When the chilly days of autumn arrive, it’s nice to cozy up in a traditional French bistro for some hearty steak frites, pot-au-feu and cassoulet, served with pitchers of cheap — but good — red wine. Chez Denise (aka La Tour de Montlhéry) fits the bill perfectly.
Located behind a rustic half-timbered facade, Chez Denise is on of the last surviving bistros where the wholesale food market workers from Les Halles used to come at all hours to warm up over a typically French meal (the market moved to Rungis in 1969). Not only is Denise still there behind the zinc counter, the unpretentious bistro doesn’t seem to have changed at all. Diners are packed into the small tables covered with checkered table cloths, side by side so there’s plenty of socializing. The waiters in their black and white traditional uniforms are professional yet their straight-faced teasing is always accompanied by a friendly wink. Old movie posters and paintings decorate the walls, the menu is written up on chalk boards (which migrate around the room so everyone can see), and the dishes are simply huge (try and leave room for dessert!).
Fries come on large platters, placed in the center of the table where you help yourself to as much as you can eat (the waiter will replenish the platter with a nod). There are different specials each day (go on Thursday if you want the famous pot-au-feu). I had a steak (well, there seemed to be TWO on my plate, cooked à point, not overdone at all). Be sure to reserve, the dining room fills up quickly! Noisy and fun, great for dinner with friends or kids (keeping in mind that most of the menu is red meat and fish…no pasta, no chicken nuggets).
I would say that compared to Chez George, Le Paul Bert, and Aux Lyonnais, I prefer this address the most. Nice that it’s also one of the least expensive! You could stuff yourself with food and wine for about €40/person.
5 rue Prouvaires, 1st
M° Pont Neuf or Châtelet
Tel 01 42 36 21 82
Spot on, Heather! A French friend who ran a restaurant here in Atlanta steered us here in 2001, and we’ve been back on every trip to Paris since. Great food, fun, reasonable prices. Other than those features, why go?