I was recently asked a most ghastly question: When in Paris, where do you go for a real American breakfast?
I am of two minds regarding best breakfast and Paris. I know plenty of my compatriots have searched high and low in the City of Lights for a place like home that will serve real breakfasts, you know, American-style breakfasts. For many it's a way of clinging to their roots in a strange town full of people who don't speak real American. I will lay my cards down, dear readers and state that I have simply no, and I mean that quite emphatically, interest in wolfing down an American-style breakfast (read: largess) while cornered at a table with my beloved compatriots in Paris. Call me finicky. You can shoot me now or perhaps later, after breakfast. If truth be told, arguably, the best place to have your last breakfast in Paris is in bed. Merci.
I have always held the notion that the French are not ones to go "hog-wild" for le breakfast; it remains something of a mild curiosity that les Americains would want to indulge in a monumental meal before nine in the morning! Les French seem to me quite happy with a yogurt, a croissant or brioche, and a cafe creme. If you add une petite amie into the equation you'll have all the ingredients for a very romantic French breakfast. Some would argue that in itself constitutes a regular petit dejeuner. Another story altogether.
Allow me to strap on my feed bag before proceeding further. Let's face it, we Yanks like, no, love, the thought of Big Breakfasts, it brings out that Paul Bunyan in all of us, the flannel shirts, wool cap and boots to be sure and standing ten feet tall. Survival of the fittest, full stomach and ready to conquer the world or maybe just the Mall of the Americas. The American breakfast is a classic among classics. It never ceases to amaze me that we continually insist on having that proverbial dump truck pull up to our plates and unload a ghastly combination of foods all generously lacquered with home-style maple syrup. You know I'm not that far from the horrible truth. We need to admit that. It's a first step.
Pull off the freeway and stop at any dinner or "greasy spoon" slide into that booth or perch yourself on the red Naugahyde stool that goes round-n-round, because you are about to enter into a culinary twilight zone. Miss Mabel, you know the one with the little pink hat and matching apron with those comfy white institutional crepe shoes? She'll be right with you "Hunn." Yes, Mabel with the voice that screams "two pack-a-day/shot o' Jack" will gladly recite the menu, flapjacks or waffles (four or six) with or without two or four eggs, with or without ham, scrapple (a mush of pork scraps and trimmings);steak and bacon, two rolls and a pad of butter. No substitution please! Now, will that be with or without fries and gravy on the side? Or would you prefer hash browns or grits? It's a proud moment indeed when your order arrives; your arteries will stand up and give Mabel a "high five" because this is what we mean when we say "Breakfast is ready in America!" Don't try and convince me otherwise. No cute little pot of jam with a strange selection of breads and a cup of coffee with a handle that's smaller than my thumb can ever be considered a real breakfast! That’s fine for Barbie and Ken. But not for me.
I am going to go out on that proverbial limb, once again, and suggest that there is not a live body anywhere in the good ol' USA who has not thoroughly enjoyed, at one time or another, a heaping power breakfast. The kind of breakfast that leaves your body stunned! It's a 9-11 breakfast for obvious reasons. But who cares? It's as American as standing in line on the boardwalk in 110 degrees to buy a bucket of greasy fries or a Pennsylvania Dutch creation the size of a flying saucer smothered in powdered sugar or maybe just a soft pretzel the size of a coiled boa constrictor, lathered in Mr. Yellow Mustard and all washed down with a gallon of some syrupy soft drink. I can assure you, you won't ever catch me doing that! Ever again.
The positive news is that having an American breakfast at an all night diner somewhere off Route 66 at five o'clock in the morning or ten o'clock at night will not cost you anywhere near the price of an American breakfast served in a Paris local that has about as much Gallic charm as Euro Disney.
From the Little Coffee Pot, Naugahyde roadside heaven, Flo and Mabel at your service, I return to the question of where to find that quintessential American breakfast in Paree. I dialed up a few of my connections - still friends -who seem to me to have a better pulse on these things and more tolerance than perhaps yours truly. No question about it, they would run to Joe Allen, the Indiana Cafe, The Real McCoy or Breakfast in America. Now, I'm no Inspector Clouseau, but there seems to be something of a discernible pattern in their suggestions. In the end I made two very reasonable suggestions: One was "L'Américain" breakfast served at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée on the Avenue Montaigne where one can very nicely load up on pounds of eggs any style you want and just keep 'em coming. All for the moderate price of fifty-five euros. I recognized this might seem a bit pricey so I made another suggestion. Over on the Avenue George V you can get a much better deal at the Hotel George V. There they have an American-style breakfast to beat the band. Fresh juice, cereals, eggs any style and chocolate croissant! All for fifty-one euros. Much cheaper. They speak American too!
If it’s your last day in Paris, have breakfast in bed. C’est plus facile and more fun!