Traditional Parisian dining on a budget: The classic Chez Chartier
Housed in an ornate, mirror-filled 19th-century hall with mile-high ceilings and tiled floors, le Boullion Chartier is certainly a classic Parisian restaurant. How many restaurants can say they have a history dating back to 1896 or even their own Wikipedia page? While normally these Belle Epoque-style bistros will cost you a pretty penny, Chartier is famously known for its affordable fare. With traditional French dishes like confit de canard (duck confit) and tartare de beouf (steak tartare) ranging from €8.50-13.50, this place has some seriously low prices.
Much has been written about this inexpensive joint, with mostly favorable reviews. Others are not so convinced, claiming that Chartier’s beautiful interiors mask its unremarkable cuisine. It’s time for EuroCheapo to weigh in on the debate.
Getting there and getting in
Le Boullion Chartier is located in the 9th arrondissement, in the Grands Boulevards neighborhood. You can take Metro lines eight and nine to the Grands Boulevards station that’s just around the corner. Once you arrive, you’ll surely be greeted by a line of Parisians and fellow travelers (remind you of somewhere?). This line moves surprisingly quickly, and soon you’ll be welcomed through the antique wooden doors into the majestic, busy dining hall. Don’t be shocked if you’re placed at a table next to other diners—this mixing and mingling is part of the charm.
How to order a memorable meal
We recommend starting with the house wine, which will be cheap and handpicked by the chefs.
Starters range from €1.80-6.80, and you can choose from classics like Oeuf dur mayonnaise (hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise), Salade frisée aux lardons (salad with bacon), and even escargots. The portions will be small by American standards, but generous by French eating habits.
Most main courses are around €10, which is shockingly cheap for Paris. You can choose from all of the classic dishes you might have dreamed about trying, like Steak frites, Côte d’agneau grillée (grilled lamb), and even Tête de veau (calf’s head). Side note: Chartier is not a vegetarian-friendly place, so if you don’t eat meat, you might want to have a bite to eat before and just enjoy the ambiance.
For dessert, finish with fromage. A selection of cheeses are available for less than €3 each. If you’re still hungry, all the classic French sweets are also offered, like Baba au rhum (rum cake) and Pêche melba (peach melba), all for €4 or less.
Tip: Order all your food at once, because it will be hard to get your busy server’s attention after the first encounter. Dressed in black bow ties and white shirts, they will jot down your order directly onto your paper tablecloth.
Grading the food and experience
The fare at Chartier is simple and classic, with no-frills. Don’t expect a five-star meal here or beautiful presentation. You will receive perfectly acceptable dishes; they will not blow your mind, and they won’t be the most delicious food you try in Paris.
However, this restaurant is all about preserving the Belle-Epoque style dining experience, including the dishes. So come for the experience and the wonderful selection of traditional French foods, not the originality. At Chartier, you can afford to have the French meal you always wanted, with wine, a starter, a main, cheese and dessert, all without breaking the bank.
A final thought
We believe that le Boullion Chartier is the perfect way to start a trip to Paris. A meal here can be a great introduction to French food, French restaurants and French servers without the seemingly obligatory steep prices. Get a taste for authentic dishes á l’ancienne, and then you’ll be ready to dine out in France with confidence.
Le Boullion Chartier
7 rue du Faubourg Montmartre|
01 47 70 86 29
Métro: Grands Boulevards (Lines 8 & 9)
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