PARIS — The phrase “instant gratification” is an oxymoron in France, where slow food is a birthright not a movement. Having lived here for two years with my husband and children, I’ve learned to bide my time in the pursuit of pleasure. This attitude came in handy while pregnant and counting the days until I could consume champagne and cheese freely.
I kept a list of restaurants to try in a kitchen drawer and started calling around once the baby arrived. To my disappointment, I was about nine months late for prime seating at several spots. I was done waiting, though, having assimilated only so far.
Luckily, three of my top picks also operate neighboring bars that serve small plates — part of a growing trend combining casual drinking with dining. With the added emphasis on eating at these joints, they offer a shortcut to some of the best cooking in Paris.
Verjus Bar à Vins Like bloggers taking a staff gig, Americans Braden Perkins and Laura
Adrian went mainstream and opened a restaurant after building their reputation with a hidden supper club. Not much bigger than a Parisian kitchen, the downstairs wine bar occupies a narrow space, where a mix of locals and foreigners overpowered the iPod playlist on a recent night. Chicken-and-prune tortellini in a warm broth with root vegetables ($13) was the perfect antidote to the winter weather. Even more comforting from this expat’s perspective were the buttermilk fried chicken ($10) and salted peanut-butter mousse ($10). I left the drink selection to Adrian, whose smile offered another taste of home. 47 rue Montpensier, 011-01-42-97-54-40, www.verjusparis.com
L’Avant Comptoir If Verjus is the kitchen, then L’Avant Comptoir is the master bathroom. It’s standing-room only at the convivial sibling to Le Comptoir, where I’ve encountered
attitude when vying for a reservation. Not so at the next-door “hors d’oeuvres” bar, which allowed my toddler son to munch a crêpe (meant for takeaway) while perched on a counter. He’s a bit younger than the 35-year-old patrons that owner Yves Camdeborde had in mind when envisioning his popular place. Speaking as a member of his target audience, I vouch that the wild mushrooms with scrambled-egg mousse ($8) and the Brebis des Pyrénées ($6) will re-excite diners about French food.
3 carrefour de l’Odéon, 011-01-44-27-07-97, www.hotel-paris-relais-saint-germain.com
Frenchie Bar à Vins Tucked in a tough-to-find alleyway, Frenchie also packs them in tightly, but with more room to rub elbows — an inevitability when reaching for the communal silverware and napkin canisters. The wine bar, which doubled in size after renovations this year, boasts an open kitchen with a view of chef Gregory Marchand’s handiwork. Marchand watched dishes — including poached egg, artichoke, chestnut, and truffle ($26) — find their way to high tables on a freezing weeknight. That one was perfect for sopping with bread, but the speck salad with Clementine and parmesan ($16) best conveyed his less-is-more ethos.
6 rue du Nil, 011-01-40-39-96-19, www.frenchie-restaurant.com