Around the turn of the 20th century, Parisian restaurateurs created a new genre of restaurant, one that emphasized inexpensive French cuisine in pleasant surroundings. The restaurants were called bouillons, a term that can roughly be translated as soup kitchens, but that boasted decadent, often Art Nouveau-inspired interiors that stand in stark contrast to this name. More than a century later, a handful of Paris’s original bouillons still exist, and have even inspired a contemporary spin-off.
Perhaps the most famous example of the genre is Bouillon Chartier. Opened in 1896 in a former train station, despite claiming to have served more than 50 million meals, it doesn’t appear to have changed much since opening day. Upon arriving, you’ll be politely but rapidly guided to a table that you’ll almost certainly share with other diners.
Dishes—classic French fare such as celery remoulade, calf head in Gribiche sauce, roast chicken and French fries—are shockingly inexpensive by Paris standards (some menu items cost as little as 1 euro), and arrive likewise fast. When finished, your bill is calculated by hand on your paper tablecloth.
Know Before You Go
Bouillon Chartier does not take reservations. Lines can be long, but the efficient service means that they tend to move briskly.