In Review: Chez Gladines, a Budget-Friendly French Basque Restaurant

Hearty, Authentic Dishes in a Laid-Back Setting

Chez Gladines' facade is decorated with images by celebrated Paris street artist Miss Tic.
••• Chez Gladines' facade is decorated with images by celebrated Paris street artist Miss Tic. ©2007 Courtney Traub. Licensed to About.com

Over the years, Chez Gladines has become something of a brand name among Parisian bohos and strapped-for-cash students. It had been recommended to me countless times as one of the best places in Paris for inexpensive, simple, satisfying Basque-style fare, and has also been wildly praised for its laid-back, cheery ambiance, which manages both hipness and old-world charm.

Eager to judge for myself, I accompanied a friend who'd already happily dined here-- and came away convinced. From enormous mixed salads served in giant metal bowls for next to nothing, to hearty Basque dishes presented with simplicity, Gladines delivers.

Pros:

  • Hearty, authentic French-Basque and southwest dishes
  • Generous portions at reasonable prices
  • Convivial atmosphere, somewhere between old-school Paris and hip

Cons:

  • Reservations not accepted
  • No credit cards
  • Not particularly intimate: perhaps avoid for romantic têtes-à-têtes

Practical Info:

  • Address: 30 Rue des Cinq Diamants, 13th arrondissement
  • Tel.: 33 (0)1 45 80 70 10
  • Metro: Place d'Italie or Corvisart
  • Bus: Line 62
  • Hours: Mon-Tues, 12 pm-3 pm and 7 pm-12 am; Wed-Sat 12 pm-3 pm and 7 pm-1 am; Sat. 12 pm-4 pm and 7 pm-1 am; Sun. 12 pm-4 pm
  • Cuisine: French Basque and Southwest (regional). Giant mixed salads, Basque-style chicken (recommended), cassoulet, potatoes with ham and cantal cheese, and piperade (Basque-style egg scramble with vegetables) are among the house specialties.
  • Drinks: Wine list; beer and cider
  • Price range: Approx. 10-15 Euros per person for full menu (starter, main course, dessert, wine)
  • Crowd: Bohos, students, neighborhood regulars
  • Reservations: not accepted. Make sure to arrive early (7 p.m. or so) to avoid waiting outside with the crowd. This is a highly-prized restaurant and crowds are constant.

The Setting and Getting There 

Situated in the heart of Paris' quaint Butte aux Cailles neighborhood, famous for its village charm and its art nouveau houses, Chez Gladines is located on Rue des Cinq Diamants, a narrow street lined with always-packed bars, restaurants, and "concept cafes". The mostly-pedestrian little streets, artisan shops and hidden nooks make it easy to forget that you're in a major metropolis.

Knowing that a crowd will soon be lining around the block, my companion and I arrive early, managing to easily secure a table. The place is already bustling, though, and the friendly waiter asks us to share a table with two other people. This might irk in other circumstances, but Gladines' easy, convivial atmosphere is contagious, and we're soon chatting away with our table-neighbors about the menu. I can hardly believe I'm in Paris, where conversing with strangers is a rare event.

The Ambiance

The restaurant is decorated with traditional Basque icons, including the Basque flag and the ubiquitous cone-nosed bonhomme, who curiously resembles Pinocchio. Then there's the large back-wall mirror plastered with yellowing posters and postcards of indie-rock acts and performance artists. Juxtaposed with the kitschy checked tablecloths and carnations on the table, the effect is an eclectic mix of urban hipster and cheery, old-style working class Paris.

The Dining Experience

Our affable, helpful waitress soon comes around to make suggestions and answer our questions about the menu. She is clearly passionate about Basque and southwest cuisine and cheerfully translates some of the menu's more cryptic items.

The Fare

Less than famished and amazed by the copious, nearly North-American portions being served around the restaurant, my friend and I decide to order a main course and drinks, figuring we'll see about dessert later-- if we still have room, that is. 

My friend opts for a heartier-than-hearty veal filet prepared basque-style (11.60 Euros), with ham, a creamy sauce, and layers of thin, gratin-style potatoes that have been fried in duck fat, giving them a distinctive pungent flavor typical of French southwest cuisine. An Iowa native, my companion notes that the dish is comfortingly reminiscent of midwestern cooking: no-nonsense, simple, and delicious.

I follow the waitress's advice and order chipiron biscaina: whole calamari in a ratatouille-like sauce, served with the house potatoes (10.50 Euros). I'm surprised to see that it comes served like a stew, in something resembling a small crock-pot, and that the potatoes are in the stew, rather than served as a side. Somewhat apprehensive, especially since the calamari are whole and resemble small octopi, I am finally won over by the odd dish, whose textures are at first strange and progressively grow on you.

The waitress brings over a traditional Basque spice, espilette, and counsels me to sprinkle it over my chipiron. The spicy note really brings out the flavors and textures of this surprising dish, somewhere between Provence and Spanish coastal cuisine.

Dessert, Drinks, and My Bottom Line

Since it's a warm April day, we opt for a bottle of brut cider to accompany our meal (9.50 Euros), taking note that Gladines is also a wine bar, specializing in southwest varieties. Perhaps not a traditional choice, the crisp, slightly sweet, slightly tart cider somehow works well with our meal.

As expected, the ample portions have left us little room for dessert, so we settle on sharing a crème caramel: a typical French custard with caramel sauce that resembles Mexican flan. Cold and creamy, yet relatively light, the simple dessert proves a good finishing touch to our meal. At only 2.60 Euros, this is a dessert option that fits a tight budget, too.

My Bottom Line?

Chez Gladines lives up to its reputation as one of Paris' best budget restaurants. If you're looking for delicious regional French dishes served with simplicity in generous portions, Chez Gladines is for you. Try this restaurant to get a taste of how warm Paris can be-- here, tired cliches of Parisian snobbery and stiffness simply have no place. Noisy and convivial, this is a place where impromptu conversations with the locals is likely. On the other hand, if you're looking for an intimate nook for a romantic dinner, are a strict vegetarian, or shirk crowded tables, the restaurant may cramp your style.

Please note that while prices and menu items were accurate at the time that this restaurant was reviewed, they are subject to change at any time.