Le sandwich at Le Petit Vendome

le sandwich

It wasn’t so long ago that if you were walking down the street, or eating in public in Paris, you might get tsk-tsk’d. When I first started visiting Paris, I remember disapproving stares if you were standing on the sidewalk, jamming food into your craw. Croissants got a pass, because they were sort of designed to be consumed on-the-go. And honestly, who can expect anyone to be handed a small paper bag with a steaming-hot buttery croissant in it and walk more than ten paces before diving in to it?

(I also remember way back in 1979 when I first visited Europe and went to a supermarket, and after my twenty items was rung up and paid for, I discovered that there were no bags to put purchases in. So I had to gather everything up the best I could in my arms and try to get them all back to the youth hostel.)

A couple of years ago there was an anti-eating campaign on the métro depicting an obviously Italian man eating a fat, presumably pungent sandwich, surrounded by other passengers who weren’t so happy sharing the same car with a man and his lunch. That set off another kind of stink and the ads were pulled down for being pejorative.

It’s one of those contradictions of life here, whereas it’s not okay to talk loudly in restaurants or eat sausage sandwiches in public, as they intrude upon the sensibilities of others. But it’s okay to let your dog leave its droppings in the middle of the sidewalk. Although on the other hand, you can always blame someone else (namely, the dog) – which is kind of French.

Nevertheless, les sandwichs and crêpes are considered acceptable food for mobile snacking. So much so that even Subway has invaded France with over 234 shops opening up. It leaves Americans scratching their heads, but I think the novelty of a sandwich made to order, right in front of you, has a certain appeal if that’s not something you’re used to. And yes, they will toasté your sandwich à la demande. Although I prefer the traditional jambon beurre from a regular bakery because I’m becoming more stubborn in my old age, or perhaps because I live in France and it’s rubbing off on me.

The stuffed croissants showing up in the supermarkets and le Subway notwithstanding, les sandwichs (no, that’s not a typo) are something that seems permanently part of the French culinary landscape. And nowadays at lunchtime you can’t get near a bakery if it’s located anywhere near a school due to swarms of teenagers, six-deep, waiting for their lunch. I like sandwiches, but don’t eat them out much, mostly because I live (and work) at home and I don’t need to go out and have someone slice a baguette and stick a piece of ham in it for me. I’m pretty capable of doing that myself.

Le Petit Vendome

Yet I found myself out and about yesterday, near the swanky place Vendôme, and at Le Petit Vendôme I had le complet, a demi-baguette split and smeared with fresh goat cheese, doused with olive oil, and a few slices of jambon de pays (country ham) added to it all. It was a bit pricey at €5.7, but when you’re around the corner from The Ritz, I guess you could do worse in that neighborhood.

The place is packed full of locals and when people tell me they want to “eat where Parisians eat” I always think about places like this that are dim, noisy, and chaotic; you pull up a chair wherever if you want to eat more than a sandwich, and although I didn’t stop in, the restroom likely hasn’t been remodeled since de Gaulle stopped by for a glass of Gamay. And I’ve had more than one (female) visitor come back from the restroom an old French eatery or café and say, “I can’t go in there.”

Le Petit Vendome

You can barely get in the door and the line at the bar gets further crushed inside every time someone opens it. There’s a blackboard with some sandwiches, or you can pick your own ingredients; the mounds of runny, pungent cheeses at face-level piled on the counter – or the hams and sausages swinging above your head – make the decision a lot harder. When you finally get to narrow counter, it’ll take a little bobbing around the meats and cheeses to make face-to-face contact with one of the jovial fellows. But once you tell them what you want, they’ll split that little baguette from the prize-winning Boulangerie Julien and slip the ingredients inside and slide it over before you can even pull a few euros out of your pocket.

The sandwich-makers are speedy and friendly, and I made it through the mass of people relatively quickly. Interestingly, not one person cut in front of me. At least that’s what the people in front of me must have thought. Rosa Jackson (who prodded me to go here) said that Le Petit Vendôme has the best sandwich in Paris. And mine was indeed pretty good.

And yes, I ate it on the street.



Le Petit Vendôme
8, rue des Capucines (2nd)
Tél: 01 42 61 05 88
Closed weekends
(Sandwiches only available to-go or to eat at the bar.)

UPDATE: According to reports Le Petit Vendome was slated to move. I’ll try to update the listing if I hear anything, but as best I know, they are still at the address above. You may wish to call and confirm.


Related Links

Le Petit Vendome (Travel+Leisure)

Le meuilleur sandwich de Paris (My Little Paris, in French)

As Meal Tax Shrinks, Restaurants Hope to Gain (The New York Times)

Le Petit Vendôme (716 English)

104 comments

  • Sigh. It’s been too long since I had a simple Parisian jambon au beurre sandwich, preferably Bayonne. Just about one of my favorite things in the food kingdom. There is nothing about Subway I like. I hope it doesn’t take over from tradition entirely. Must get back to Paris, it’s been way too long since I had my last one: http://becksposhnosh.blogspot.com/2005/11/something-so-simple.html

    • Sam: I’ve been surprised at how popular Subway was shortly after they started opening in Paris. The only time I ever ate one was when I was stuck overnight near an airport in Chicago and until that night, I didn’t realize it was possible to ruin a sandwich. But as mentioned, I think the novelty of having a sandwich “made to order” then heated up is kind of a thrill if you’re not used that it. I prefer the sandwiches like these at Le Petit Vendôme, but I guess if I grew up on them, I might want something different.

