Generally speaking I don’t line up for anything, even if it’s good. I have no patience I guess. I’ll get it another time or not at all. And even if I find myself in the inevitable short line now and then I want it to move fast. Let’s move it people. But in Paris it’s different. I noticed that Parisians do line up for things they consider worthwhile, and do so patiently and agreeably. Food is a serious business for Parisians. They can stand in line while a person ahead of them is carrying on a long conversation with the fromager for example, tasting different cheeses, making hand motions and agreeable or disagreeable sounds for quite a few minutes before finally making their selection of cheeses to be consumed within the next couple of days (no cheese drawer in the French refrigerator, they buy what they eat now). No one bats an eye at how long it takes one to make their selection, mais biensure, il est très important de choisir le bon fromage. On ne peu pas précipiter ce. (but of course, it’s important to choose the right cheese. One cannot rush this). I am in the meantime standing at the back of the line fidgeting and wanting the line to move on quicker. Interesting.
Same at the boulangerie. Avez vou le brioche? No, l’autre s’il vous plait. And people look on patiently while the Boulanger and the customer discuss the bread specials of the day, and the Boulanger cuts half a baguette for the lady who only needs half baguette for now. She will get another half before dinner. Poilane gets a line up, as do Eric Kaiser bakeries, Pain Sucré in the Marais and Ble Sucré in the 12th.
And chocolates, I have never seen so many chocolatiers anywhere. I think this must be special to France. They love chocolate over there (I am writing this on the TGV train from Paris to Barcelona, we left Paris this morning, hence Paris is “there” now, not “here”). There are many chocolatiers in Paris, at least a couple are always within sight, but they don’t seem to line up for all of them, even if they are Mailleur Ouvrier de France. They have their favourites, I noticed, and one definite favourite is Patrick Roger, whom I have written about here. His Saint Germaine store always has a line up. No tasting going on here though as far as I could see, except the samples that they offer you. But even here there is a discussion. Vous voulet tous les chocolates au citron? Nous avons quatre.
And pastries, that’s almost a religion. Many have their favourites but I noticed that a few of them really command the attention of the Parisians. The line up in front of Pierre Hermes store in Saint Germaine snakes around the corner at all times when the store is open and never gets shorter (at least at Christmas time). It’s not just for cakes. He also makes one of the best croissants in town says Dori Greenspan. I ventured north of the Seine one morning to check out the fabulous Marche d’Aligre and the “must try” pastry shop Ble Sucre on rue de Vollon. A bit of a trek getting there but both the market and the patisserie were well worth it. The market was a real French market and the most fun market I visited and the pastry shop had a lingering line in front which I happily joined to get my brioche for the morning. They were pretty efficient in there, moving things up pretty quickly. Ladurée on Champs Elysee always has a line up for the pastry shop and the pasties there are so beautiful, flawless and so precise you wonder how on earth they make them. It’s art, for sure, but also a disciplined skill.
And then you have the Parisian “institutions”, such as Angelina. I think everyone visiting Paris wants to have one of Angelina’s Chocolate Chaud (I like the Chocolate Blanc (white) as well, try it next time). If it was good enough for Chanel, who used to sip her chocolate chaud at Angelina, it’s good enough for us. That lineup gets longer all the time but moves pretty fast (yes, I waited). When it’s high season (Christmas and New Year is high season in Paris) I think they open up a couple of rooms in the back extending the space and are able to accommodate many more guests. You’d think it’s only tourists lining up, and most of them perhaps are tourists, but there are many Parisians in line as well. It is worth the wait though, the food is also good there and they have some vegetarian selections (butternut squash soup with chestnut cappuccino and lentil salad with walnuts and a poached egg on top), which most restaurants do not have, but that’s another post:).
There are also the trendy spots they line up for. In Saint Germaine at the moment one of the trendy restaurants is Le Comptoir de Relais around the corner from our apartment. We didn’t line up for it although it was on my daughter’s list of must do. We did however stop by for crepes with Grand Marnier at the Avant Comptoir next door, and stood along the stand-up only counter in the crowded small and narrow room to eat them from a paper cone. When in Paris…
In the Marais they line up for falafel i n front L’As du Falafel (not a typo, it means the Ace of Falafel) for their famous falafel sandwich, but you can often skip the line and go inside and enjoy your falafel at a table. Across the narrow rue des Rosiers at Sacha Finkelsztajn there is always a line up for their famous Jewish bagels and chalah bread (all worth the wait). At Finkelsztajn don’t attempt to touch anything yourself, although the plastic bags are in the front. You would be told gently to wait for the lady to fill your order, hand you a slip of paper with the price, then pay, then get your loot. I was told that as I was trying to open the plastic bag in front of the bagel pile.
Another restaurants that has a looong lineup in front is Relais d’Entrecote, one that as a vegetarian I don’t quite get. It’s a steak and fries place, serving nothing but steak and fries along with a salad and dessert. We lined up for it one evening (I don’t eat steak so I knew there was no food there for me but I thought I would eat the salad and fries). The salad was quite good, crisp greens with a mustardy dressing. Then they dish a few pieces of cut up steak of some sort on a plate, pile up some French fries and as soon as you finished what’s on your plate they bring out more. There is some sauce on the steak. This place is on the list of recommended restaurants of several articles and websites. A chacun son gout say the French.
So I have come to the conclusion that Parisians will stand in line for good food and good food products and respect the process of selecting, discussing and tasting before making a purchase. I like that about them. Next time you see me standing in line for cheese, talking and tasting, just hold your horses and don’t rush me. I learned it from the French.
Here is a list of places that people line up for, in no particular order:
Ladurée Paris 1
L’As du Falafel 34 rue des Rosiers, Le Marias
Sacha Finkelsztajn Le Boutique Jaune 27 rue des Rosiers, Le Marias