Chartier: a kind of Noah's Ark

Believe it or not: fast food can feel very old-fashioned. If you find your way to Chartier, that is: one of the oldest temples of restauration in Paris. They call it a "restaurant" but once you’re in you feel like you're in a film set where they're working on an adaption of a 19th century novel. The decor is made of wood, there are mirrors everywhere and the waiters are of course wearing "le rondin": the black waistcoat over white shirt. Staff race around like people who are about to miss a train.

Like a poem

It’s all about speed here, they follow a clear-cut no-nonsense policy: food is simple and cheap, and it comes to your table fast. Order, say, a carrot salad as a starter and you’ll have it within less than two minutes. Chartier is a place so traditional that you'd think they’ve never ever changed their menu in over a 100 years. It’s kind of a Noah’s Ark filled with good old culinary friends that very few modern cookbooks would still consider worth doing. The list of starters reads like a poem singing the glories of the past: Carottes rapées, Céléri remoulade, Oeuf dur mayonnaise, Poireaux vinaigrette, Salade de tomates, Museau de boeuf, Terrine de campagne, 6 escargots...And for the mains it’s all about beef and meat done simply, and potatoes, fried, cooked, steamed.

Shockingly cheap

Logically, you wouldn’t expect "haute cuisine" in a place like this, it’s just about getting fed. Yet there is something sensational about Chartier’s food. None of the starters mentioned above – except the "escargots" (snails) – costs more than 3.70 Euro (4 US$). For the carrot salad you only pay 1.80, the celeri comes at 2.50, and this, in Paris, is almost shockingly cheap. As a main, you can have roast chicken for 8.70 Euros and a well-garnished "Choucroute alsacienne" for 10.70 Euros.

Ready for adventure

And then there’s the priceless pleasures of Chartier. The waiter won’t bring a machine-typed bill, he'll write "l’addition"on the paper tablecloth right in front of you, while cracking a joke. You’ll be seated with complete strangers at your table, and if you’re ready for adventure you might hear someone's remarkable life story. When I was there for the last time, I sat next to an old gentleman who turned out to be a real regular: in fact, he has lunch at Chartier everyday, he told me, which is possible, because Chartier is open 365 days a year, on New Year’s eve or on Good Friday, at Christmas time or even during high summer.

7, Rue du Faubourg Montmartre
75009 Paris
+33 (0)1 47 70 86 29
Open 365 days of the year for lunch and dinner. Reservation not needed.
Metro: Grands Boulevards  

Not Haute-Cusine, but decent steak-frittes