The History of Brasseries
The word ‘brasserie’ actually means ‘brewery’ in French. In 1864, Frédéric Bofinger, a brewer from Alsace in northeastern France (the region that border my own, Franche-Comté), made his way to Paris and opened a tiny bar in the heart of the Marais and Fauboug Saint-Antoine area. It served little more than draft beer and sauerkraut. At that time, numerous people were moving to Paris from war-torn Alsace in search of work, so there was a ready market. Beer on tap was unheard of in Paris back then and the quality of the sauerkraut was second to none. The combination took the city by storm and in no time brassieres were springing up all over Paris. The rest of France soon followed, and I think, for this reason, Bofinger could rightly claim to be the father of the Parisian brasserie. What started as a smoky bar filled with Alsatian refugees grew into a magnificent dining room with polished wood, gleaming brass and a stain-glass dome.
Now Fashionable Hotspots
Today, brasseries are fashionable hotspots where politicians continue to rub shoulders with artists- but there is more to them than glamour. Brasseries are popular because the food they serve is homely, heart-warming and delicious. You can eat a simple sandwich or enjoy a grand repas, and they will often serve everything from early breakfasts right through to late suppers in the small hours. Among the famous brasseries in Paris are: Bofinger, La Coupole and Brasseries Lipp, to name by a few. However, no matter where you are, you will find a good meal – and you won’t have to pay a fortune for it either.
Some brasseries in Paris will be modern and chic and some laden with so much history they are practically national monuments. But choose carefully – there are plenty on main streets, but the best ones are often tucked away down side streets and hidden behind porchways.
How many restaurants can boast the illustrious likes of Ernst Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali, Henry Miller, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse among their clientele? Well, La Coupole can. Few people take a trip to Paris without visiting this renowned brasserie at least once.
Executive Head Chef