  • I am not sure there is anything in this world I enjoy more than ham baguettes in Paris….I ate that every single day for lunch when I visited. I want to fly back there just so I can try this one. That first picture is KILLING me it looks so good, I mean how can there be anything better than fresh baguette with goat cheese and country ham? There are a few places in Berlin that sell them but the baguette is never quite as good as the ones I had in Paris.

  • David,
    I’ve been an ardent fan for some time now, loving the savory combination of food, culture, and humor. Your post today reminded me of the steep cultural learning curve I had when I first moved to Belgium (just over the border from Lille) in the mid-eighties (recall, the Flash dance era). I, like everyone in NA, at the time, wore nothing but track suits and running shoes. The fact that I never saw a European in a track suit (at the gymn, or on the street) was apparently lost on me. Finally, a very good Belgian friend took me aside, and gently told me that I might want to consider wearing something else in public. Like eating in public, track suits were intérdit – for anyone with a speck of class (and since I already had one strike against me, as an étranger, I wasn’t doing myself any favors.)

  • I love those sammies. My mother is from Barcelona and I remember the crusty baguettes rubbed with fresh flavorful tomato, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and layered with jamon. Heaven! We made them at home also but sometimes, like when your meandering on la Rambla, you have to buy one. Thanks for taking me back! How I miss those sammies and that bread!

  • When I first visited France in 2006 there were next to no Subways anywhere. Once I moved here in 2007 I started finding them hiding everywhere. I’m always shocked when I turn a corner I’ve been going for along time and then suddenly there is a new Subway sandwich shop.
    They do make themselves competitive though with their sandwich of the day price but 20 minutes after eating I’m always hungry again. Yes, it’s nice to pick what’s in your sandwich but then again I never would have tried as many things if it hadn’t been for the pre-assembled wonders you can find around France.

  • Elaine: Actually nowadays it seems here that the only time you can wear track suits or any exercise gear in public is if you’re not exercising.

    I keep seeing people in Paris dressed in full-on sailing gear—even though the closest place you could sail is pretty far away.

  • That picture just made me say the eff word out loud. Every time we go to Paris I have to go there for a sandwich. Thanks David!

  • Hi, David. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve really been enjoying your recent slice-of-life-in-Paris posts. It’s like having a few bonus pages of The Sweet Life in Paris pop up on my screen every couple of days! (Speaking of your book, that’s a great new cover on the paperback edition.) About the pleasures of sandwich making at home: I’ve long considered all-day access to my kitchen to be one of the perks of working from home, but after reading your post, it occurs to me that access to my very own, fully functional, post-sandwich bathroom is a highlight, too. All the more so for you in Paris, it sounds…

  • Oh, I remember this place! I had bought a beurre-camembert-salade and went to eat it across the street, on a bench right in front of Ritz. And when a friend called me and asked what I was doing, I pretentiously answered “I’m having lunch on the terrace at Ritz”. Which was true :)

  • The only time in my life I’ve been to France, my friend and I found ourselves hungry somewhere or the other but not with enough time to sit and have a good meal. We ran into a small market, bought a baguette, some sort of cheese, and a cheap bottle of champagne. We sat outside on the grass and snacked and then walked around and polished it all of. One of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. And I really can’t tell you what kinds of stares we were getting because we were having too much fun =)

  • Oh my God yes! As a Turk street food is a part of our daily lives and I cannot understand why I can eat on my country’s street during ramadan when people are fasting and not get a single stare but here I feel like I’ve committed a crime everytime I get a bite of my on the cookie! I get that in enclosed paces such as buses and subways the smell may bother people, hell it would bother me, but what does it matter in open air? It really annoys me.

    As for the sandwiches, honestly, I like Pomme de Pain. The choices are good, the ingredients have always been fresh (though I have heard otherwise). But honestly as fast food options go I would take a Pomme de Pain to a Subway anyday. Fast food in baguettes! What’s better than that?

  • We’re probably coming to France this September, so this is all good to know. I’m hungry now, must eat. :)

  • Eating on the street is something I love doing, especially when we’re dealing with any kind of viennoiserie–in fact, today I had a brioche suisse on my way home from the grocery store (incidentally, have you ever had one? A small brioche filled with a thin layer of mini chocolate chips and crème pâtissière–delicious!).

    I feel like every single French child grew up eating their 4 o’clock snack on the way home from school, and now it feels really comforting even as an adult!

  • I’d be interested to know if the bread in a Parisian Subway is the traditional baguette or the usual horrible excuse for bread they serve on this side of the Atlantic.The last time I was in Paris I didn’t notice any Subways(2005).That photo you posted brought me back to my favourite food in France ….the BREAD!!

  • Loved your description of the subway ad. Of COURSE the man eating the aromatic hoagie was Italian. :)

  • i loved le petite vendome…always got the mixte with jambon de pays and cantal.

  • There is nothing better than a crusty baguette in Paris. Except one smeared with tangy chevre and salty jambon de pays. You brought me right back there…I may have to book another trip soon. Thanks!

  • David, I would love to be able to slip into a musty shop and order some runny cheese to be slathered on a fresh baguette. Why hasn’t San Francisco caught onto this concept? In the meantime, I will make do with Saigon Sandwich for the pate banh mi. No runny cheese, but still very good. Incidentally, I laughed about what you said re: dog droppings there; I’ve read another blog (cest-la-me.blogger.com) and she not only complains of it, but has pictures too. And no, it’s not a food blog.

