The Best Croque-Monsieur in Paris

The croque-monsieur — a gloriously crunchy, salty ham and cheese sandwich, filled and/or topped with béchamel, and brushed with butter before grilling — is one of my favorite café/bar foods. It’s a classic comfort food, and it’s trending.

Chefs are tinkering with traditional ingredients — substituting comté cheese for the classic gruyère, and using bread from celebrated bakers and surprise additions, like truffle salt.

These three cafés have croques to savor.

• At Café Trama, near the Bon Marché, sel de truffes (truffle salt) is the transformative ingredient. The aroma is both delicate and intense, and the cheese-ham-truffle combination sings. The bread comes from artisan baker Jean-Luc Poujauran (who delivered croissants daily to President François Mitterand).The addition of a lightly dressed salad and slices of house-pickled onion turn everyday bar food into something special (pictured above).

• With blue velvet divans, brocaded stools the color of soft gold, Christofle cutlery, and arched windows overlooking the Tuilieries, pâtissier Sebastian Gaudard’s new salon de thé is a study in refinement. His croque-monsieur is equally sophisticated: three golden, crustless sandwiches contain tender white ham from the Aveyron region and creamy comté cheese from the Jura mountains. The bread comes from wunderkind baker Rodolphe Landemaine, and in place of béchamel is crème pâtissière salée, a savory custard. The sandwich is crunchy, tender, rich, and light — and the whole experience très élégant.

• For a no-frills croque-monsieur in an upbeat brasserie setting, eat at L’Entracte, in the luminous shadow of Opéra Garnier. It’s a bustling place with tufted red banquettes, lamps resembling bunches of grapes, and tall windows overlooking the stunning opera house. The clientele is a mix of tourists, locals settling into their preferred spots, and students, performers, and spectators from the Opéra. The café’s traditional ham and cheese sandwich is served on grilled Poilâne bread. This tangy, crumbly sourdough is another Paris tradition, made from stoneground flour in wood-fired brick ovens. 1, rue Auber, 9th

Where did you last enjoy a croque-monsieur?

Cafe Trama in the 6th

Cafe Trama, on rue du Cherche-Midi in the 6th, serves comfort food, memorably prepared. When I arrived for lunch on a Friday at 12:30 sans reservation, the only open seat was at the white marble bar.

The place bubbled with conversation, and as I studied the chalkboard menu, servers moved among tables flanked by comfy looking banquettes with the plat du jour: large plates of roasted monkfish with apple confit and puy lentils.

I decided that was too much food for me (as was the black angus steak with girolles, pan fried in duck fat — how I regretted my small frame).

I ordered the croque Monsieur Poujauran, au fleur de sel de truffe. The explanation for the dish came in two parts: Monsieur Poujaran is the artisan baker who supplies the neighborhood cafe; the sel de truffe was the transformative ingredient.

The bartender recommended a glass of light, fruity Beaujoulais, Morgon de Py, which he asked me to taste first. I was delighted with the wine — and with my vantage point. The cafe’s full tables, spare lines, shelves of gleaming glassware, and warm, Art Deco lamps gave the restaurant an animated brasserie feel.

There was some sort of mix up in the kitchen, and when I was still waiting for my meal 20 minutes later, the manager approached, apologized, and said my wine was on the house. The bartender offered me a slice of St Nectair cheese with onion-apple jam to tide me over.

When my sandwich arrived, the aroma won me over immediately. The scent was delicate and intense at the same time. Unlike most croque monsieurs, which can be dry and overcooked, my sandwich was moist, chewy, and the flavors of cheese, ham and truffle mingled wonderfully. With a lovely side salad, spiced with slices of house-pickled onion, they had turned a casual, everyday dish into something special.