Chartier Restaurant

April 18, 2010
Chartier is an establishment where food is affordable, Parisian and has been an institution for over 100-years. I don’t know how this place manages to keep its charm when it’s bombarded by a sea of tourists, they’re dropped off by the hop on/off tour bus. Ridiculous. I took off walking from the Garden of tulips and randomly hopped on a public bus that was going in the general direction of my neighborhood. As I stood up on the bus and turned my neck attempting to look at everything, I saw the red neon lights that read “Chartier.” I couldn’t find this place for two days and when I wasn’t looking, I finally found it. I pounced off at the next stop and walked my way up to the restaurant. The restaurant is in an alcove and easily missed if you don’t know it’s there, but you can sense the permeated warmth before you even walk in. I was seated in less than 2 minutes. How lucky was I this day? The inside looks like an old bank or library, with a west sidewall covered from floor to ceiling with, what looks like, wooden index compartments. The entire interior is covered in deep mahogany wood and cream crown molding. Ornate chandeliers with bulb light fixtures hang from the ceiling, mirrors that seem to crawl their way up like a bougainvillea and stereotypical French waiter attire. The waiters write your order directly onto the paper table covers and toss it when you’re finished eating. To my surprise, because I was a solo diner, they seated me at a table with a Parisian mother and daughter. They were surprised as well because the look on their faces said it all. We said our polite niceties and nothing else, which was too uncomfortable for me to fathom. I was insecure about ordering steak and frites, until I saw the daughter eating the same thing, I was in the clear. I also ordered a small 250ml of house red wine that was about 2 euros. Things were looking up. You can hear the sound of air in movement as the waiters and Maitre D’ whiz past you during the rush, and not pay any attention to you until your order is ready. Even in their organized chaos, they still managed to be cordial and give a smile when you ask for a carafe of water. My steak was cooked perfectly to medium rare, with parsley butter mid-melting that create oxbows of sauce. The parsley gives a slight acidic note to the natural sauce that’s created from juices of the meat, parsley butter and all of that co-mingles with the crispy on the outside and lush inside frites. The vin ordinaire was deep in colour, full-bodied, fruity and didn’t make me want to send home Dear John letters. When they sat another solo dining American gentleman across from us, he struggled to please his women diners and when he ordered a Pepsi and excused himself to the restroom, I didn’t need to speak French fluently when our dining mother shook her fist in the air in disapproval. They didn’t need to speak fluent English when they stared at me and understood my guilty chuckle. Until she started telling me her story about coming here since she was in college, over 30 years ago, and the prices always being affordable. When I finished my meal, I bid another set of rudimentary niceties and worked my way through the chaos out the door. When I walked out of the revolving doors, the crowd of tourists dressed in various J’taime Paris gold lamé and sequin shirts, wrapped around the corner onto the sidewalk. Had I been in there that long? Or, had I barely missed the first rush? Either way, I’m glad I came when I did and I hope to return. My lunch and wine was under 13 euros. 7 rue du Faubourg Montmartre 75009 Paris France +33 1 47 70 86 29

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