Bouillon Pigalle

I used to wonder why someone didn’t open a bistro in Paris serving classic French food, a bouillion, if you will, a word used to describe a place known for serving lots of food, in generous quantities, in a convivial, and almost communal setting. A place where you wouldn’t feel out of place if you struck up a conversation with your neighbors, which be inevitable since the tables would be so close together.

So I was surprised, and delighted, when it finally happened. Of course, I didn’t come up with the idea of a bouillon, but the idea of someone opening one (or revamping an old one) took a back seat while young chefs in Paris stretched their wings, incorporating foods and flavors from other cultures, bringing the focus back to regional ingredients, and using modernist methods to get their point across on the plate.

I don’t mind all that stuff (although I’d be okay if there was less foam, and smears of sauce…), but I’m never unhappy when I can start a meal with œufs mayonnaise, move on to a plate of steak-frites, and finish up with an ice cream-filled profiterole doused in warm chocolate sauce, washing it all down with a pot of house wine. Even better is doing it all for around twenty bucks.

Bouillon Pigalle has struck a chord with Parisians and is pretty much packed from when they open at noon, until they close. We happened to be walking by at 11:45 one morning after a visit to A l’Etoile d’Or, and joined the short queue. By the time they opened fifteen minutes later, the line was down the sidewalk. But since the place seats 300+, and the waiters work at a very fast clip, we were seated, and served, quickly.

Since it was a nice day, we snagged a table on the open-air terrace, upstairs, away from the hubbub of Pigalle, a neighborhood that butts up against Montmartre. It’s gentrifying, for sure, but still retains vestiges of its seedy past. In the area, you might pass ladies beckoning from the open front doors of bars, asking men if they want to join them for a drink. (Careful guys, it’s a ruse. The comely hôtesse will order a very cheap bottle of bubbly to enjoy with her, which you’ll get charged an exorbitant price for, and they’ll accompany you to the nearest ATM so you can pay for it in cash since they don’t take credit cards.) I’ve not experienced it, but if you’re a middle-aged man walking around that neighborhood by yourself, you’ll be an object of their interest…speaking from experience.

Anyway, I’m here to eat, not play.

The menu ticks many French bistro classics, including herring marinated in olive oil with pickled carrots and potatoes, a slab of pâté en croute, and beef marrow served warm, with levain bread. Note that the œufs mayo clocks in at €1,90, the marrow is €3,90 and the herring is €4,50.

So you can understand why the symbol of the restaurant is a startled diner, looking at the bill, and expressing shock with his glasses rising up from his astonished eyes. And you can understand why the place is packed. But the quality of the food is good, and the young servers are truly the best in Paris. They manage the tables like nobody’s business, juggling orders and trays, all the while bantering with customers. Anyone who wants proof that the French work hard should come here and watch these guys in action. They are true pros.

Romain loves lamb, so he went with the long-cooked agneau served with a generous amount of beans. I went with Pot au feu, boiled beef and vegetables, with was terrific, although I (and it) was missing the traditional accompaniments of mustard, coarse salt, and cornichons. I wasn’t sure if they don’t normally offer them, because the waiter seemed a little surprised that I asked, but he quickly brought them over.

Beverages are featured on a separate menu. I usually avoid cocktails in restaurants in Paris unless they have a real cocktail bar, although I did go to a place that had a well-regarded cocktail bar and when I ordered a martini, I made sure the waiter knew I wanted a gin and vermouth version, not the usual glass of Martini rouge that cafés serve when you order a martini. (A common visitor mistake.) But I saw that the two cocktails on the menu at Bouillon Pigalle were barrel-aged, a sign that someone probably knew what they were doing. And I was right – my Vieux Carré, made with Cognac, bourbon, Benedictine, and Martini rouge was excellent, and only €6, another bargain in a town where cocktail prices start at €12.

While Romain was more prudent and had a glass of the sparkling rosé, wine, beer, and soft drinks are sold “by the pour,” from 25cl (8 ounces) to Jéraboams (3 liters). One thing I always miss when I travel outside of French, especially in the States, is a lack of restaurants serving drinkable house wine by the carafe. Sometimes I just want one-and-a-half glasses of wine, if I’m by myself, or a small pitcher, if there’s two of us, if we’re not up for a whole bottle. And I don’t need a $16 (plus tax, and tip) glass of wine at lunch. I’m fine with a glass of vin maison, at a reasonable price.