  • When I lived in France, 40 years ago, the only sandwiches you could get were in cafés, so you ate them there – ham, cheese, “mixte” (i.e. both), ham-and-butter or salami. They were part of the traditional café menu, along with croque-monsieurs (and in those days they were made fresh, too – basically a toasted cheese and ham sandwich, none of this microwaveable white sauce nonsense), hot-dogs, fried eggs (with ham or bacon, or just “nature”) and omelettes with various fillings. Everything was made to order, and was delightfully fresh, even though I’m now told the 1970s were the nadir of French bread, with the industrially-produced baguette almost the only bread available.

    In many ways those sandwiches were good, but a friend who remained in Paris after I left told met that “everybody” (by which he probably meant himself, and the occasional friend) went to Marks & Spencers to buy their sandwiches now because they were so much nicer! Which may have led to the development of the “sandwich composé” you get nowadays.

    And there are still places you can get them freshly-made – there’s a little shop in Dunkerque that does a whole baguette for you, gorgeous, and very cheap!

  • Dina: There was a fellow who had a blog chronicling the soiled streets by canines and although I didn’t read it often (it was hard to look at all those pictures..), it was pretty right-on. About a year ago the city of Paris launched a campaign with billboard to get people to pick up their dog droppings. I won’t link to one (okay…here), but they showed a pile of you-know-what in places you wouldn’t normally think of finding one and were almost worse than seeing the real thing because they were really in your face. It is a punishable fine in Paris not to pick up after your dog (€183), but I’ve not seen anyone ticketed for it. But I do know that quite locals are bothered by it as well.

    Joan: No, they use their own “fresh-baked” bread at the Subway stores in Paris which is either the same, or similar, to the bread used elsewhere.

  • I remember the first day we landed in Paris two years ago. Our hotel was just off of Rue Cler in the 7th near the Eiffel Tower. It was late morning by the time we booked in and we were starving. On Rue Cler we found a bakery which sold sandwiches. Order a lovely jambon au beurre sandwich, a drink and headed for Parc du Champ de Mars where we found an empty bench under the trees for our picnic. What a nice way to start our vacation. Hope to come back soon.

  • gosh it’s been a very long time since i’ve had “that” bread, in paris. the taste, the texture is seriously only found in paris. they always say that with nyc pizza maybe its the water. i sometimes wonder if the same holds true for Parisian baquettes?

  • I remember the looks my friends and I would get while eating food on the tube or on the curb during my first summer in London. I was clueless at first, but then caught on: eating food while on the go is not acceptable. The park seemed to be the only place where one could enjoy food in public outside of a restaurant or cafe.

    Anyway, that sandwich looks and sounds amazing. I wish there were shops like that here (or more of them, or that I knew of them), though maybe it’s better for my wallet that there isn’t.

  • Subway is puzzling, but I just read your post on the Princess crepe shop and almost died of embarrassment. These sandwiches look great! I’m always intimidated by going to local places because of my (lack of) French.

  • Love this post, you always make me smile and learn something at the same time.

    I can’t imagine why in the world anyone would want to eat at Le Subway. It is le gross.

  • I had to laugh. Recently I stopped in what used to be a Kayser bakery (they still haven’t posted a new name) to get my jambon beurre. I just couldn’t wait to sereptitiously take a bite, and then I knew I needed another bite. Not wanting to be gauche, I took a shortcut through an alley thinking I could munch unnoticed as I walked. Several men were unloading a truck, took one look and instead of admonishing me, said respectfully “Bon Appetit!” Empowered, I wiped my mouth and finished my sandwich. It made my day.

  • Our little tiny town in Mexico, one almost no one has ever heard of, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, has a Subway right on one of the streets that fronts the plaza. I can’t even bear to look at it when I walk by. I don’t see too many people inside. They are all at the street stands, eating tortas, Mexico’s real sandwich.

    Kathleen

  • I think the funniest memories my husband and I have of our first visit were of a “curb your dog” ad campaign they were running ten years ago! That and the men in green who scootered around with built in vacuum equipment, sucking the stuff up early each morning.

    What do the French feed their dogs, anyway? From what we saw, their diet wasn’t exactly veterinarian approved.

  • This post makes me chuckle!

    And Subway invading France. Now that’s a commentary on the world, isn’t it!

  • Goddamn that looks awesome. That’s what I miss about metropolitan places. I’d kill for that sammie right now!

  • My opinion… one of the best sandwiches.

  • These days it seems as if the French are not entirely disapproving of eating on the run, but it is still a rarity. I am used to being in the US where take out coffee and to go food are the norm, while here “vente à emporter” seems a novelty. A student studying in Paris for the semester, I (and my food) are often on the go. As such, I’ve caught a couple of glances and comments from the French on my seemingly American eating habits.

    On my way home one day, I picked up a fresh baguette and couldn’t wait the few minute walk home before digging into the hot, crusty bread. I ripped off the end of the baguette and while chowing down blissfully, a young Frenchman walked by sending a hardy “Bon appétit!” in my direction. The following week I was rushing to the bus, again with some baguette in hand (this is a problem!). The bus driver grinned sheepishly and also wished me “Bon appétit!” Along with my bread, I’ll take the French playfully poking fun at me to the tsk tsk-ing of the past, as French culture seems to be appeasing the hectic lifestyles of Parisians today.

