Lunch ala Francais

Tim's Wine Market

This is the third installment of my experiences eating in Paris while on a trip in May with my family. Please see the other posts for context on May 27th and July 15th.

For our trip lunches took on a few different forms depending on location and available time. I made no plans or reservations for lunches, preferring to let the circumstances of the moment dictate decisions. Some of the meals were surprising, others not so much. My apologies that this post is well beyond my self-imposed 500 word limit.

Cavalier Blue – 143 Rue Saint-Martin – 3rd Arrondissment

Our first meal in the city after landing at 6 am. Thankfully our VRBO let us check in at 10 am so we did not have our bags, but we were very tired. This classic cafe is very close to the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature (Natural History) on the very busy Rue des Archives. My daughters chose it because they “liked the energy” although I think all of the cafes on this strip were equally busy. Our arrival on Saturday was also a day when the sun had finally appeared after a week of rain, so I think everyone in Paris was looking to dine al fresco. The outside seating area is framed by walls of windows on both sides so you can eat without sitting in the wind, an advantage since it was pretty chilly on this day. The downside is these walls also hold in the cigarette smoke, which was abundant.

The menu is pretty typical of these cafes, not terribly extensive and mostly classics like hamburgers, steak frites and salads. I had the buvette steak, a little 6 oz sirloin, with the salad instead of fries, my wife and daughters had croque monsieur and salads. Everything was good but nothing was amazing. Their wine list was small and was mostly generic negotiant wines, but I think the most expensive selection was 30E. Prices were fair given the touristy location in the 3rd, and service was competent. One note, the server asked if I wanted to include gratuity, and in my sleep deprived haze I agreed. Tipping is not common in Europe so they took advantage of my American proclivity and beat me out of an additional 20%. This was the only time this happened during my trip, so beware.

La Crêperie du Clown – 6 Rue des Canettes – 6th Arrondissement

While my wife and daughters were shopping in some of the cute little shops in St. Germain, specifically a pharmacy noted for great skin care products (Citypharma) I hit Yelp for the best lunch option. There are dozens of restaurants within a short walk but this one stood out to me because my wife had specifically requested crepes for a meal. Imagining Bozo the Clown whipping up a Nutella crepe was too much to ignore so I walked down the alley that is Rue des Canettes and scoped the place out. Sure enough there is a clown mannequin at the door, but after that the theme is less apparent. As an encouraging sign they were packed, but the host/server found me a table in the basement so I took it and texted my group to meet me.

The menu not surprising is mostly crepes and salads, with many unique combinations for all tastes. All of my girls ordered crepes, I went with a Caesar salad with grilled chicken. We split two dessert crepes, one apple and caramel, the other a crepe Suzette served ala flambé. Everything was delicious and service was quick and friendly, prices were very fair.

The Kitchen Champs Elysee – 44 Rue de Ponthieu – 8th Arrondissement

After a morning at the Louvre it is an easy half hour walk to the eastern edge of the Champs Elysee through Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin de Champs Elysee. We started the walk under dark, threatening skies but managed to make it to the famous shopping area just as the sprinkles started. We ducked into Monoprix (a department store) and while my girls looked around I hit Yelp for lunch ideas. This process is like trying to pick the best lunch place on International Drive, so I did not have any illusions that we were in for an epic meal. The Kitchen Champs Elysee has good reviews and features hamburgers and cheese steaks, which sounded delicious as we were ravenously hungry. By this time it was a full on downpour, so the other determining factor was their close proximity, a half block away.

We were greeted promptly and despite being very busy were seated in a booth. The menu was exactly what they advertised, mostly versions of chicken and beef sandwiches; cheese steaks, hamburger. I had a Thai beef poke bowl, which was cooked beef over noodles. This is just one of many experiences where the French interpretation of a dish is very different from our US versions. Nonetheless, it was delicious and hit the spot. The girls all had burgers which come with fries or salad, and everyone enjoyed their food. This was the first place where I was a little sticker shocked at the prices, everything being 20+ Euros, but when you figure the gratuity and tax are included in the price it actually works out to what we pay here in the US for comparable quality. Don’t go out of your way for this place but if you are in similar circumstances you will likely be happy.