Desserts are fine, and ours in the course of several visits have been hit or miss. The coffee éclair we shared wasn’t fancy, but it was very good.

The softball-sized ice cream profiterole with lots of dark chocolate sauce spooned over it looked pretty good, but the ice cream tasted rather neutral and would have benefitted from a little vanilla added to it. My rice pudding (a dessert Romain doesn’t like) would have been fine with half the sugar, especially since it was served with salted butter caramel sauce.

Two young women at the neighboring table had swirly bowls of Glace au lait frais (fresh milk ice cream), which I think is the way to go here. You can get add-ons, like chocolate, caramel or hazelnuts, for 50 centimes extra, and I’d probably spring for all three. As I write this, dessert prices start at €2,90 and none are over €4,50. (But prices can change.)

I went to my favorite restaurant in Paris the other night and couldn’t get in. It’s small and I wasn’t surprised, although I keep wondering if I should remove my Paris Restaurant list from the site because as much as I’m happy to share, I want to be able to get a table at a good restaurant in Paris, too. However with three hundred seats, and from what I hear, over a thousand people served a day, I don’t think I’m going to run into that problem at Bouillon Pigalle.

Bouillon Pigalle
22 boulevard de Clichy (18th)
Métro: Pigalle
No reservations
Open daily, Noon to midnight

(Note that the menu has vegetarian options.)


As an aside, I’ve never understood why guidebooks, and others, tell visitors who are traveling to avoid places with English menus. Not all waiters in other countries speak English and it makes their job easier if the diners can understand the menu. While it’s nice if visitors learn a few words and phrases when traveling outside their home country, it’s hard to enjoy a restaurant when you can’t understand the menu, especially if it’s in a different language. Although I don’t expect places to translate menus into other languages, sometimes it’s nice when they do.

While we got menus in French at the restaurant, on the Bouillon Pigalle website, the menu is in French, English, Russian, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian, which they update when the menu changes.

A bustling bistro in Paris that serves fresh, housemade food at astonishing prices.

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57 comments

  • Marshall
    June 18, 2018 2:25pm

    David,

    The pictures are wonderful. You have outdone yourself.

  • l. sherman
    June 18, 2018 4:27pm

    And this is why there is just no other city in the world quite like Paris–delicious!!!
    great pics too . . .

  • June 18, 2018 4:36pm

    As someone who’s lived between NY and France/Spain, I couldn’t agree more about the house wine dilemma. It pains me to spend $14 on a glass of wine, when in Spain or France, you’d be getting a whole bottle – and a very decent one for that price! I love an occasional visit to Bouillon Chartier, and can’t wait to try Pigalle – cheers!

  • ezachos
    June 18, 2018 4:42pm

    As if I needed prompting to long for a trip to Paris! (sigh) This brings me right there, and gets me that much closer to quickly shrugging, biting the bullet, and buying my plane ticket. Perfect.

  • Marty Skomal
    June 18, 2018 5:05pm

    Great post! I just returned from a month in Nice attending a French language ‘ecole pour étrangers.’ Was surprised to find a number of small bistros there, even in the touristy vielle ville, that offered le menu of three courses for around 20-25€, All prepared à la maison. So it’s true, good dining is still affordable in France. I’d be happy to share my favs. I love Paris, but Nice has a beach and overall is a bit more relaxed.

    • Lily
      June 18, 2018 5:31pm

      Can you post the name of the French language ‘ecole pour étrangers’ in Nice and do you recommend it? Thanks!

    • Lh
      June 18, 2018 5:37pm

      Do share your favs…

      • Marty
        June 18, 2018 10:35pm

        Here are three: Chez Palmyre & Bistrot Saint Antoine, both in Vieille Ville. Le Prom on the Promenaide d’Anglais.

    • Elaine from Nova Scotia
      July 1, 2018 4:58pm

      I would love to hear of your favs in Nice. I will be there in Nov. for my third visit in the past two years. Love it.

  • Peter L.
    June 18, 2018 5:49pm

    “I went to my favorite restaurant the other night and couldn’t get in.” — begs the question: which is?

    BTW, last December I went to Bouillon Pigalle shortly after it opened. Around eight in the evening. So packed the revolving entrance door could not move. It’s an easy walk from our apt. in the 9th; we’ll be back this year.

