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?

What’s New in Paris Neighborhoods

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What’s my favorite Paris pastime?

Wandering the streets, poking into shops and courtyards, sitting in parks, people-watching in cafés, communing with artists in the far corners of museums, and sampling French food from new chefs. I’m always in search of new Paris addresses!

Here are a few recent discoveries, organized by arrondissements:

2nd
Wall garden: French horticulturist Patrick Blanc’s best known Paris project is his mur végétal at the Musée Quai Branly. But it’s hard to get a good view of it without standing in the middle of a busy street. His smaller wall garden, at the corner of Réamur and Petits Carreaux, is flanked by benches, so you can properly take it in.

3rd
New resto: Poilâne has a new outpost of its Cuisine de Bar, at 38, rue Debelleyme. The specialty is the tartine, oblong open-faced sandwiches made with fabulous Poilâne bread, topped with meat, fish and veggie pâtés, melted cheese, figs, and more.

New café: Le Petit Marché, just off the Place des Vosges at 9 rue Béarn, is a pleasant place for a coffee or a late dinner.

5th
MOF Florist: Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) is a prestigious title certifying that the bearer is one of the best artisans in France, but I didn’t knew it applied to florists until I stumbled onto Muriel Le Couls’ sliver of a shop at 51, rue Cencier. This is innovation, French style.

New concert venue: St Julien le Pauvre, the oldest church in Paris, hosts classical concerts yearround. Reserve on the website, and pay at the door (cash only). http://www.concertinparis.com/?lang=en

6th
New address for cold-pressed oils: Huilerie J Leblanc et Fils, makers of small-batch, handcrafted cooking oils, has moved from 6, rue Jacob, around the corner to the gourmet grocery Tomat’s at Nº5 (it’s tucked into a tiny cobblestoned courtyard). The hazelnut and truffle oils are my favorite.

7th
New boutique: Master Chocolatier Jacques Genin has opened a boutique at 27, rue de Varenne. His meticulously crafted, gleaming ganaches are refined and subtle, with sweet and savory flavors equally accounted for.

Cuisine de Bar in the 6th

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What a surprise to be invited to eat with my fingers in Paris.

At Cuisine de Bar, (3 locations, I ate at the rue du Cherche-Midi venue, next door to the main Poilâne bakery) the basis for their offerings is wood-fired sourdough Poilâne bread.

This bread is so popular that lines regularly stretch down rue du Cherche-Midi from the bakery, and loaves are featured on foodie tours and overnighted to gourmet groceries in NYC.

The Cuisine de Bar’s specialty is the tartine — oblong, open-faced sandwiches topped with meat, fish and veggie pâtés, melted cheese, figs, and more.

The menu describes the restaurant as without a chef, and without a kitchen. While you tuck into a starter of beautifully dressed greens or a robust soup, your tartine is prepared on a counter near the front door and heated in a toaster oven.

Eating with your fingers is not the norm in Paris. But the tartines are sliced across the grain into pieces that are easy to pick up. I was pretty sure that young people would go for it (and they did), but I had doubts about the middle-aged bourgeois couple beside me.

Surprise—they eagerly scooped up the pieces of their smoked salmon tartines, which were served on flat, rectangular plates.

The vibe is casual and service is efficient—making it a great place for a quick lunch, a leisurely bite outside regular lunch and dinner times, or a meal out with the kids.

Mille fois merci to Molly P for recommending La Cuisine de Bar, and for accompanying me!

Have you eaten here? what was your experience?

Le Rubis Wine Bar for Lunch

Where do Parisians go for a bargain lunch and a great glass of wine in the center of Paris? Le Rubis, just a few steps off upscale rue Saint Honoré.

Regulars remember drinking here when it opened in 1946, and if you go, you’ll experience some of the original ambiance: curved pewter bar, plates strewn with ham, and curtains covering tall windows. (And a Turkist toilet.)

Wines are primarily from Beaujolais and the Loire regions, though there are outliers. I’ve been told they serve a fantastic rosé from Cairo. Midday meals include confit de canard, tarte aux légumes, and fabulous charcuterie with Poilâne bread, all for around 10 euros.

Don’t count on dinner, though. After lunch, conviviality is king, and patrons stand at the bar, pairing wine with conversation (and the popular rillettes maison). Late afternoon, the line can be out the door.

No website. 10, rue du Marché , 1st, Métro: Tuileries. Open M-F 7am – 10pm, Sat 9am-3.30pm. Closed Sunday.