I went to Paris to see how their hospitality industry was faring so you didn’t have to (you’re welcome).
If we think we have competition here, Paris is literally a retail mecca with bistros lining every street. Tables, one to three deep, hug the building’s facade and face out to the street to maximize the people watching. Diners don’t grab a seat just for meals, but for a leisurely cup of coffee or glass of wine to chat with friends. Happy Hour there means that only drinks and limited snacks are served from around 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. If you want dinner early, you will have a long walk around the neighborhood to find a place with the kitchen opened.
The “opener” at our Vrbo apartment made sure we knew which drawer the corkscrew was in (“This is France, after all,” he told us), but we were surprised at how many people at the outdoor cafes were drinking beer, not wine.
We got an apartment thinking we’d be doing a lot more cooking at home, thanks to the abundance of fresh ingredients at the little convenience stores, but even after numerous YouTube searches, we could not figure out how to use the stove or oven. We did master the microwave and coffee maker. Even getting out of the building was a challenge since opening the outside door involved first pushing a button way above the sight line.
The following are a few observations I thought might be interesting, if not useful:
- One of the first bistros we went to had an appetizer named “Jesus.” I’m not sure if this is good idea, but it did make me want to order it out of curiosity. Turned out to be a plate of really good salami with some witty language on the side: the dish had been “resurrected.” The downside (not counting the obvious) is that you risk disappointment, when you’re not delivering on the playfulness.
- Speaking of witty language, a sign at the Shakespeare Café caught my eye because sanitation stations are becoming so ubiquitous, they require a little flair to remind people to use them. And you’ve got to admit, quoting Lady MacBeth’s famous “Out, out, damn spot” speech is something even the Bard would approve of.
- Everyone appreciates knowing what a dish’s ingredients are, but be careful of bad translations, such as this one by an Asian restaurant in Paris for hot tea: “A bubbly nose of fresh seaweed that is validated in the mouth in the form of kombu shoots combined with the fruity wholeness of ripe papaya...”
- Make a standard item special, such as an abstract flower design of melted chocolate in a cup served with a pitcher of warm milk to pour over it to make hot chocolate. A package of sugar allows you to control the sweetness.
- I’m not a rabbit eater, but seeing one naked convinced me that I never will be. In fairness, the one pictured here was spotted in a meat counter, not a restaurant, but the image lingers on. For squeamish diners, serve the rabbit in pieces, well sauced.
And, if at all possible, don’t locate your restrooms down a steep staircase in the basement. You’d be the only restaurant in Paris to do so.