A brief introduction summarizing the author's professional career and his literary style and procedure precedes this annotated translation of the chapter “The Restaurants of Paris” from Eugène Briffault's 1846 text, Paris à table. Along with an historical discussion and a look back at the glorious days of the Empire's establishments, the chapter examines the specialties, the décor, and the patrons of the grand restaurants of the author's time and before. Looking at the changing restaurant scene since the fall of Napoleon, Briffault criticizes, in particular, the contemporary preference for the opulence of the surroundings over the quality of the food. Along with several anecdotes about specific meals and peculiar characters, he also observes restaurant owners and their staffs, with particular regard to the skills and temperament of the Parisian waiter. Briffault considers such celebrated restaurants as the Cadran bleu, Rocher de Cancale, and Chez Véry—restaurants famous for their cuisine, the lively crowds, and the novelists (along with many of their characters) who dined there. But he does not ignore the role of the mid-range restaurants and bourgeois tables, and he descends as well into the lower depths, visiting the eateries catering to workers and the students on the Left Bank, the gargotes, the tapis francs, the prix fixes, the Flicoteaus and Rougets.
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