Pied au Cochon – 6 Rue Coquillière – 2nd Arrondissement

In 2000 I ate dinner at this restaurant, a fact that eluded me until I compared pictures of my trips on the plane back. This is a classic, and relatively famous restaurant that has been around for decades and is open until 5 am, so it is a well known late-night haunt for chefs in the area. It can be crowded but exudes the classic Paris bistro look with dark wood and brass fixtures, rich fabrics and professional servers all in long sleeve shirts, ties and aprons. The menu is deep with French classics, the cocktail list fantastic and their wine list is top flight. Even by-the-glass selections are interesting and reasonably priced.

I could go on and on about the food, as we shared a few appetizers and the girls chose great dishes, but to conserve space I will only encourage you to at least try their signature dish, a stuffed pigs trotter. Yes, they take the pig foot, poach it then gently remove the meat, chop it up, add seasoning then re-stuff under the skin, bread and deep fry it. It comes with delicious potatoes and light but flavorful sauce. Everything at this restaurant is great, the service is a bit pretentious but ridiculously professional and while not cheap, is a pretty good value for the experience. The girls also think this is the best French Onion Soup they have ever had.

Boulangerie Liberte – 145 Rue Saint-Dominique – 7th Arrondissement

One of my favorite things to do in France is grab a sandwich from one of the many bakeries (boulangeries.) It is their equivalent of our sub shops, but with a quality of bread and freshness of ingredients that is not equalled. On this day we grabbed our car to leave Paris, but made a quick stop at the Eiffel Tower for Instagram picks for my girls. Hungry, but not wanting to move the car from our primo parking spot, I led the girls down to a busy intersection and then window shopped several boulangerie in the area before selecting this one merely by appearances. We all grabbed a sandwich, made on their house baked baguettes, and headed to the car. My choice in France is always tuna salad, as they have some magical process that makes it better than here. Nothing special but the sandwiches were superb and we ate in the car before heading to Versailles. I am still waiting to see if I got a parking ticket.

Chez Harold – 27 Rue de Vesle, Pass. du Commerce, 51100 Reims

We left Paris and drove to the Champagne region for two days of wine appointments. The first was a visit to Sabine Godme, a store staple, scheduled for 2 pm on Ascension Day, which is one of the many French holidays. We drove into Reims before the appointment to grab lunch but found many restaurants closed for the holiday. The weather was perfect so we wanted to sit outside, but most of the restaurants near the cathedral (the big local draw) all gave off tourist vibes. The prolific amount of English heard also concerned us in that we would probably have a mediocre meal, so my daughter found another option on Yelp. A couple of blocks away from the cathedral, and down a small alley, we visited Chez Harold.

We knew we were in the right place when the host did not speak English. We were seated in a lovely outdoor space that was expectedly crowded, but most of the patrons were French. The menu was a fantastic combination of dishes, which Harold himself came over to explain as the listings were only written in French. Again we ordered a couple of appetizers and different entrees, all amazing. Their house Champagne is from Harold’s family, and for less than 30E was a bargain. (I did not write it down but just ask.) Despite having just had a pastries while walking around we still indulged in their amazing desserts, do not miss.

La Moulin Carré – 51700 Châtillon-sur-Marne, France

After our morning appointment at Champagne Lacroix (coming this fall to a TWM near you) they suggested grabbing lunch here on our way back to Paris. It is a restaurant that sits next to what appears to be a trout farm, with comfortable outdoor seating as well as a glassed-in enclosure to avoid the wind. They have an extensive menu, also studded with French classics, and all of the food was very well made. There is a 3 course price fix menu which we took advantage of. I would suggest you choose a classic local dish, “les lentillons de la Champagne” as a starter. This is warm lentils with a poached egg covered with a cheese sauce made with brie. I am not the biggest fan of eggs but when in Rome, and I found this fantastic. The restaurant also makes a superb trout dish, which I had as my entree. Again, the house Champagne was less than 30E, so indulge in a bottle of that too. My only complaint was service was very slow and the food did not come out in harmony, so my whole family ate in stages. Not a huge complaint but be aware as I observed the same issue with several tables.