  • Your photos and description made my mouth water and reminded me of the “sandwiches” I ate as a teenager in Grenoble, the chocolate sandwich. I completely ran into the kitchen after reading this blog and grabbed a piece of the fresh loaf of French bread and placed a piece of dark chocolate in the middle. As delicious as I remember. Thanks for the reminder!

  • I guess I got spoiled for a good sandwich was when I was young enough to have the real deal “set” my tastebuds! We only got Subs from authentic Delicatessons (I lived in the DC metro area). The bread was fresh (though not particularly crusty like a baguette), the meat was cut from the made-in-house links and hunks on display and the cheese always from a wheel or block. Even the condiments were not manufactured. You could choose pickled onions or vegetables and olives mixtures to put on them also, but they were made to order. The dill pickles included on the side were enormous and so good, chosen out of huge pickle barrels. I’ve never been able to get into the whole subway or Togo’s or Quiznos type places because of that, and I’ve tried because they are inexpensive and look pretty good, on TV anyway.

  • Bleh, Subway. It’s the only thing that kept me from gaining 20 lbs when I had to run to work right after class (the other options being greasy fast food [this is when I knew how to cook virtually nothing]). You get what you pay for, though. $5 for a footlong sub? Can’t be good.

  • Serendipitous post! I just asked a friend yesterday why she did not choose to stay in Paris after a several week evaluation. She said she ate herself silly, loved the friendly people and walked 15 miles a day seeing everything. She said everyone was so gracious in tolerating her awkward French speaking skills. The hustle, crowding and exhaust seemed to be the big put off – along with the doggie bombs. Not to be indelicate, but do people leave their shoes outside and wear carpet slippers inside their homes? Or could one wear S***Kickers (cowboy boots) on the streets as a statement?

    I’ll be prepared when I arrive – and I, too, hope to eat myself silly with the gracious Parisians I’m glad your book came out in paperback – a little less weight in the luggage.

  • I’ve noticed at any “centre commercial” (mall) more and more people are munching on a sandwich while they shop (usually from Paul’s bakery which is a big winner in profiting from selling lunch on the go). This was not the case 15 years ago. Also, the volume and varieties of sandwiches available for sale in shops have gone up as well. My favorite thing about French sandwiches are the little slices of cornichon that come with the saucisson sec or rillettes varieties!

  • What a great picture! I’ll definitely have to check this place next time we visit. When I was 10, I remember staying with my French relatives in 1968 and having the wonderful late afternoon snack of baguette with butter and chocolate bars. Those were the days!

  • … brings back lovely memories of sandwich gruyère-beurre consumed in the parc at the square Louvois from a boulangerie on the rue de Richelieu (or else in the bnf lobby, should it be rainy/snowy/chilly). and the occasional indulgence of a sablé dipped in chocolat.

    silly how such small things are capable of bringing such satisfaction!

  • I love Parisian sandwiches. Unfortunately, you can’t find anything like that in Vancouver. Nothing here compares to the freshness and the quality of ingredients that they use in France.

    I definitely have to say that one of the best sandwiches I had in Paris was the day we spend 6 hours at the Louvre and we were starving! The cafe inside the main area of the museum had the best tuna sandwich I have ever eaten.

  • Please don’t knock the hoagie… Subway is not comparable to a sandwich in France but it’s not terribly horrible either… the fillings are limited, and of course you can choose a heavily fat laden sandwich .. but I think it’s a nice alternative (if you are living outside of France), many of the cafe’s here make them Fresh, not all, and there are far less options with cheese…. but I quite like the Cranberry Turkey on Honey Whole Wheat with a dollop of mayo.

  • Oh my goodness, I laughed so hard when you described the no-eating-on-the-metro ad. Great post.

  • I remember my first French ham and cheese sandwich. It was from opposite the railway station as we ran for a train that was taking us south to Arles. Loved it, especially the thick slather of butter.

  • I think it is amazing that you can have a simple baquette with nothing in it but ham and butter and dream about the taste of it the rest of your life.

  • Dani: Paul is one of the few places that does more “creative” sandwiches well. But a short while back, the government apparently sent some new sandwiches ideas to bakeries that included more vegetables and less meat and fat, because as the lengthy (and famous) multi-course French lunch became a thing of the past, people were eating more sandwichs and fast-food, and were gaining weight because they weren’t eating properly, and when you eat on the go, you’re less-conscious of how you’re eating. (Le snacking!)

    I don’t know what became of it, but bakeries often have “Swedish” sandwiches on thin rounds of bread (less carbohydrates, I suppose), and more creative fillings like smoked salmon and other things.

    Johanna: The French do enjoy the le quignon, which is the tip of a baguette, which is always torn off and eaten on the way home. So much so that a bakery near me splits the ends of the baguettes into to prior to baking, so it splits in two – so there’s two tips to nibble on!

    Diane: I was with a group on a tour and we were standing outside a bakery, likely shoving croissants in our mouths, and a woman walked by and gave us a mild stare.
    I said, “They’re so good – it’s hard to resist!”

    And she just smiled, and said “Bien sûr!” (“Of course!”), then went inside to get hers, too.

    Chihiro: Whenever I think of being timid of going into a place that’s too “local” or “too French”, I think that if they were visiting the United States, I’d want them to go to places that are typically American, like diners and doughnut shops, rather than just places where they felt comfortable (like fast food or tourist places).

