« Where can I eat on the cheap in Paris? » is a question that used to have few good responses; it was mostly a quiche or a sandwich from a boulangerie eaten on the sidewalk or in a park. While that’s still a good fallback, Parisians , the world’s most opulent Socialists , are pulling a retro move that will make you scratch your head, thinking, “How is this SO cheap?” The decor says, « Bloomberg » but the prices are pure « Bernie » (so far none are owned by Russians, so there’s not much ‘Trump’-flavored).
Let us meet the trend causing Parisians to stack uncharacter neatly into lines outside these palaces of classic Frenchy goodness wrapped in worth-mentioning interior design.
The Original: Bouillon Chartier
Near that skyscraper that everyone except photographers hate, aka the ‘Awful Tower’, aka Montparnasse Tower, looms one of Paris’ most bustling Bouillons — Chartier.
Chartier is the first to reboot the old tradition of the Bouillon, a place for the working class to eat elegantly and affordably. You don’t have to be Vladimir Lenin to dine here as it’s now crowded with everyone from fauxhemians to tourists and whatever other types of humans exist in Paris (I dunno, that’s all that comes to mind). Expect a hell of a line as no reservations are taken, or try the less-crowded Grands Boulevards location, which has a slightly shorter line until everyone reads this.
But seriously, a dinner in a spot listed on the French National Register of Historic Places? Not to mention pitchers of wine starting at €3,30, starters from €2, and roast chicken main course for €9. It’s all delicious.
Chartier Montparnasse: open non-stop from 11:30 am — midnight
Chartier Grand Boulevards: open non-stop from 11:30 am — midnight
7 rue du Faubourg Montmartre (9th arr.)
Métro : Grands Boulevards (lines 8, 9)
Chartier Gare de l’Est: open non-stop from 11:30 am — midnight
5 rue du 8 mai 1945 (10th arr.)
Métro: Gare de l’Est (lines 4, 5, 7)
The New Kid on the Block: Bouillon République
New yet not under the radar, this Bouillon is ready for you with (almost) all the classics: beef bourguignon, the heft of which challenges the waiters’ biceps; those are-you-serious-cheap pitchers of wine, marrow bones capped with the crispy brown salty goodness, and onion soup (we see you). All the dishes that fueled the burly manual laborers of 1910 are here and ready to make it hard for you to get out of the booth afterwards. Main dishes starting at €8.50 and starters from €2.40. Little pitchers of house wine from €3.60.
Bouillon République: open non-stop from 12 am — midnight
39 Boulevard du Temple (3rd arr.)
Métro: République (lines 3, 5, 8, 9, 11)
One of the only Bouillons that takes reservations (online at www.bouillonracine.fr), Bouillon Racine packs them in on the daily in a landmark historic building with a fetching young chef as the cherry on top. You can get your chef-generated frissons Emily in Paris-style checked off your Paris bucket list. What’s not to love?
Bouillon Racine is located in the Odeon neighborhood, so after your dinner you can walk the passageway (Cour de Commerce Saint-Andre) where Dr. Joseph Guillotin tested a humane-execution machine on sheep (and eventually, Marie Antoinette) that would be served in local restaurants. Or, for a less morbid slice of history, see a piece of the former medieval wall of the City of Paris that was left behind from the demolition ordered by Louis IV (it’s tucked away inside the ‘Un Dimanche à Paris’ patisserie located on the cobbled passageway).
Bouillon Racine is a little bit pricier than the other Bouillons but even so, the prices are excellent for an elegant experience among lush Art Nouveau decor. Wine by the glass starting at €5.50, weekday prix-fixe lunch menu for €17.50, weekday dinner prix-fixe menu €35, starters from €8.50. Think of Bouillon Racine as the posh cousin of the more working-class Bouillions reinvigorating the dining scene in Paris.
Bouillon Racine: open non-stop from 12 am — 11:00 pm
3 Rue Racine (6th arr.)
Métro: Cluny La Sorbonne (line 10) or Odéon (lines 4, 10)
It was here in 2017 that the brothers Moussié relaunched the genre of Bouillions in the former red-light district of Pigalle (an enclave so seedy, it was called Pig-Alley by American G. I.s during the reconstruction of France post-WWII). You know the drill: line up, no reservations, open from 11:30 am to midnight non-stop. A spread at Bouillon Pigalle, among the hustle-bustle of a place that can pack in 300 suddenly boisterous-sounding Parisians on two levels, will set you back about €13.40 to €27.20 per person. But for truffled eggs-mayonnaise at €3, it’s worth navigating the crowds.
Bouillon Pigalle: open non-stop from 11:30 am — midnight
22 Boulevard de Clichy (18th arr.)
Métro: Pigalle (lines 2, 12)
For diners who get their Parisian dinner recommendations from Lenny Kravitz, there’s L’as du Falafel. For those that want to get herpes in the same places as Henry Miller, there’s all of Montparnasse. For those of us keeping it highbrow and walking in the footsteps of Josephine Baker — may we present Julien. Surround yourself with original Art Nouveau déco and the cheap and delicious dishes that make Les Bouillons the “It-Thing Trend” of the Moment in the City of Light. As only getting herpes does not entail waiting in an epic line, join the party on the sidewalk in front of Julien and feel like a real Parisian. Since I lived most of my life in the 10th arrondissement, this is where you’ll find me and my herpes (merci, Tinder!). They do take reservations, but only for the first openings at noon and between 6:30 and 7:00 pm. The Julien — not herpes. That’s 24/7.
Try the eponymously named main course ‘Bouillon Julien’: a tender beef dish for €9.90, or the sausage and mashed potatoes for €11, but save room for the dessert! Choux Chantilly is only €2.90.
Bouillon Julien: open non-stop from 11:45 am — midnight
16 rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis (10th arr.)
Métro: Strasbourg-Saint-Denis (lines 4, 8, 9) or Château d’Eau (line 4)
Indecorous Culturevore and Polychrome Chow Virtuosa Kat Walker likes nice things.
When she’s not writing about croissants, love, culture, and lovable, sexy croissants, she is a gonzo performance artist whipping up a (usually) political ruckus.
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