A Croque Monsieur at Chez Francis

When you are in Paris, don’t just eat at stately bistros and well known restaurants. Make time to drift along the banks of the Seine and walk the beautiful bridges.

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Stop into any riverside cafe you see (we chose Chez Francis) and gaze out at the water while the wind rustles through the trees and French school children walk by you, babbling away in french so easily that you could die of jealousy.

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You may catch a glimpse of the flame of liberty, our Statue of Liberty’s twin flame. You know, a huge hunk of gold sitting basically on the street. Totally normal.

end of trip 029 If you order so much as a coke light (diet coke is SO American) you get a small ramekin filled with salty, juicy herbed olives. This is a practice in many Parisian cafes and it’s much appreciated  – who doesn’t like a little nosh with their afternoon drinks?  end of trip 032 Croque monsieur

These are good almost everywhere in Paris. Thinly sliced, lightly smoked ham on tart, spongy Poilane bread. Layers of creamy, cheesy bechamel sauce that is broiled until golden and lightly crunchy on top. It’s just a ham and cheese sandwich but it’s so much more than that – just like nachos with cheese sauce are a million times better than nachos with melted cheese.

Why yes, I did just compare this croque to nachos. Now you know how much I loved it.  end of trip 033 Steak tartare

Because what is more French than inhaling others’ cigarette smoke as you eat raw beef liberally spiked with capers, onions, and Worcestershire sauce? Some very hot and tasty fries accompany on the side, of course. The steak tartare here isn’t anything out of the ordinary  just very well prepared, fresh beef whose grassy flavor is complimented by the piquant garnishes – but it’s the whole effect that makes it charming.

The service can be rather…Parisian (lengthy wait for food and you are treated as an annoyance) and the prices are high, but the experience is memorable. It’s a respite in a city so packed with must-see tourist attractions that you rarely get a chance to sit and relax. Go to Chez Francis or any of tis twins along the Seine and get lost for a n hour or two in the magic that is Paris