    You would not feel out of place here and the guys behind the counter are really friendly and likely get enough out-of-towners due to their location. Just be assertive in line and stay close to the person in front of you – it gets a little hectic at lunch and you don’t want to lose your place! : )

  • In San Francisco, because of some bizaare law, an untoasted sandwich from the likes of Subway or Quizno’s is untaxed, but if you want it toasted, BAM! Taxed! Any dumb laws like that in paris?

  • errrm, im one of those people who like subway, basically because that’s one of the very rare places here where i can get cold cuts and smoked meats, which i love, in my sandwiches, without having to buy huge hunks… so help me understand, why are they so despised there?

  • I love the mispelled ‘les sandwichs’…just like ‘biscotti’ or ‘panini’ is singular in America.

  • How odd that they thought to use an Italian eating on the metrò, when Italians actually share this French penchant for not eating on the street or in other public places (that are not food establishments.) The exception to this may be gelato, which is meant to be consumed while strolling, but certainly not on a metrò! Great photo of your sandwich, which made me crave a baguette!

    • That is kind of funny because you’re right about Italians not eating on-the-go either. I think it’s mostly us Americans, and I always forget that we do that. I was telling a French friend that sometimes we American choose what car we want because of the cup holders in them (at least I think I did, once..) and he looked at me like that was the oddest thing in the world.

      With Starbucks invading Paris, it’s funny to see Parisians walking down the street holding oversized cups of coffee. But it’s only the young ones.

  • David, you might want to try the sandwiches from Les Enfants de la Cuisine at 12 Boulevard Sébastopol (4e) or at 48 Avenue Marceau (8e).
    Personnaly I go to the one next to Beaubourg. This one is open for lunch until late in the afternoon, everyday, except on sundays.

    You will not find the jambon-beurre there but the poulet basquaise (yes in a sandwich) or the Sud-Ouest (with gésiers). Every sandwich is to be eaten warm.

    They only made a bunch of sandwiches for the day. So do not go there too late.
    For now I have not tried every kind of sandwich they serve: there are too many!

  • Seriously, this article is making me want to cry! From the mere one time I have been to Paris, these sandwiches have left a lasting mark on my brain. Do you know how hard it is to get a decent french sandwich in Iowa!!! Thankfully, I have found one nice little french cafe that makes a great Le Mixte. But that picture you posted has my mouth watering like no other! so jealous :)

  • Ham? Check. Salty French butter? Check. Baguette from Clear Flour Bakery? Check. A leaf of tender Boston lettuce? Check. Can’t wait for lunch. Thanks David!

    PS. When I was 13 a shooting occurred at the Subway shop in the next town over. I thought “Whoa! I’m never going in there!” 30 + years later I have yet to darken their doors. Talk about scared straight!

  • Oh I miss the jambon beurre with that gem of a cornichon nestled inside. Always ate them as a poor student in Paris. It really makes me want to cry and wonder what has gone wrong in this world that there is Subway in France. It’s just not ok.

  • I was just talking about sandwiches in France at the weekend. My favourite? A rosette. Salami, cornichons, butter. Perfect.

  • Funny that you mention it, because when I lived in France, I would eat on the street all the time (although I was one of the aforementioned teenagers so maybe I was the exception rather than the rule). In fact I’ve always had the impression that people frowned on eating in the street here (I live in Montreal).

    I think Subway is a marketing genius in that their sandwiches always look good – they even smell good – but taste horrid every time. I’ve been there four times, hoping each time that it would actually live up to my expectations, but it never did. Perhaps the novelty will wear off after a while and the French will discover the greatness of their own sandwiches. Lina’s used to make delicious made to order sandwiches, but they were a bit pricey and I think they shut down.

    I have to say, North Americans are a lot more creative when it comes to sandwiches, and I really enjoy that, but sometimes I would kill for a good old jambon beurre, a thon-crudités, or a panini au Nutella. Mostly because the bread just never tastes the same…

  • I was shocked too by the change-over to constant street-eating in Paris…
    I remember the naughty looks if I dared to strayed two feet from an outdoor ice cream server with my cone.
    Seeing a business guy walking along, daintly eating a fancy pastry sitting in its gold fluted cardboard base with a plastic fork – unforgettable!
    Eating box lunches on the Metro has become de rigeur these days…
    I love trying to catch them in photos.
    Parisiens never cease to surprise.

  • Baguette is fine but what of the low priced bliss called le croque monsieur made with generous slices of bread Poilâne melted cheese and ham with salad or frites.
    Even better, served on a plate at a table.

  • Great article, as usual!! I think part of the success of Subway comes from the price (a menu there is pretty cheap). Because Lina’s has been offering great healthy sandwiches made to order, grilled (or not), for years, in Paris (but it’s more expensive).

  • David, That first picture of the sandwich is simply divine…..reason enough to run to the airport and buy tickets to Paris. Thank you for that one !!!

  • Hi David,
    This comment is not related to Le Sandwich but I have lost the information on your book signing at Place Concorde the first weekend in May – I’ll be in Paris at that time and would love to attend – please send me the exact date, time and place.

    Thanks for your help

  • Now I am craving that beurre jambon sandwich. Yummmm…

    Your post made me laugh – I remember living in France as a student and definitely not understanding the no-eating-in-public rule. Or in the classroom! You mean I can’t have my diet coke and bag of pretzels/ swedish fish on the desk next to me?! Back then they also laughed at you for jogging.

