My friend Susan told me recently about something I’d never heard of before: a trendy Polish lunch spot. Called Adriana et Margot, it was reputed to be so good that it was packed with young people every day. We had to go. We waited until 2:30pm to avoid the crowds but were surprised to find not a new restaurant that looked like all the other trendy new restaurants but an old-fashioned deli that seemed to have been around for some time (10 years, it turns out).
There were indeed four tall, handsome, bearded young hipsters ordering sandwiches when I arrived (they were followed by a few more).
The deli is staffed by several motherly blonde Polish women, who were chatting in their native language while eating their lunch in the small back room and intermittently jumping up to serve customers. The other staff member was a clueless young Frenchman who seemed to know nothing about anything. Perhaps he was hired to serve the hipster clientele.
The ladies, however, were wonderful, especially the cheerful one who waited on us in the most exemplary motherly fashion, making sure all our needs were taken care of.
Susan had been imagining a nice Polish sausage with mustard and was disappointed that no hot dishes were available. Instead, we ordered a couple of pierogis, one with cheese and potatoes and the other with cabbage and mushrooms, just to taste them (they were pretty dull), followed by sandwiches on enormous “bagels” (more like what we call a hard roll in the United States).
Each sandwich comes with a choice of main ingredient and two “caviars” (tarama or dips/sauces made with black or green olives, red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes or mushrooms). We went for pastrami on onion roll and herring on poppyseed roll.
I found that the pastrami pretty much disappeared under the two sauces and all that bread, but the herring stood up well and tasted great.
For dessert, we tried the cheesecake with raspberries, which was good but not outstanding, and a sort of round cookie covered in powdered sugar, which was fantastic. We had already tasted a sample of a delicious strudel and a sweet apple cake.
When we left, taking some of the salt-cured pickles with us to go, we discovered why the place is so popular with hip young people. The prices are wonderfully low (we paid only about €12 each for all that we had eaten, including one excellent beer), but that’s not all: in a magazine article posted on the facade, superstar chef Inaki Aizpitart, whose restaurants Chateaubriand and Le Dauphin are located nearby, recommends Adriana et Margot as one of his favorite places in the neighborhood.
A couple of days later, I tried a lunch spot in the Marais, Miznon, that is really trendy. At 2pm, it was so crowded with people ordering pita sandwiches that I could barely get through the door. I went back an hour later, and though it was not nearly as crowded, there were still quite a few people eating. I ordered a lamb kebab sandwich to go and while I waited at the bar one of the kindly cooks handed me a piece of warm, soft pita bread and a dish of hummus and intensely garlicky oil to dip it in. Heaven.
The place has an original decorative scheme, consisting mainly of fresh fruit and vegetables (also prominent on the menu), as cheerful and colorful as Olivier the waiter (the chefs shouted his name whenever a dish was ready, then he shouted the name of the customer he was to deliver it to), who seemed to have an endless supply of good nature and friendliness.
I ate my sandwich on the street as I walked to my violin lesson, condemning my poor teacher to breathe onion and garlic fumes, but it was worth it. The high-quality lamb meatballs, cooked up fresh and accompanied by hummus, red onions, scallions and fresh parsley, were delicious. The only problem with this brilliantly simple sandwich (the opposite of the fussier one at Adriana et Margot) was that the onions were too sharp (I recently learned the trick of soaking them in ice water to get rid of their sting).
The riotous scene at Miznon, intensified by the high volume of the music, was great fun, but it had a price: the sandwich cost double those at Adriana et Margot. Still, I’ll go back for the ambiance and the quality of the sandwiches, a nice alternative to the falafel joints around the corner on the Rue des Rosiers (Miznon does not make falafels but has interesting options like bœuf bourguignon sandwiches).
Adriana et Margot: 14, rue des Goncourt, 75011 Paris. Métro: Goncourt. Tel.: 01 47 00 64 50. Open Tuesday-Thursday, 10am-7pm; Friday-Saturday, 10am-7:30pm. Closed Sunday. Sandwiches: €4.30-€6.00. adriana.margot.free.fr
Miznon: 2, rue des Écouffes, 75004 Paris. Métro: Saint-Paul. Tel.: 01 42 74 83 58. Open Sunday-Thursday for lunch and dinner, Friday for lunch only. Closed Saturday. Sandwiches: €9.50-€12.00. www.facebook.com/miznonparis
Note: a new branch of Miznon has opened on the Canal Saint Martin at 37, quai de Valmy, 75010 Paris; tel.: 01 48 03 47 22. Métro: République.
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