Au Coin Pasteur
59, boulevard Pasteur, in the 15th Arrondissement. 01 43 20 79 80.
Open daily, 12:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.–10:30 p.m.
There is a movement afoot on the Parisian dining scene, changing the balance of Paris restaurants. After a decade of trendy restaurants featuring popular young chefs, fussy ingredients and monthlong waiting lists, diners are starting to bemoan the loss of traditional French bistros—those simple, warm, friendly places that have inspired international admiration for centuries and wooed many of the celebrity chefs here to begin with.
Traditional bistros have become a dying breed, diluted by too many local restaurants serving prefab frozen meals, challenged by the high cost of labor and quality ingredients and the demise of the two-hour lunch “hour.” But they are out there, waiting for neighborhood regulars and intrepid explorers willing to turn off the beaten path of the foodie crowd.
These are the restaurants I am always on the lookout for, and recently I found an ignored gem just behind the Gare Montparnasse. The exterior is banal and unassuming—I wasn’t sure I wanted to go in at all, but my French companion insisted, tempted by the sign promising a house-made pot-au-feu. An old fashioned scale filled with Carambar candies greeted us in the entry, and French was the only language riding the sound waves. I started to think maybe I was going to love Au Coin Pasteur after all.
Sunlight flooded into the front dining area, which was only half full, and I picked up my menu, delighted to see that the highlighted dishes were made in-house using only fresh ingredients. This kitchen respects quality food without resorting to designer names and fashionable foods. We each ordered the pot-au-feu, which arrived in a large, copper pot and was served with crispy pickles and genuine sea salt. The vegetables were cooked to perfection. Neither too crunchy nor mushy, they held their own flavors without being overpowered by the melt-in-your-mouth meats.
The meal was so good, we couldn’t resist trying their house-made mousse au chocolat, made exactly like my French grandmother would have done if I had been born to a French family. Even without the memories, I recognized this dessert as a rare treat and savored every spoonful, putting this on my list of favorite Paris restaurants.
In a nutshell: Authentic, traditional cuisine like your French grandmother would make for you, if you had a French grandmother.
Price check: Starters, €6–10; mains, €16–24.
If Au Coin Pasteur sounds good, you might also like le Garde Temps. Read the review.
Le Garde Temps
19 bis, rue Pierre Fontaine, in the 9th Arrondissement. 09 81 48 50 55.
Open Mon–Fri, noon–2 p.m. and 7 p.m.–10:30 p.m.; Sat, 7 p.m.–10:30 p.m.