    A lovely post and it really conjures up the images I remember :)

  • I arrived in Paris, alone, 36 years old, on a Sunday, for an adventure. Poor planning day-wise. The only food available was at a local cafe, a cheese “sandwich” which had no resemblance whatsoever to the sandwiches I had always eaten. LOTS of Camembert spread over butter on a split baguette. I had a hard time ripping off pieces with my teeth, but it worked – and the sips of wine helped too. I didn’t eat on the street – I was warned by my “tutor” – and never did. THAT is a Parisian sandwich, not a Subway. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I want to be where I am. I am not eating Subway (or Starbucks) in Paris.

  • Oh man, how this makes me miss living in sweet, delicious Paris!

  • I am impressionable. Now I have to go out and purchase a bagutte and smear goat cheese and ham on it and eat outside. Scratch the eating outside until June. Sorry about all the Subways – wishing something besides fast food would be traded to other countries.

  • I think the popularity of le sandwich jambon with American tourists is how quickly we start on them. I don’t think I was in Paris more than 2 hours when I ordered my first one with a beer. Trans-Atlantic flights always get us to Paris between breakfast and lunch. To a 16 year old American male, this was manna from heaven, and a major social coup. Forty years later and I still remember my first baguette, butter and ham (and first LEGAL beer). Up to that point, in 1970, the K-Mart Sub was a staple part of a good middle American upbringing. Kmart subs were 3/$1.00 unless the Blue Light special had them at 4/$1. This was gastronomic trash and one of the great taste memories. It fits somewhere in with the taste memories with le jambon beurre. Subway…not so much.

  • I am just chalishing for a jambon et baguette sandwich.

  • Well, those Paris baguettes can be good, but most of them arent edible, for my opinion, i live here and i must say, most of the bakeries are making aful bread and dont even start with that mockery”swedish bread”, it has nothing to do with real thing.
    Im not american and never been other side atlantic but, Subway will win me over if i have to live on bread over lunch. there are availability of lots of veggies, and other things wich i prefer on my sandwich over overly salted gummy ham and toothbreaking hard and tasteless baguette. And no, Keyser isnt good place for bread or even sweet treat. Only good place to get good bread(not baguette) is Poilane but good Baguette, i would go for Tours and near there, they know how to bake it good, never have had bad one there, not even on tiny village bakeries.

  • One of the best sandwiches I ever ate was a baguette with butter and ham in the Paris airport. I had run our of francs (yes, that far back) so had to use my credit card for the sandwich and a bottle of water. They were very nice about it. The fresh baguette, the wonderful French butter and the firm (not watery) texture of the ham!! And no nonsense about toasting it. I’ve yearned for it ever since. I’ve recently found a reasonable facsimile at a local bakery-cafe but not that butter-only in France, or maybe Ireland!

  • David,
    How do you make food look so sexy?

    You’re amazing – you really are.

  • My most vivid bathroom experience in Paris was in a place where the toilet was behind a sliding mirror behind the bar. The bartender slid it open, you went in, he slid it shut…or almost shut. It was verrrry tiny. The toilet faced outward so you sat facing the crack in the sliding mirror. I vowed from then on to make sure to drink no liquids for several hours and to force myself to use the restroom prior to leaving the apartment.

  • Oh how I love jambon au beurre. This is a truly wonderful post. I remember growing up in Scotland it was an actual school rule that we weren’t to eat in the street. Each time I’d come back from a trip to the States, I’d be mystified anew by having to remember not to do it.
    I always love though how you see the small children in Paris getting picked up from school and being allowed to munch the end of a baguette on the way home. And clearly no one can be expected to wait on a warm croissant either. Now I know what I’m having for breakfast in the morning!

  • You know that in England it was very bad manners to ‘eat on the street’ a only few decades ago (i.e.when I was young!). If we were spotted doing so while we were wearing out school uniform we were given a detention. Perhaps it’s left a legacy as I can’t stand to see people walking along stuffing themselves. Finding a bench to sit on or having a picnic in a park is a whole different thing though. Now where’s that warm croissant…

  • yummy ! feeling hungry

  • My first food in France was a jambon beurre. I have never had anything like that before. Amazing baguette… we used to have a Frenchman here in Texas baking the most amazing bread… alas, he has closed his doors….

  • It’s the same today as it was twenty years ago, Subway has some of the crappiest so-called food I have ever eaten. I wouldn’t give it to my dog.

  • In Vienna we have a Subway franchise. One. And it’s in the Opernring in a touristy area. We have a lot of street food stands, with kebap and pizza and hotdogs. But on almost any street, in any district, you can find a bäckerei, that will put together a semmerl and your choice of wurst or meat and/or cheese. My personal favorite is Käseleberkäse. But you can get a Käsesemmerl (topped with cheese baked on) that is delicious all by itself.
    You used to be able to a Langos anywhere in Vienna, but not so much now. At the Zoo and various large outdoor events, but that’s about it. And they are the ultimate street food, a large round crispy fried bread with garlic and salt!
    And it sounds like Paris’ dog owners are as bad as Vienna’s. People take their dogs everywhere and just walk away when the dogs relieve themselves indoors. You have to watch your step everywhere!
    We are coming to Paris this year, and I guarantee I will not be eating at Subway.