    • marilyninMontreal
      June 24, 2018 7:18pm

      I noticed that this is one of David’s favourite desserts: Then end with a buckwheat galette with buckwheat ice cream and buckwheat honey, which is one of my favorite desserts in Paris. (Breizh Café.)
      We’re getting closer to his favourite restaurant….I think.

  • June 18, 2018 5:57pm

    I keep forcing myself to visit places other than Paris. Posts like this have me really questioning my decisions…

  • June 18, 2018 5:59pm

    Thank you for posting this. I am in Paris at least twice a year and am always dismayed that traditional French Food is going the way of the transistor radio!! Can’t wait to check Boullion out. I am just curious, what is the favorite restaurant that you couldn’t get in? If you don’t want to put it in the Feedback email me. I have a French themed store and people are always asking me for restraurant recomendations. I quit giving them for the same reason. Now I just have a print out of some that are good but I don’t care about. They ALL just want to go to Frenchies anyway to say they have been there.

    • Rijk
      June 24, 2018 9:16am

      If I were David I would mail you the name of a restaurant that’s good but I don’t care about. You would be happy for the same reason you trick the customers of your French themed shop…..But I wonder how you feel after realizing what you wrote.

  • Carole Campbell
    June 18, 2018 6:00pm

    Chain restaurant. Industrial food. Same thing as Bouillion Racine and Chartier. All owned by a restaurant chain.

    • June 18, 2018 6:12pm
      David Lebovitz

      Really? I am pretty sure Bouillon Pigalle isn’t part of the same company the owns Chartier. (The food here is a lot better, I think. But I included a number of pics so people could get the idea.) They do own Brasserie Barbès which I’ve had good meals at too, but it’s a different kind of place.

      • Bebe
        June 26, 2018 12:37pm

        Chartier is not mentioned in this article on Bouillon Pigalle, which talks about its owners.

        You know them already. Jeanette, Brasserie Barbès, Hôtel Providence, Le Mansart. All them. The Moussié family does it again with a brand new address that will open its doors on Monday, on place Pigalle: Bouillon Pigalle.

        https://www.doitinparis.com/en/bouillon-pigalle-trendy-22749

  • June 18, 2018 6:08pm

    Thank you David. You probably don’t want to read this here: BUT. I live in South Africa and for years you have been such an inspiration. I love reading you blogs and if ever I need to google any recipe I start with David Lebovitz. I love your recipes and use them over and over! Thank you for this. I’ll be in Paris in October and this will be on my list of MUST DO
    . Merci. Baie dankie. Isabella.

  • May
    June 18, 2018 6:21pm

    Ha! There’s a restaurant that knows how to pack ’em in! No space wasted, every inch has a table and chairs but it’s still immaculate, smart and orderly.

    Wonderful photos and story, David. Not a good thing to read at lunchtime when there’s nothing in the fridge …

    • jan
      June 19, 2018 12:17am

      So true. Can you imagine a restaurant of this size in the US, clean, elegant, clean, AND edible real food?

  • TARA
    June 18, 2018 6:43pm

    Wonderful review! I still have one week of vacation I’m not sure what to do with this year. I keep telling myself I don’t have to go back to France EVERY year, but then posts like this make me think perhaps I should. My heart is just happier there. Besides I’m going someplace new with the other week…. So even if I just hop over to Paris for two or three nights I could do that. (I work for an airline so I’ll admit to being spoiled that way.) Anyhow, this is on my list whether it’s this year or next. Thank you!

  • Frank Ball
    June 18, 2018 7:30pm

    These oeufs look divine. Are they sitting on a big dab of mayonnaise, as well as being napped with it?

  • June 18, 2018 7:42pm

    Sparkling, beautiful pictures David. The line will be longer tomorrow. I dont get it either why when you ask for mustard while eating a hunk of meat they look like you’re nuts? Is mustard only for sausage? A French mystery… Love their enamel dishes with the blue rims.

  • ron shapley
    June 18, 2018 7:53pm

    I love the bread, just sitting on the table top….

