Can a foodie have a quick lunch in Paris without compromising his or her culinary standards by going to a fast food restaurant? Absolutely. And it is getting easier and easier as more and more quality-conscious places open. All of those included in this two-part article are small places with mostly shared tables or counter seating on stools. And, almost without exception, they have youthful, super-friendly and helpful staffs.
Let’s start with the best (and most expensive) of those I tested. That was indisputably Frenchie to Go, a newcomer to the Frenchie empire on the Rue de Nil. I was a bit skeptical at first when I saw that the pulled-pork sandwich I had set my heart on the evening before when I peered through the closed shop’s window was priced at at a rather steep €10, especially when I was served a smallish sandwich on a soft roll. I took it all back, however, as I worked my way through
the tender pork oozing with an amazing barbecue sauce (I could easily get addicted), which the waiter later told me was made with 11 secret ingredients. The matchstick French fries (thick-cut frites are also available) were perfect. Dessert was a luscious, hi-cal doughnut filled with coconut cream and frosted with chocolate. I plan to go back to try everything on the menu, which includes pastrami on rye (€14), Reuben sandwiches (€12), hot dogs (€8), fish and chips (€14), and lobster rolls (€22) as well as bacon and eggs (€8.50) and other breakfast foods.
Frenchie To Go: 9, rue du Nil, 75002 Paris. Métro: Sentier. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 8:30am-4:30pm.
For my hot-pastrami fix, I went to Freddie’s Deli, which I figured would have the real thing, since it is owned by American Kristin Frederick, whose much sought-after Camion qui Fume, a food truck with top-of-the-line
burgers (and long lines of people waiting for them), is a huge success. Frederick has even published an entire burger recipe book, Burgers, les Recettes du Camion qui Fume.
I brought my booty home with me on the Métro and unwrapped it, hoping it was still warm. It was, but while the pastrami itself was great, the sandwich was dripping with a strong mustard sauce that overwhelmed its flavor (and I am a mustard fanatic). The bread was not the dark, chewy rye I remember from my youth in New York. Oh well. I moved on to
the New York-style cheesecake, which was fine, but not as good as the light, creamy version found in some Paris restaurants (see Ito, for example).
If I happen to be in the neighborhood, I’ll go back to try the Reuben sandwich, but I won’t make another special trip to this place strangely located in a residential area. It does have the advantage of being open in the evening, unlike the others reviewed here, and the disadvantage of being the only one with grumpy service from a young man who seemed overtired.
Freddie’s Deli: 22, rue Crespin du Gast, 75011 Paris. Métro: Ménilmontant. Tel.: 01 84 16 33 75. Open Tuesday, noon-5pm; Wednesday-Thursday, noon-10pm, Friday-Saturday, noon-11pm, Sunday, noon-10pm.
If you are not seeking American classics at lunchtime but something a little different, you might want to try Caluc, which specializes in a sort of crêpe, called a caluc (€9), from the Aveyron department of France. I ordered the “Canard,” which was freshly made in the open kitchen in the back. It turned out to be a sort of wrap sandwich toasted on the grill. The crêpe
is green because it is made with spinach, parsley and shallots. It contained sliced smoked duck breast, onion compote with blackcurrants, broadbeans, Cantal cheese and arugula. Fresh and tasty. I ordered a starter called a farsou (€4), another traditional dish from the Aveyron, to go. It is usually made with sausage meat, dried fruits and herbs, but mine was made with beef. It looked rather like a hamburger cupcake and sort of tasted like one, too. It was heavy and not nearly as pleasing as the caluc.
Caluc has an attractive minimalist decor, with big mirrors, dark wood paneling and an arty neon light fixture hanging from the high ceiling.
Caluc: 11 rue des Petites Ecuries, 75010 Paris. Métro: Château d’Eau. Tel.: 01 42 47 17 29. Open Monday-Friday, 8am-8pm.
While I was waiting for my caluc, a customer said to the person he was chatting with on his cellphone, “I wish we had our office here – the lunch options are a hundred times better.” He wasn’t kidding. On this one block of Rue des Petites Ecuries, between Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis and Rue d’Hauteville, the lunch choices are legion: tapas, Vietnamese, Chinese, African and even Bulgarian sandwiches and “cyber sandwiches.” I tested what looked like the most interesting one: Bulma, where I had a delicious banh mi sandwich (€6), a legacy of French colonialism in Vietnam that combines a baguette with local ingredients. Mine came on a nice crusty baguette and was filled with two
pork preparations, one with coriander and one flavored with rosewater, which made it slightly sweet; grated carrots; cucumber; coriander; lime mayonnaise; and some pleasant heat from chilies (optional). The chatty young woman who served me was a sweetheart. She explained that the recipes are based on the owner’s memories of his mother’s cooking when he was a child in Vietnam. Bobun (€10.30) and a Vietnamese bento (€13.30) are also available. There is a cozy, colorful small dining room in the back.Favorite