  • God I hate Subway. I’m on the road a lot and the people I generally travel with head straight to Subway around lunchtime. Admittedly, there’s not much variety and they serve familiar food, but I cannot stomach it.They overfill them, especially if you’re vegetarian, I mean no one wants half an iceberg lettuce and four slices of American cheese in their sandwich…Parisian sandwiches are however a vegetarian’s dream. When I went on exchange to Paris in high school, there were about five bakeries within walking distance but everyone lined up at this one absolutely amazing one with meringues stacked up in the windows, they made great sandwiches and had squares of pizza and things which they’d heat up. Of course, some people preferred to sit in the nearby restaurant and order duck and green beans before heading to Spanish which was weird, but nice.

  • Subway in France makes me sad.
    LL

  • American living in a Flemish town. Belgians have a sort of national sandwich called a broodje (that’s Flemish — not sure of the name in French, though it may be simply sandwich). It generally consists of a slice or two of meat and a slice or two of cheese on a long roll that resembles a baguette. (I have yet to learn the name for the bread, primarily because I don’t care for it and therefore have no plans to bake it at home.) It is optionally topped off with vegetables and slices of hard-boiled egg.

    When I first moved here and saw these sandwiches, I was shocked that Subway wasn’t all over Belgium. Having been here a few years now, though, I realize that Belgians are very picky about their bread, and I can’t see them finding Subway’s bread acceptable. Despite that, last summer the town where I live went from no Subways to two in the span of a few weeks — they are not even a five-minute walk apart — and I have yet to see a person in either one of them, other than the people who work there.

    As for eating on the go, it never occurred to me that it might be frowned upon here. Now that you mention it, though, I rarely see it done outside of street markets and festivals (with the exception of French fries, which are usually packaged for on-the-go eating). However, it is quite common for people to eat on the inter-city trains and the train platform itself.

  • Your wonderful post made me laugh. Though I have to say that, even worse than Subway in Paris, are the pre-made, cellophane wrapped, white bread sandwiches sold in little grocery shops there. I encountered these recently when I had the misfortune to make a trip to Paris with a couple of friends who weren’t really interested in food (and, for that matter, didn’t really like Paris — which may be one and the same thing). For two nights in a row, they insisted they were too tired to eat in a restaurant and chose to eat cellophane wrapped tuna sandwiches instead. And then complained about the amount of mayonnaise the French use! After one bite of a cold, bland, stale ham sandwich from the mini-mart, I gave up and went off to find a restaurant alone. The next day, I got smart and bought a baguette with chicken and roasted tomatoes from Eric Kayser to eat on my own. Heaven!

  • I enjoy how, in the top photo, le sandwich appears to be walking the streets itself, ready to confront that man then take-off on a motorcycle.

  • I miss the European-style sandwiches. I had a favorite deli in Italy that made the most amazing sandwiches on fresh crusty bread. You just can’t find that as much in the US and in my opinion Subway is THE WORST! It makes me sad to hear that they’re sprouting up in Paris.

  • The only alternative is not necessarily the inspired le complet – Cuisine de Terroir! – at Le Petit Vendôme. When the need and trend is for fast food (acknowledging that there is a concomitant slow-food track) is the less-than-inspired Paul’s (think train stations) the preferred direction of fast food in France? I’d suggest that the market is choosing Subway. Just as it – despite the slow food movement that they inspired – is choosing McDonalds, Starbucks and, Alors là!, Pizza Hut. Me, I’d rather hold up Croque Monsieur and Madame to these profanities. Now, they are something the Left Bank could EXPORT, non?! Alors là!

    And remember the economics of a Subway: The minimum an outlet needs is electricity and 70 square feet. Think of the ones in food courts. Then think about the ingredients – six or seven slices of cold cuts and a sprinkle of lettuce, tomato, onions, olives, or mostly-filler meatballs – that go into a sandwich. Minimum wages. …A big explanation for their explosion in the Europe, as well as the US.

    Finally, in the long run, are taste buds really that different around the world? The proven answer is great fodder for food writers to lament. Who’da thunk that there already would be more Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in China than in the US, with one opening every 18 hours there? (Attention, France!) Alors là, indeed!

  • Your comment about the restroom made me laugh! Subway in France that is just wrong.

  • Hi Rick: I agree to some extent; as globalization expand, things like fast-food and economical meals become the norm in certain parts of the world. And yes, Subway (and the like) provides a way to replicated the experience easily and cheaply almost anywhere they want.

    However I do think taste buds are different around the world. Chipotle has been in talks to open in France, however the French are not famous for liking spicy or highly seasoned foods. Fried chicken on the other hand, is something similar to Chinese food where a lot of things are deep-fried. (Although there are a number of KFC outlets in Paris..) You’re right about Paul being the model for replicating “real” French food in various outlets and although there are a few places like Brioche d’Or and such, almost all of the others do a poor example of it. If you go to Charles De Gaulle Airport, you can see almost every bad example on offer.

    Someone tried to open a crêperie “fast food style” in Paris, that looked like the other fast food places, and I noticed recently that it shut down after a few months. Perhaps at some point a French company will come in, one that does traditional French sandwiches and such, and give Paul a run for the money. Or maybe Le Petit Vendôme will franchise!

