I was most looking forward to the food in Paris. How could I not when Paris has so many foods to look forward to? Just thinking of the cheeses, macaroons, and crepes that I wanted to try was enough to get me drooling. Unfortunately, I was a bit let down. I did manage to have plenty of excellent cheese, but the macaroons seemed far too expensive given their size and I found I preferred the crepes at Temple University’s food truck. I also ended up eating more bread in the 4 days I was in Paris than I have my entire stay thus far in Rome. Paris does not make it easy for a vegetarian on a budget to eat.
As far as restaurants go, of the two establishments I went to, one was incredible while the other, sadly, fell short.
The first restaurant that I went to was a priority for me to try while in Paris. While doing my pre-Paris food research, every site that I came upon highly recommended this place. It was none other than Rose Bakery.
Rose Bakery is a tiny bakery/restaurant located in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris. The building it occupies looks as though it was once a garage. The simple décor consists of concrete floors and white walls with signs posted warning diners to beware of the condensation that forms on them. The very back wall has pastel colored paint roughly brushed across it giving the room a messy punch of color and a super laid back feel. There was no fussiness, no theatrics to hide behind- just good food in a nice atmosphere with friendly staff.
After peering at the day’s food selections displayed in the to-go counter, both Gina and I knew what we wanted to eat. We saw that the person sitting at the table behind us had gotten the same thing, and since the menu was in all French (which neither of us speak a word of- ask my French speaking friends. I have tried and epically failed in every attempt) when it was time to give our orders, we simply said we’d have “what he got.”
“What he got” ended up being a sampling of the day’s various vegetable and grain dishes. It was the most beautifully colorful bowl of food I think I have ever seen. The six piles of food in the dish were as follows: broccoli and cauliflower with a green hummus-like sauce, a wheat berry salad with mushrooms, apple, onion, and radish salad, carrot salad with pumpkin seeds, a lightly pickles coleslaw, and citrus-herbed millet. All were fresh, delicious, and (most importantly) not bread.
Sadly, the bread was the best part of the meal at our second dining destination, Boullion Chartier Restaurant. In all fairness, the main reason Gina and I decided to eat here was because the prices were substantially lower than any other restaurant in the city and it was supposedly the last of the old school French restaurants. On our college student budgets, cheap was what we needed, though I had been warned that with the low prices came lower quality food. Despite this, I was still hopeful that it would be a delicious meal. My hopes were too high.
The restaurant itself was very nice. It had high ceilings, beautiful chandelier lighting and a classic charm to it. But the appearance is the only thing that made it on my “pros” list. Everything else pretty much fell short. For instance, in traditional French style, the wait staff was not the friendliest. Worst of all was the food. Our meals came out far too quickly for anything to have been cooked fresh and it was clear that my plate of mixed vegetables (the only vegetarian option on the menu) consisted of frozen veggies, and of the icky variety.
My green beans were mushy, the marinated mushrooms were cold, the baked potato was bland, and the pasta was a joke (not to mention a confusing addition to a veggie plate). I think the red stuff on it was supposed to be tomato sauce, but it tasted more like super thin ketchup. Let’s face it, after living in Rome for 2 months, any pasta that is not homemade is going to be less than satisfactory. We enjoyed our time in the restaurant, but didn’t bother ordering dessert and instead opted for a treat from a bakery, a decision we did not regret.
My dining experiences in Paris left me with 2 conclusions: 1- French dining is not vegetarian friendly and 2- good French food is not wallet friendly. While my dinner at Boullion Chartier left a lot to be desired, Rose Bakery reassures me that there is fantastic French food right up my alley, though I won’t be able to afford it any time soon. Of course, that is not going to stop me from compiling a list of Parisian restaurants to try… it’s good to have dreams.