The best 5 euros I’ve spent in Paris

Bowling!

I had kind of a crummy day yesterday. I was invited to a restaurant opening that didn’t go as I had hoped. It was something that was a new concept for Paris, based on something uniquely American. And while people here are very good at embracing “concepts”, I almost felt the need to remind people that having a restaurant and serving food are about: 1) Serving guests, and 2) Having good food. Get those two down first, then everything else is gravy.

My initial clue should have been the people working the door. Their first question was – Who was I writing for? And then, Where was I going to place my article about them? (They seemed pretty disinterested that I had a blog…um, #egoshrinker) So after spending close to an hour sitting there, waiting, and watching the attractive young women next to me get their table set up with bread and different spreads, I decided to split because I had other things to do – namely, eat. So I stopped at Kayser bakery, picked up a loaf of levain bread and went home to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich.

(Interestingly, as I was leaving the other place, I ran into chef/owner Gregory Marchand of Frenchie who I told about my experience and I could see he felt my pain. Then mentioned he’ll be soon making similar items, and I was happy to know that I will at some point soon, I will be able to get my fix at his place.)

jouers

By the time I got home, I was upset and irked that most of my day was ruined. And while I had a few hours left to get some stuff done, it was already mid-afternoon and I was fuming so much that I really couldn’t think straight. But I was looking forward to dinner with some friends, and we met up for Middle Eastern food at a little joint I know of, where the fellows who run the place are super-friendly, efficient, and the food is pas mal. And in no time at all, squeezed into that basic little hole-in-the-wall, I was feeling better – with the Lebanese rosé helping – chatting and laughing with my pals. And then, we headed to do some bowling.

rose and bowling

That’s right. Bowling. During one of the snowstorms, I’d gone for a walk, enjoying Paris blanketed with white, and passed a bar that had signs that inside were bowling lanes. So I made a mental note to go back, and was happy my friends were up for it when I mentioned it last week. And folks, let me tell you – no matter what kind of day you’ve had, put a bowling ball in my hand, and everything else seems to fall to the wayside.

cote de provence

The electronic lanes cost €5 (and there is a breathalyzer machine on the way out, for 50 centimes, just in case you don’t want to take the métro home after you’ve had too much), and the friendly fellows behind the bar with sell you tokens to use in the machines. No special shoes are required (we missed the slippery glide they give you, which seems to make amateur bowling more fun), but with bottles of Côte de Provence rosé for €15 and a fun crew along for the ride, it’s hard not to have a blast.

bowling in Paris

We weren’t sure what the French terms were for gutterballs or splits, and the computer scoring system was in franglais (not to brag, but I’m jouer number-2 on the scoring screen above, in the lead!), with an odd animated auto mechanic cheering us on. But bowling is one of the few things that the worse you are at, the more fun it is. As we rolled the grapefruit-sized balls down the lanes (and the inevitable adolescent jokes every time the screen let us know how much “ball time” we had left) the lousy day faded away. For just €5, I’d say that was one of the best deals in Paris. So wherever you are, have a good weekend – just watch out for those gutterballs!

Paris bowling


86 comments

  • great great post! I love the “highway 66″ signs between lanes, the mini bowling balls, the wine. It seems like an ironic and hipster thing to do in Paris. Thanks for showing us a slice of life in Paris, as usual. Glad your day was saved.

    • I was just talking to my girls yesterday about how much fun we shared bowling in Moufettard when we lived in Paris. It wasn’t that long ago, but I sure
      miss it. The cave had great pool tables too. Glad you had fun, David. Have you discovered that place?

  • I am a finance/accounting student in India and it’s that time of the year for us again.
    I just thought you should know how much I enjoy keeping up with your blog. It’s something I look forward to everyday and sometimes it’s the only good thing about my day.
    Rest assured, next time I’m in Paris I’ll be carrying around your list of must-visit places in my pocket and checking it off.
    Have a wonderful weekend and write soon again!

  • It’s true – bowling rocks. So does levain bread!

  • Cool! That looks like a fun place! There used to be a place near Beaugrenelle for bowling but it was beyond seedy and long gone now I think with the regeneration of that area. Glad you salvaged the day!

    • There is a place on rue Mouffetard (or near) and another one on the other side of Paris. The only thing missing was French fries (and root beer!) – although they did have beer on tap, shots of whisky, and cold wine – pas mal!

  • Those bowling lanes look awfully short…but perfect for a night of Côte de Provence fueled fun.

    Greetings from Morocco.