  • Michael Ogier
    June 18, 2018 8:34pm

    Looks our kind of place!
    I like your comment about menus in English.
    We went to a well known, been there forever brassiere where the waiters specialize in being as brisk and curt as possible somewhere near the Holiday Inn Paris Opera. It’s a great cavern of a place that I’m sure you will know but likely one you don’t frequent.
    The first night my wife managed a good choice while my choice was not so great. This was off the fully French menu that we could barely understand and the waiter would not help with at all.
    So a couple of nights later we went back and ordered what we thought was what my wife had the first night.
    Well the only thing in common with the first night was it’s position on the newsprint menu.
    It turned out they have a different menu for each day of the week.
    So the veal casserole we thought we ordered came out looking nothing like the earlier meal.
    It was a lump of bluish green blubber that was in fact boiled pig’s cheek!
    An acquired taste that my wife never got and one that I did not also despite trying vainly to pretend to her that it really was not as bad as it looked as I struggled to devour it but failed.
    So an English menu will be appreciated at Pigalle.
    Travel is all about experiences like that!

  • June 18, 2018 10:35pm

    Wow. Looks a great place. Some great classics there & I would love them all I am sure. Especially the Marrow! Yummm.

  • Thom Carter
    June 18, 2018 11:37pm

    Will be in Paris first part of July and will give it a try. Can’t wait! Thanks

  • Julie Hock
    June 19, 2018 12:32am

    David, a wonderful post as always. I do wonder however that apart from parsley there was nothing green, vegetable wise. Is this usual? Are the French permanently constipated?

  • Barton Smith
    June 19, 2018 2:20am

    Wonderful overview and pics. Thanks for the great write-up.

  • Susan
    June 19, 2018 3:05am

    I love that this is still a available in Paris. We so enjoyed the local bistros in the small towns of southern Belgium and in France with prix five meals accompanied by a “Demi” or “pichet” of inexpensive and always good wines. Bistros can have some really classic and delicious fare! Oh how I’d love to live there again. Your pictures are on point!

  • Dasvid
    June 19, 2018 3:11am

    œufs mayonnaise

    Takes me back to my college days as this was the first dish we had to master, first making the mayonnaise and getting the consistency just right to nappe over the hard-boiled egg.

  • Greg Kelner
    June 19, 2018 3:13am

    I visited both the Bouillons Chartier and Pigalle in April. Pigalle’s food seemed better to me. At Pigalle I enjoyed the poireau vinaigrette, boudin basque; at Chartier the salade frisée, porc roti, baba au rhum. Chartier’s was “correct” and Pigalle’s was definitely more than. Both are worth visiting.

  • Susan Allen
    June 19, 2018 3:45am

    Very timely and since it was also reviewed in the travel section of this Sunday’s NYT should be even more popular. Still will check it out when we are there in the first half of July.

  • SusanB
    June 19, 2018 4:28am

    Couldn’t agree more about the glass and a half of wine. During the recession our local Italian restaurant would actually do that, but since the recovery they won’t comply. Also love that in London they will offer a small glass or a large glass. Large, please!

    • Shira McKernan
      June 19, 2018 2:50pm

      After having a glass of wine in a nice restaurant in the U.S. I often ask for another one at a half pour. As this is not common the waitstaff has to go ask a manager but they usually comply. Why not? They still make money.

      • June 19, 2018 4:40pm
        David Lebovitz

        We often order one extra glass after and split it. Sometimes they’ll bring it in 2 glasses, but other times, it seems like a bother so we just split it at the table ourselves.

  • Dale
    June 20, 2018 1:31pm

    Another wonderful post thank you, but I’m looking for the image of the startled patron can’t find it anywhere!!

    • June 20, 2018 3:22pm
      David Lebovitz

      I saw it on their website :) or try doing a Google image search

  • Charlotte K
    June 20, 2018 6:57pm

    Line will get longer as NYT just featured this place in Sunday paper. Alas!

  • Litman
    June 20, 2018 8:47pm

    David, thanks for this terrific description! My husband will be trying to spend a day or two in Paris (his very first time there) and this might be a great place for him to have a meal. One query–I noticed on the bottom of the English-language menu, it said “the list of allergen ingredients is available upon request.” (I paraphrased slightly.) Does this mean such a place might be somewhat accommodating to someone like myself–a diner with a gluten allergy (celiac–a legit allergy, not, you know, a “gee, I don’t eat carbs” preference. Good lord, I LOVE carbs. I yearn for real French pastry!) I’m very reluctant to travel to Paris/anywhere in France because aside from NoGlu and Chambelland, I wouldn’t really know where to eat safely. What are your thoughts, just based on your Paris dining experience?

    PS–made your vanilla ice cream for Father’s Day and everyone swooned!

