concerned with protocol rather than what’s in the plate.
The building itself is worth the visit with old timbers, antique furniture and one of the last curing chimneys of the valley where, if you look up, you will see hams curing and smoked sausages, well, smoking. Serges, the Maitre d’ is really the one who runs the show.
His French accent is just the right mix of Jacques Cousteau and Jean Reno while still allowing you to understand what’s on the menu and which wines will go well with the meal.
I could basically just have the dessert platter, which is a 2-tiered round table with roughly 30 different items to choose from.
Simply decadent but well worth it! They call it “ Vré de toutes les tartes de la Grand-Mère, which translates to ‘All of Grannie’s Goodies’!
Menus range from the ‘plat du jour’ (daily special) for € 19 to more elaborate feasts coming in at about € 40.
Serges is far from pushy when it comes to the wine list and will certainly suggest an excellent bottle for under € 25. The local Savoie wines are excellent, fruity and light and go well with most of the dishes on offer. Bon appetit!
Le Munchie Cuisine et Bar
If you like fusion food, you will certainly enjoy this Swedish-run gem in the heart of Chamonix night-life, the Rue des Moulins, located just against the River Arve, parallel to the main pedestrian area of Chamonix.
Heavily into Sushi and Thai dishes with a twist, this is the perfect gig if you have just spent 10 days hiking the Alps eating cheese,
hard bread and iceberg lettuce.
Some of my favourites are their spicy beef salad, lobster tom yum and Tempura baby shrimp.
They also offer daily specials. In summer, you can squeeze around the few tables they have directly in front of the restaurant but bring a jacket,
even on a warm summer’s night as the River Arve is rushing nearby bringing icy cold water from the many glaciers surrounding Chamonix.
Remember to reserve, they are always busy! Despite no smoking bans in restaurants, terraces are not off limits to those who want a cigarette between courses so keep that in mind
if you choose to eat outside. Not cheap, so be prepared to spend close to €50 per person for food and drinks.
PIE SUCRE & SALE
If you make it to Chamonix in the French Alps for a hiking, mountaineering or skiing holiday, why not try a piece of pie made by Charles, a local pastry chef who has honed his skills at the Chateaux Lake Louise, in Alberta, Canada and has been making delicious, home made pastries for a decade in Chamonix, France. Steph and Charles, a French husband and wife team, work throughout the year serving gourmet pastries, specialty coffees and teas to locals and tourists alike. They offer reasonably priced meals for under 15 euros and fresh fruit juices. More than just a coffee shop, Pie has become a meeting place for many locals, tourists and shop owners stopping in for a chat, a quick espresso or a read of the local paper. But you better get there early, meaning, don’t expect pastries to last all day. Charles bakes early in the morning and then spends the remainder of the day serving clients.
Pie can be found at the end of the pedestrian-friendly Avenue Ravanel Le Rouge, at number 111, across from the Salomon running shop. Off season the café is shut Monday and Tuesday. And if you need advice on where to climb, hike, or ride, just ask Charles or Steph, they are both accomplished alpinists and hikers, and know riding and hiking trails in and around the Chamonix Valley very well.
Aux Petits Gourmands
Located in the ‘pedestrian zone’ / main street across the Lafuma store and near Snell’s Sporting goods,
this high-end pastry and chocolate shop is one of the best in Chamonix for fast service,
excellent food and a sunny terrace in the morning.
Not cheap, but who’s saving when on holiday?
Their macaroons are also delicious and they can package almost anything to take away.
This is a great place to read the paper, have a coffee and people watch as the café is located on the main pedestrian street of Chamonix.
If you need your fix of the Herald Tribune or another English-language paper, you can find it across the street
at the Maison de la Presse,near the Grand Hotel des Alpes, along with a huge selection of maps,
guide books and computer supplies downstairs.
Chambre 9 at the Hotel Gustavia
Strategically located directly across the street from the Chamonix train station, the Chambre 9 is where the locals congregate for both lunch and après-ski in the winter and for late evening meals in the summer. With a large, shaded terrace out front, the mostly Swedish staff are very efficient, courteous and the food is served fresh with a variety of dishes. Portions are big, and they do really nice specials, often quiches and salads in summer and stews and roasts in the winter. They also host live bands in the evenings and it is a great place to hang out after a day in the hills.
MBC, microbrewery in Chamonix
If you like pub food and handcrafted beers, this is the place for you in Chamonix. With live music, a multi-cultural staff
and lots of tasty nibbles, the MBC has turned into one of the best places to come for après-ski or simply for a good burger and fries.
Run by three of our friends, all hailing from Canada, this eclectic mix of friends make a large variety of micro-brews
from heavy stouts to lighter ales or wheat beers, all hand-crafted on location.
They host many local bands for live music and entertainment.
Overall, Chamonix has a great selection of places to eat but many simply don’t get it right. My suggestions above should not disappoint, but please keep in mind that we can all have an off day and generalizing is never a good thing. If you are not looking for a culinary experience of a lifetime, then you will certainly have a great night out and enjoy your food if you take me up on my selection of places to dine in Chamonix. If you have suggestions or have comments, please feel free to post them. Bon Appetit!
Courmayeur (via the Mont Blanc Tunnel from Chamonix)
Pizzeria Ristorante du Tunnel
If you have a vehicle and are planning to spend time in Courmayeur on the south side of the Mont Blanc range in Italy,
the Ristorante and Pizzeria Le Tunnel is the best deal in town.
I found this pizzeria many years ago because of the queue of patrons waiting to enter.
Tiny, with a ridiculously low ceiling on the top floor, this nondescript restaurant is well worth the drive.
Operated by southern Italians who really know how to make a thin crust, wood-fired pizza, you can get an excellent massive cheese pizza for under € 8.
Splurge a bit and indulge in a large variety of pizzas and salads, local wines and great desserts to choose from.
Their panna cotta is simply divine! Due to limited seating, you should reserve a table beforehand.
They have a terrace but it is right out on the road and Italians like to race by on their motorcycles and flash sports car at speeds several times the posted speed limit.