    -Joel

    • Yes, the lanes are a little shorter than normal – which was funny because you can’t really get a good wind-up. Nevertheless, we had fun regardless of the goofy electronic bowling peculiarities.

  • Thanks for your blog David. I’ve read it regularly while here in Paris, and will continue to do so back home. Quick question: best place to get dried Tarbais beans? – I want to take some home. (And 6 Paul Bert was super).
    Paula R

    • You can get them in a number of places, such as the Grand Épicerie or at my favorite grain place, Le Graineterie du Marché in the center of the Marche d’Aligre in the 12th. (Which is a great market to explore…) Try the haricot Soissons, too, which are quite good. Some say better than the others!

      Also Steve Sando at Rancho Gordo in the US is growing the same beans, although he calls them “Cassoulet beans” due to trademark restrictions.

  • This looks like a great place – modern and clean! And it’s fun that the proportions are off, gives a feeling of a sort of parallel universe or mirror world, prob especially so with wine added, lol.

  • I’m glad you had fun, after a horrible experience at lunch (Now *I* had a delicious lunch yesterday, a falafel wrap which was well worth the £5.00 it cost!).

  • The first place owes you for not naming names, or they might well have discovered the power of a blog. Glad you found a fun plan B.

  • ParisGrrl: I did what I often think people should do, before going online and posting something negative: I wrote to the pr people and explained how disappointed I was (and how nice the owner seemed, who I got to talk to a bit.)

    Of course, they didn’t respond which I didn’t think was so wise on their part. But there are good pr people and not-good pr people and a nice response – and a brief apology – goes a long way in soothing things over and extending good-will.

    I understand this business is hard and pre-openings can be a challenge. But they seemed to do just fine with the fashionistas sitting next to me, which perhaps is going to be their intended audience and I guess I’m just not part of their demographic. It’ll be interesting to see if they succeed.

  • Wow! Thanks for the tip, David. Sounds like a great way to spend a rainy day, and it’s not too far from my place.

  • I live around the corner from La Quille and go there all the time. That place is a blast. They have a great billiards room upstairs as well. Would you be willing to share the name of your middle eastern joint..assuming its in the neighborhood?

  • I had my last birthday party in Paris there! It was loads of fun, if not exactly bowling as I came to know it living on the west side of Cleveland.

  • I agree with Parisgrrl, you are a classy dude.

  • Looks like a blast! Glad you didn’t let your lunch (or lack of it) ruin your day.

  • The restaurant didn’t even respond to an email from you? Not smart! I doubt they’ll be in business long. Amateur bowling and alcohol = lots of fun! Looks like a very nice place. Greasy diner food would be an added plus. A hotdog or hamburger and a rootbeer would just be the icing on the cake. Although the vin rose would certainly do in a pinch. Glad your day was salvaged with good friends and a winning game.

    • Yes, I was hoping for fries and root beer, but the rosé was just fine ; )

      Odd I did not get a response; since they were buried in their computers at the opening, I would have assumed they might have written back. On the other hand, I had a wonderful experience with a pr person regarding some fact checking I was doing for an upcoming story on my site and they were happy to help. And I learned a lot more about what they do and why it was so special, which was pretty interesting.

  • A nosy question – when you’re out having fun with Heather and other American friends, do you all converse in French or English? I’ve always wondered.

    Have a great weekend and thanks again for this blog.

  • It will last until the fashionistas move onto something else…. I am sorry you missed the fries and the root beer, but it was refreshing to see wine in a bowling alley… I would like to bowl to that… :)

  • We did this at the Tokyo-dome one night and we are the world’s worst at bowling, several of our balls went in to the next lane! Loads of fun!

  • David, you piqued my curiosity about the breathalyzer. “and there is a breathalyzer machine on the way out, for 50 centimes, just in case you don’t want to take the métro home after you’ve had too much” Wouldn’t you want to take the Metro home after having too much? Or is there a restriction on drinking and riding?

  • I always forget about bowling and then about once a year I love spending a few hours at the bowling alley. Sounds like the best way to help a bad day to me :)

  • I will definitely keep this in mind when we’re in Paris next month. Sounds like a perfect activity if it’s pouring rain!

  • You don’t say where this little marvel of a bowling alley is. Trying to keep it all for yourself?

  • We used to have those smaller lanes in our little neighborhood social club when I was growing up. We had after-school leagues. It was great for us elementary school-sized kids as we could handle that size bowling ball better. But no holes in the balls for your fingers. And the pins were smaller, the lanes shorter. They were called duck pins.