    • June 30, 2018 10:48pm
      David Lebovitz

      I think since they said it, they likely would be conscious of your allergy. That said, the restaurant does serve items with gluten and as you know, it’s very easy to cross-contaminate things, especially if people are celiacs. So it’s no guarantee there might not be some wheat lurking in something, somewhere.

      I did a post on Gluten Free Paris a while back and have added a bunch of new places to it over the years, and there are a number of places that are definitely gluten-free on that list.

  • Frani
    June 21, 2018 2:05am

    Love your posts and recipes David, and I’m pleased to say I have many of your books (not all yet!). We can get a carafe of decent house red or white wine at small neighborhood Italian restaurants in Maryland and New Jersey for less than $20. Not as inexpensive as Pigalle but better than an over-priced bottle.
    Can’t wait for my next trip to Paris.

    • June 30, 2018 10:46pm
      David Lebovitz

      I ate recently at Mozza in L.A. and they have “quartinos” of wine, which are small pitchers that hold a quarter liter, which is about 2 glasses. We split one and it was perfect. Wish more places would do that.

  • JoAnn
    June 21, 2018 10:10pm

    Was in Paris in April. We came, we saw (massive line), we were starving and had to find somewhere else to eat ;-) Zut!

  • Bretton Scott
    June 22, 2018 12:54am

    THOSE WINE PRICES!!!! I live in Brooklyn, and I’d be damned hard up to get a glass of decent wine for under 16. Another reason to live in Europe.

  • Bob Knudson
    June 24, 2018 1:03am

    David, when I visited Lyon I learned that the traditional French restaurants are called “bouchon.” Is a “bouillon” just the Paris version of the same?

    • June 26, 2018 5:36am
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t know if there are exact definitions of places but generally bouillons (I think) are more oriented toward eating quickly, and inexpensively whereas the bouchons of Lyon (at least the ones I’ve been in) are more intimate restaurants, where often they put big bowls of food on tables and let you help yourself, but the food is always, or usually, quite rich and filling.

  • Dd
    June 24, 2018 3:30pm

    Sorry I missed this place! Our big splurge last visit was Allard and it was VERY disappointing!

  • marilyninMontreal
    June 24, 2018 7:10pm

    The Perfect Scoop was featured in the Montreal Gazette, this past Wed, June. 20th. Maybe this will motivate you to make it to Montreal on your next transatlantic voyage.
    https://www.pressreader.com/canada/montreal-gazette/20180620/281517931841627

  • Brian
    June 30, 2018 9:41pm

    David – thanks for the awesome recommendation! We ate here tonight and the food was delicious not to mention the ambiance. Very good choice.

    • June 30, 2018 10:44pm
      David Lebovitz

      Glad you had a good time. It’s a fun place, and the price is right, too!

  • RuthKohn
    July 1, 2018 7:30pm

    Thanks for the images! They surely make some dishes more appetizing than others… I thought it looked familiar as the nytimes did indeed recommend the place. We exchanged our village apt w a French one in the area- and there was nothing quite like it…back in the 80’s…it might become so overrun w tourists looking for a cheap bistro that they will double the prices in no-time to accommodate everybody…that’s what happened w the famous fondue place…

  • Kelly
    July 5, 2018 2:38am

    I was in Paris when this was posted, so we added it to out to do list. It was simply the best meal I had in Paris, and not the most expensive either. Everything was wonderful. I was in town for a conference, and I shared the recommendation with many friends and colleagues who also passed it on to their friends and coworkers. Everyone that managed to go got back to me with praise and thank yous for the recommendation.
    I had the bone marrow, beef borginion (spelling?) and pot au chocolate. We shared escargot between several of us, and I tried my friends beef tartare. The red wine I tried was lovely. Everything was lovely. The service was great. We did stand in line but it was just to the door and moved quickly (it was down the street by the time we were seated at 8:30pm on a Saturday). Thank you so much for this recommendation. The timing could not have been better.

  • July 13, 2018 8:11pm

    Hi David,
    I came here to see how you index your categories and never looked because I fell in love with the lamb and beans dish and all your interesting comments about Paris. When I go to Europe, I always end up in Rome where I have family and where my favorite cuisine tastes divine no matter where I go, but now you have made me long to try Paris before I am too old to go.I feel as if I did make my first foray there by reading your lively comments.