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Archived Bonjour Paris Article

Off-the-Beaten-Path Paris: Brunch


Aimée Whitenack

When recently asked what I miss most about the U.S., I drew a blank. Cheesecake? Mike & Ike's? Sundays on the sofa watching American football? (Without a baffled Brit commentating: “The big guy made a bloody smack, mate!”) But when I woke up this past Sunday it finally came to me—a craving like no other: I miss the good ole American “greasy spoon” breakfast. Sure enough, you can find a decent American breakfast in Paris. Squeeze into one of the popular Coffee Parisiens (two locations) and any time of day you can order up an excellent eggs benedict with a side of crispy bacon and home fries (even a Ben & Jerry's chocolate shake, if you're so inclined). And they have Heinz ketchup. But as good as it is, it just doesn't quite fill that longing I have for a lazy morning sitting in a booth at my diner back home building castles out of sugar packets. My hunger for a sausage patty. My desire to devour. In short — The Craving. That's because one of my very favorite things about venturing out to brunch with a pack of friends in the U.S. is the bill. When it arrives, I inevitably get a little delirious: “I just had a cinnamon French toast, eggs over easy, bacon, coffee, O.J. and home fries (i.e. the Hungryman's Breakfast) for $3.95! Incredible!” For the price of a breakfast at Coffee Parisien, you could be dining on foie gras. Nevertheless, this past weekend I decided to give the brunch-in-Paris thing another go. I met a friend at PariS'éveille, a little place (the kind of place you'd call a joint in the U.S.) in the 9th arrondissement. PariS'éveille draws a rather young crowd, along with a smattering of older couples who have ventured into (or set their roots in) this rather more hip and diverse section of the city. The restaurant itself, with its concrete floors, steel beams, and back-to-the basics picnic tables, looks like a cross between a construction zone and a FRIENDS set. The walls are decorated with maps of Paris and chalkboard menus in their gilded frames. But, when I first walked in, what most surely won my attention (and love) were the squat, stainless steel toasters that sat at every table. Do-it-yourself toasting — how great is that? For 16€, the PariS'éveille brunch starts with a choice of boissons chauds, served in lovely little café au lait bowls. As if the toaster on the table routine weren't enough to get you giddy, there are FREE REFILLS on coffee (a rarity in France). You're also given a basket of fresh breads (white, whole grain, and raisin) along with croissants, pain au chocolat, two jars of confitures and another of Nutella. So get toasting. Next comes a small dish of lightly scrambled eggs (you may be able to ask for them well-done, or “bien cuit”), a glass of fresh-squeezed O.J., and your choice between a charcuterie and cheese plate and a smoked salmon and cucumber salad and cheese plate. Finally, there's a selection of desserts (of the fruit salad or fromage blanc variety). But by this point, I'd already eaten so much that I simply couldn't partake. And this, my friends, is when The Craving began to subside at last. Here was a place that took our oh-so-American concept of stuffing ourselves silly on breakfast foods and added its French mark. It's so much more than the typical French breakfast of a croissant on the fly, and yet it's not trying to mimic our American ways—something I seem to appreciate. So while I still look forward to a short stack of banana pancakes at Lou's (Hanover, N.H.), Sundays in Paris are suddenly brimming with new and delicious possibility. PariS'éveille
2 rue de la Grange Batelière, 75009,
01.42.46.61.86
(Métro: Grands Boulevards)

Coffee Parisien
4 rue Princesse, 75006,
01.43.54.18.18.
(Métro: Mabillon)
7 rue Gustave-Courbet, 75016
01.45.53.17.17.
(Métro: Trocadéro)


For More on Aimée Whitenack see her biography.

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