  • Points thoughtfully and well taken, Mr. Lebovitz. Thank you for engaging in this discussion. (I’ve been commenting too often re seagull articles, and some blogs, where the authors *ahem* and leave…)

    I don’t know if you’ve done a food stand theme, but on further thought, when you mention crêperies and I think of the croque monsieur/madame stands, I do believe that these are among the best representatives of Paris “fast food”. And as I said, eminently exportable! Now, if we can just settle this restaurant association vs. food stands battle that’s going on, publicly and not, in many cities like my own, Boston, perhaps suchlike could happen. . . . . I digress. (But a discussion of suchlike by you might include how cities like Paris have worked it out.)

  • And huge apologies for 1) the above analogy of all places! 2) being one…..

  • The pre-wrapped sandwiches you get in France are a very great deal better than the ones you get in the UK! Actually, like all these things, they vary.

    I remembered this morning one of the other sandwich fillings that was common when I lived in Paris – rillettes. Which were/are a rather nasty sort of chunky paté which was very fatty and I disliked rather so never chose. Are they still available?

    I am so disappointed that the French have taken chain restaurants and cafés to their hearts in recent years! The first McDonald’s I ever encountered was just off the Champs-Elysées in 1972 or 1973 – we used to go there as a pleasant (huh!) change, but then, they were not ubiquitous and were a novelty. Little did we know it would be the thin edge of a very large wedge, and not only would the French take to McDos, Starbucks and Subways, but their own chains would also prevail….

  • Probably the best sandwich I ever had was a simple jambon au beurre in Paris. We didn’t exactly eat them on the go, we found a spot in the Tuileries. (Where we spent our last day in Paris, since the Centre Pompidou was closed for renovation.) The closest thing I have found here is the sandwiches at the British chain Pret a Manger, and the closest are in NYC – a 2.5 hour $80 train ride away.

    I saw that the number of Subway locations in the world now outnumber the number of McDonald’s location in the world, which I think is a positive thing. I would question the sanity of any French person who ate at Subway in France, however. It’s like standing in Ghirardelli Square and eating Hershey’s.

  • Thanks for this post, David, I’m visiting Milan for a few weeks and the one thing that I do miss here is a good bread (suggestions, anyone?). I drove to Nice about a week ago and stocked up on some French bread and baguette, some creme freche but this didn’t last long I’m afraid….
    Also wanted to mention – congrats about the new book – I read mine on kindle and my husband found it hilarious how much I craved chocolate after each chapter :) but now I do understand your comment about the French vs. Italian coffee… OK, no comparison. I used to like French coffee up until this trip to Italy. No more coffee for me after Italy (ok, we’ll see :)) very sad…
    Also I’ve found Picard here in Milano, haven’t paid a visit yet but will do in the next few days. For a family of busy 2 people, Picard is great! I’ll update if I find any good frozen breads there.
    Looking forward to brief visit to Paris to try some of your favorite places…

  • And, by the way, sorry to beat a dead horse (only figuratively, I hope), but in today’s news:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/07/worlds-largest-restaurant-chain-subway_n_832511.html

    Like I said, 70 sq.ft., electricity, minimum wage, and a sprinkling of ingredients.

    And the French were worried about McDonald’s. . . [Insert gaping smiley here.]

  • So funny you mentioned bag in supermarket because i had the same experience during my first trip to Paris in 1982, i was standing at the register waiting for someone to put my stuffs in a bag for me and after a while i realized there were no such service :-)

  • I grew up in Chicago, and my grandmother always made sandwiches with butter – including ham – so that’s how I’ve always liked them. (On a side note, PB&J is actually pretty tasty with butter. Though really, what isn’t?) Imagine my delight upon discovering jambon beurre in Paris when I visited for my 16th birthday. Now, my Boston Italian husband positively shudders whenever I request that he put butter, NOT mayo please, on my ham sandwiches…but I just give a little shrug and say in a worldly tone, “That’s how the French do it.” I don’t think he believes me, so I can’t wait to show him this post!

  • Hi David, I find myself coming back to your blog again and again, it’s always full of information I need to know! Thank you very much! All the best, t xx

  • David your entire blog makes my mouth water!!! x

  • My heat aches as I read this. I was in Paris in January, and we read about this place on My Petit Paris. With the address jotted down, and ready to take on the best baguette sandwich Paris has to offer, we set out to find this place. We walked up and down rue de Capucines, but just didn’t find it. And then we went to another place hoping to get a sandwich but the waiter refused to make us one because he said he needed the bread for dinner service (wtf! we though). But he was polite, so I take it that the French waiters are truly on their way to being more hospitable to tourists.

  • Great shot! Oh, I do love a sandwich on a beautiful baguette.

    I’m going to make one now. I’m sure it won’t compare though….

  • Jambon cru is the best possible sandwich to get. Another great boulangerie is Dominique Saibron at Place d’Alésia- a kickin’ Jambon Cru Cornichon on a Baguette de Pavot sandwich… mouth watering…

    Delicious!

  • i made ur ‘le sandwich’ pic my cell phone wallpaper pic. i’ve been staring @ the pic all day. i gave up bread 4 lent. thank u.

  • David, fantastic and engaging blog, thank you. Something I’ve always wondered about is the difference in the quality of cooked ham you get in North America in a sandwich versus the ham in a jambon beurre sandwich in France. Clearly the French ham is much tastier and moist but does all that ham that goes into those sandwiches come from a whole ham hock? I know that 99% of the hams sold in sandwiches on this side of the Atlantic come from some preformed tasteless hunk of protein because of the way they look but I’d love to recreate the French ham as a breakfast/lunch meat without resorting to baking a whole ham. Is there a secret to where/what to buy in North America? Thanks in advance!