Eating in August

August is either a blessed or cursed time in Paris, depending on your needs.  For my wife Colette, it’s when we can park anywhere, in the most crowded part of town and to be celebrated.  For me, it means trying to find places that are open to eat at, which can be dicey. The first summer we “lived” here, Patricia Well’s wrote up the Bistro du Dome in the IHT; it had just opened and she noted that it was open every day but Christmas (or was it Christmas Eve?), now it’s closed Sundays and Mondays in – you got it – August.  Then a few years later, Flora Mikula moved to the Right Bank to open her eponymous resto just before August and kept it open that month – lesson duly noted. On the other hand, this year, despite the Great Recession, almost all the places that opened before August were shuttered this August with no messages on their answering machines about their reopening dates. So how is a poor slob supposed to find out. Well, each time we eat out in July and like it, Colette nudges me as we’re leaving and says “Find out their vacation dates.”  And sometimes I am lucky and do get a telephone message I can understand about when a place returns to duty. Of course there are places that are always open, McDo’s, Hippopotamus and the brasseries, for example, but that’s not why I’m eating in France. And each year, different publications and websites list August openings, for example: Budget travel, Indigar and ParisTripTips. This year, July 1st, Le Figaroscope published a 4-page piece listing those open, a first in my recollection. I ate at several of the news ones during  August and in general was impressed.  Of the places listed as restos in the “greenery”, Le 51 is a “snack resto” in the Cinematheque (ex-American Center/Library designed by Franck Gerhy) that serves awful light food such as roast chicken for those needing a bite to eat around the showing of the films.  Rosa Bonheur is a “café-bar-grignotage” in the Butte Chaumont (you remember that shack up at the top of the hill); it serves ham, tomatoes and rilettes of canard. The only one listed as a good bistrot I hadn’t been to was Zinc Caius, sister of Caius across the street which had somewhat more substantial dishes; boudin, beef and crème caramel for example with good wines. Passing over the ethnic places, one comes to the newly opened places: Cru, which as its name implies, serves largely raw food such as carpaccios, ceviches and tartares but has a few dishes made a la plancha and the Cantine Merci, a terribly healthy, bio, natural, protein and booze-avoidant cantine located in a “concept store” where elegant ladies from the rich suburbs come to spend oodles of money on supposedly fashionable over-priced items, under the impression that part of it is going to save starving children, which is why I suppose they eat rabbit food – that is amazingly good despite my snide attitude. In any case, August was good, one didn’t starve and excepting minor inconveniences and unanswered phone messages, the customer-restaurateur relationship was good. This month, my favorites were: Zinc Caius 11, rue d’Armaille in the 17th (Metro: Ternes) T: Closed Sundays A la carte about 30 € Cru 7, rue Charlemagne/Village St Paul in the 4th (Metro: St Paul) T: Closed Sunday dinner and Mondays Lunch menu 19, a la carte 35-40 € La Cantine de Merci 111, bd Beaumarchais in the 3rd (St Sebastien Froissart) T: 01-42-77-01-90 Closed Sundays A la carte 20-40 €. ©2009 John A. Talbott
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