Crepes are basically synonymous with France, but not, in fact, with Paris: They’re famously a product of the Bretagne (Brittany) region, several hundred miles west. In fact, historically there’s been a cluster of top crepe places near the Gare Montparnasse — because that’s the train station that serves Brittany. The Bretons who came to Paris first arrived at that train station, and then to that neighborhood — and they brought their crepes with them.
If you’re coming to Paris, you might as well eat some fancy AF meals. Now personally, I don’t think this is required: Check out the picnics on the banks of the Seine on a summer evening, and what you’ll see — equally among the French and visitors — are a whole lot of Franprix bags and St. Albray cheese. Part of what makes France great is that an appreciation for food isn’t just for the one-percenters: It’s for everyone.
What to eat in Paris? You could do nothing here but eat and it would be marvelous. The trick is that you don’t need to do it at restaurants—you’ll eat even better if you eat like Parisians do, which by patronizing fishmongers, fruit and vegetable vendors, bakers, pastry makers, and of course the occasional splurge. But no Western culture eats better on the cheap. Take a close look at the picnics they take to the banks of the Seine on summer nights and seriously half of it came from Franprix. Here, the 12 things I try to eat literally every time I’m in Paris—and in the case of #7, would smuggle home in my coat if I thought I wouldn’t eat the entire thing on the plane.
So the thing I have noticed about salads in France is that they are not so much salads as ham with a side of lettuce. I clearly remember my first salad in Paris, which was at a cafe called Le Sully near the Ile St Louis. It had potatoes and goat cheese on toast, plus a lot of ham. It was not this, but it looked a lot like it. WTF is that? For the record: I like potatoes, goat cheese, and toast. In fact, I strongly prefer them to vegetables. But this is the point: I eat salad to balance out the times when I eat potatoes, goat cheese, and toast. If the salad is actually potatoes, goat cheese, and toast … that is not a very good system. This is all to say that today I went to Charonne to explore — Sunday afternoons being made for exploring, of course, since nothing else is open. My destination: Cafe Moca.