From The Streets Of Paris To The Provinces Of France
Cafés and restaurants with tables on the sunny side of the street are doing all the business these days — as the weather has turned to perfectly cool mornings and evenings with warm afternoons, blue skies and bright sun lasting until late evening. Parisians are out in the droves, wearing their new naked Spring and Summer hot pink halters and polka-dot rubber-soled flats with plenty of toe cleavage. ‘Course, when you opt for a great seat in the sun, often you sacrifice the quality of your dining experience.
As a serious “foodie,” giving up a quality meal in lieu of ambience can be a big sacrifice. I am forever on the quest of the “perfect little bistrot” meal — the kind you can trust at a price that makes it easy to spend as often as you like. Restaurants in Paris that fit my description of that “perfect little bistrot” are getting harder and harder to find — as new trendy restaurants can rarely fit the bill without years more experience to let the flavors savor. Neither do restaurants found in most other guide books or those filled with tourists.
Last week, thanks to “fab” portrait photographer Theo Robinson (who can even make a homely girl like me look “glam”), I was introduced to a neighborhood bistrot (just down the street from his almost all glass expansive industrial-turned-home-studio-loft in the 11th) at 106, rue de la Folie Méricourt (01.43.57.33.78). These are the restaurants only the local inhabitants can tell you about, hidden down streets most tourists never cross.
Auberge Pyrénées-Cévennes et Ses Specialités Lyonnaises clearly fits the description. When you enter, you feel as if you’ve stepped out of Paris and into the provinces of France with open, casual seating at tables set with white and brown check cloths. There is nothing pretentious about it, so you immediately feel at home, especially when welcomed by Françoise, one half of the husband-wife team that has owned and run the restaurant for the last six years. Clearly filled to the brim with the denizens of the “quartier,” these are the folks in the know and I was glad to know at least one!
The 26.50 euro three-course menu is divine for keeping your budget in tact, but the à la carte offers a larger variety of fare and makes it very difficult to choose for someone like me who likes and eats everything. Regardless of whether you go for the “Poireaux vinaigrette” and “Raie aux capres,” as I did, or the “Ravioles au basilic et parmesan” and “Faux filet sauce Roquefort” as Theo did, or anything else on the long list of Lyonnaise dishes, I doubt you’ll be the least bit disappointed.
It goes immediately to the Insider Paris Guide for Good Value Restaurants, while few and far between are making the grade.
Every tax season, I reflect on the past year’s dining adventures by calculating how many restaurants I visited and what were the average costs of the meals. Inevitably, I am surprised at how well I dined in Paris on such little money! Last year, with almost six meals a week in Paris bistrots, each one cost on the average under 20 euros (about $22 averaging the rate of exchange over the course of the year).
Not bad, considering that includes the meal (two or three courses), usually wine or other drinks, coffee, tax and tip. Where else can you dine on French cuisine at that price?…only in the provinces of France!
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]
P.S. Want to share your great finds (on the sunny side of the street or otherwise)? Write me at [email protected]