  • This brought back great memories of being in Italy a couple of years ago with our kids (then both in college). One night, after about 10 days of knocking around around cities and hill towns, we spotted a bowling alley in a fairly ugly suburban town. What a blast! Maybe, given your theory, it was because three out of four of us are truly dreadful at bowling, and the electronic sign that popped up after our numerous #fails was a hilarious little animated creature making fun of us.
    Years later, we still talk about that night, and it became “the trip to Italy when we went bowling”.

  • Duck-pin bowling! Haven’t done that in, wow, more than 30 years…..

  • Marge: Bowling is Europe is fun, I think, because they don’t take it to seriously because it’s not as much of a part of their culture as it is ours.

    Sandy: I linked to the place in the post.

    Deb: There is a law that all cars have to be equipped with breathalyzers, although I think that is being rescinded in France. It was funny that you had to pay to use it – I would think they would want it to be free. (They were talking about passing a law about riding a bike while under the influence in France, and don’t know where that one went..)

    Claire: When I’m with anglo friends, we speak mostly English. Although we speak French too, where appropriate. If we have French friends with us, we speak in French, although some like to speak English with us.

  • Obviously they are blog ignorant or they would have fawned all over you. How lovely that you turned a lousy mood into a night of fun. You definitely need your own sassy pair of bowling shoes!

  • I love your blog so much, and I too look forward to what you are doing. I have friends who follow blogs that help with their life issues, but I follow you to dream. I may never get to to Paris, but I am learning french, own every book I can get my hands on about France, and I call the pics you post ‘mommy porn’. Thank you for a slice of Paris that I can afford!

  • Thanks for such a fun post! What wonderful memories it brought back. Back in the day when I was a culinary student at Ferrandi, my classmates and I used to love hitting up the Parisian bowling alleys after a long day in the kitchen. Rue Mouffetard was our favorite (loved the novelty of the shorter lanes) but we also loved the bowling alley in the 13th close to Place D’italie and the bowling alley at Montparnasse. We used to order White Russians a la The Big Lebowski, usually having to instruct the bartender how to make them and asking for extra ice. In hindsight we should have been drinking rosé! I love your blog David and (re)living life in Paris vicariously through you!

  • I wish we could still bowl for that cheap in the U.S.! And jealous of the French Rose over the White Zin offered here… ;-) But around these parts, I’d choose beer if I were bowling anyway. And a breathalyzer for 50 centimes!? Genius! Love it.

  • I was in a bowling league for a season, conjured up by friends to help me over yet another failed relationship. The second best thing about it was the food. We drank beer and shared fries while bowling and afterwards ate the best hamburgers in the world: huge and dripping grease, on toasted buns with wide cross-sections of onion and tomato and much lettuce, mustard, and ketchup. Almost as good were the pickles, stuck upright in ice. So crisp. You reminded me of a happy time after a terrible time.

    • I think it’s hard not to have fun bowling (although the teenage girls a few alleys down from us where a lot more interested in taking pictures of each other and sending them to each other, than bowling) but still, it’s a lot of fun and great hamburgers – and friends, always help cheer things up!

  • I don’t get why you go out of your way to protect the reputation of the people who treated you badly. I scrolled through the comments and I see that you favor giving them a chance to apologize in private, but how come? They already had a chance to apologize, concurrent with their poor behavior. “I’m so sorry, we didn’t mean to ignore you,” etc. Second, how would such a late apology be redeeming in any way? An apology coming from someone who doesn’t know enough to apologize unless and until someone they treated badly explicitly invites them to would by definition be completely lacking sincerity, would it not? Third, they’re professionals. Unless they opened a restaurant by accident, there’s no reason to treat them like helpless little kids who did their best.

    • Because it was a pre-opening, the restaurant is not operating under normal conditions. So I don’t think it’s fair at this point because places often need to get kinks out. I am, however, miffed at the pr folks that didn’t respond when I wrote them since that’s their job. I did get a message from the owner who I chatted with, who I gave my card to and said I was sorry I had to leave, who invited me to come back when they are open, which I may take him up on. (Although I might make sure I have some sourdough bread and cheese at home … just in case!)

  • … just goes to show you never know…

  • David-Live for your postings-In one of my favorite French Films, Monsieur Hire, the protagonist is an expert bowler (in Paris) so I knew such places must exist, though still it seems idiosyncratic to those of us in the states who seem to think of bowling as a uniquely American, albeit blue-collar, pastime. But what piqued my curiosity was what uniquely American food concept had not already been exploited in Paris. Without mentioning any names, (although you must know we are all dying to know the name) can you please share what this concept is, as I’ve exhausted my brain trying to imagine what it could be?

  • