At the risk of sounding cranky, there are two things I hate that everyone else seems to love: brunch and bowling. In my humble opinion, both are a lot more trouble than they’re worth. We’ll leave bowling for another day, but for now, brunch. It’s not the actual food I object to—it’s the scene, particularly in New York, where a 1-2 hour wait at popular spots is standard. Seriously… who wants an omelet that badly?
So the fact that Paris used to be a brunch-free zone came as somewhat of a relief to me. (Traditionally, the French eat a very simple breakfast of whatever’s lying around—coffee, a tartine… a cigarette—and then wait it out for lunch, the main event). Of late, however, the concept of “le brunch” is slowly but surely creeping its way into Parisian culture.
Initially, I was skeptical, but I’m happy to report that the French put their own unique spin on the hybridized meal. Just as it’s hard to find a true dirty martini in Paris (a tragedy), it’s still rare to come across a true American-style brunch, which is fine with me. As long as you’re not holding your breath for Bloody Marys and maple syrup-drowned pancakes, you’ll be more than satisfied.
Here are a few HIP-approved brunch spots that indulge American-style gluttony without sacrificing French-style gastronomic refinement.
Coquelicot. One of our favorite bloggers and Francophiles, Nichole Robertson, tipped us off to the great brunch at Montmartre’s rustic Coquelicot boulangerie. On the weekend, a lavish brunch—which entails a variety of pastries, a soft-boiled egg, toast with smoked salmon, fruit salad, and steaming bowls of coffee—is served all day long. 24 rue des Abbesses, 18eme (01 46 06 18 77).
La Salle à Manger. Although this spot is located at the base of bustling market street rue Mouffetard, it feels more like a country kitchen you might encounter in the heart of Provence. If you’re up for it, the full brunch includes yogurt, fruit, a soft-boiled egg , a variety of breads and pastries served with home-made jams and other sinful spreads (including a rich Nutella made in-house), fresh juice and a choice of tea, coffee or hot chocolate. On nice days, you can grab an outdoor table and catch live performances by musicians who frequent the quartier. 138 rue Mouffetard, 5eme (01 55 43 91 99).
Rose Bakery. The lines can be long if you go at primetime (12-2pm on weekends), but this all-natural eatery serves up healthy dishes that you can eat at either of the bakery’s two locations or purchase to-go. The menu is more British than French—the scones and tea cakes are some of Paris’ best—but the emphasis is on fresh, seasonal ingredients, which are featured in salads, quiches, soups and mini tartelettes. 46 rue des Martyrs, 9eme (01 42 82 12 80)and30 rue Debelleyme, 3eme (01 49 96 54 01).
Super Nature. The health-conscious will flip for Super Nature, one of Paris’ few all-organic restaurants. The airy space has a modern farmhouse feel, and the weekend brunch is its claim to fame. The ingredients are so fresh that you won’t feel weighed down—even after eating country bread with jam, honey and chocolate spread, homemade muesli, a seasonal salad, a decadent galette de goumeau (a circular chou pastry enriched with cream) and fresh juice. If you’re feeling hardcore, you can order up a wheatgerm shot. 12 rue Trevise, 9eme (01 47 70 21 03).
Coco & Co. When you step into this cozy hideaway in St. Germain, you’ll feel like you’ve uncovered an unlikely secret, and indeed you have. This is one of the few restaurants in Paris that has an extensive egg-oriented menu that extends well beyond the requisite quiche and omelette aux herbes. Here, you can order your eggs a number of ways (I like the cloud-like oeufs brouillés, which are similar to scrambled eggs but somehow way better… perhaps because they’re the French version) and adorn them with any number of add-ons. Weekends are crowded between 12-2pm, so call ahead to reserve a spot. 11 rue Bernard Palissy, 6eme (01 45 44 02 52).
Breakfast in America.Ok, fine. If you’re really dying for American-style diner food, look no further than the aptly named Breakfast in America. Their Sunday brunch menu includes American-style eggs and omelets, a choice of real pancakes or a donut, “bottomless” orange juice and drip coffee. Most importantly, they have real Heinz ketchup with which to slather your eggs and home fries—just don’t let your French friends witness you in the act. 17, rue des Ecoles, 5eme (01 43 54 50 28) and 4, rue Malher, 4eme (01 42 72 40 21).
So Brunch-lovers, take heart. You won’t go hungry in Paris, where brunch is swiftly becoming de rigeur for culinary scenesters. Enjoy… just don’t invite me. (I’ll meet you later for apéros).