On a recent trip to Paris, my travel goal was simple: I wanted to try at least one pâtisserie in each of the 20 arrondissements. Did I attain my goal? Oh, you bet I did (and the findings will be reported here soon). But in order to stave off those nasty jitters that tend to accompany such sweet excess, and because it would be a crime to not explore the savory offerings in the City of Lights, here's just a sampling of non-sweet eats enjoyed on the trip:
La Comète: Our first stop off of the metro? No, not some museum or the Eiffel Tower—it was a Parisian cafe, of course! And our inaugural meal? Cafe crème and croque monsieurs (or is it messieurs?) all around at La Comète. What you'll find here is a satisfying, if no-frills, version of the classic: a combination of sandwich bread heaped with salty ham and blanketed in rich Gruyère. 6, rue des Archives, 75004, 4th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map) 01 42 72 10 27
Café du Drapeau: Anything a Croque Monsieur can do, a Croque Madame can do better. And at Café du Drapeau, they do theirs right, pairing the open-faced slices of ham and cheese nirvana with a perfectly fried egg on top (our group got four different Madames (mesdames?), and each one had a perfectly and uniformly fried egg on top—amazing). You can get it with classic white bread, or (do it) opt for it on famous Pain Poilane for about one Euro extra. It's served with a lightly bitter (in a good way) side salad topped with a wonderfully abrasive dijon dressing—the perfect complement to the richness of the Madame. 10 rue Temple, 75004, 4th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map) 08 99 78 94 98
Chez H'anna: Truth? On our first foray to the fabled "Falafel Row," Rue des Rosiers, we were actually headed to L'As Du Fallafel (below) but accidentally went to Chez H'anna instead, and had actually finished our falafel and received the bill before we realized our error.
Happily, it was no mistake to visit H'Anna. The falafel itself was a study in perfection, with a lightly crusty exterior and a soft, almost cakey interior, but it's possible that the salads were even better—from a salty mushroom salad with olive oil and a tart touch of lemon to creamy homemade hummus and baba ghanoush, we had to ask for more pita so that we could clean our plates. 54 Rue des Rosiers, 75004, 4th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map) 01 42 78 23 09
L'As Du Fallafel: As Mark Bittman of The New York Times said, this falafel is "good enough to make you a vegetarian, at least for one meal." And after trying it for myself, I have to concur. It starts with the bread—often an afterthought with falafel joints—which is soft and springy, and provides perfect shock absorption for the falafel, which is fried to perfection, not too greasy and not too dry, and loaded with spicy flavor.
While there are tables to sit, the true joy is taking it to-go and eating it on the street, where you get a unique peek at well-heeled Parisians looking decidedly un-glamorous while shoveling falafel balls into their croissant-holes. 34, rue des Rosiers, 75004, 4th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map); 01 48 87 63 60
Micky's Deli: Tucked on the Rue des Rosiers (aka Falafel Alley in the Marais), this Kosher establishment serves up hefty burgers which come with a bevy of toppings like eggplant and fried onions along with the mayo, all served on shock-absorbing pillowy puffs of brioche rolls, with an exceedingly generous pile of fries on the side. 23, rue des Rosiers, 75004, 4th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map); 01 48 04 79 31
La Panfoulia: The best burger in Paris? OK, so I haven't tried every burger in Paris, but I do know that these ones were very, very good. We tried two varieties: the bacon and mushroom burger. The patties were cooked to perfection in both cases (medium rare and rare, respectively), and the toppings were such the perfect complement that really, no additional garnish—not even salt or pepper—was necessary. Heaven.
Oh, and it was all served with a beautifully appointed salad and fries in a porcelain cone (same shape as a regular fry cone, but fancy!). 7 rue Ste Croix de la Bretonnerie, 75004, 4th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map); 01 42 74 61 68; la-panfoulia.com
Le Potager du Marais: So Paris (and, you know, France) aren't exactly known for being veggie-friendly. But I made the mistake—er, decision—to marry a vegetarian, so we had to accommodate him at least some of the time. And we absolutely lucked out with this completely veggie joint, a little place that would make the average college dorm room look like a palace.
Save one fellow American, who said "how on earth did you find this place?" (he was there with in the know French friends), it was all Frenchies. And the dishes rewarded even non-vegetarians in the group: a satisfyingly "meaty" mushroom pâté, eggplant-wrapped chevre and veggies, a mille-fueille made of peppers, cheese and seasonal vegetables, hearty chili, and a quinoa side that didn't taste at all like an afterthought. Oddly, butter for the bread cost extra, but other than that the only weak link in the entire meal was the dessert,a soy chocolate creme cup that really would have been better with dairy. 22, Rue Rambuteau, 75003, 3rd Arrondissement, Paris, France (map); 01 42 74 24 66
Boulangerie Pâtisserie Renard: While walking around this neighborhood, which was nearby a hospital and was full of medical students and doctors, we initially went into this boulangerie for some sweet snacks, but couldn't resist picking up one of their single-serve pizzas studded with champignons (that's mushrooms to my fellow Americans). We were initially a bit put-off when they heated it up in a microwave, but were pleasantly, surprised when we dug in: the crust was chewy with a touch of crunchiness on the outside, the toppings fresh, and the mushroom taste infused every bite of gooey cheese.
Only in Paris would a cheap takeaway pizza be this good, that's all I'm saying. 113 bis, boulevard de l'Hôpital, 75013, 13th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map); 01 44 24 13 49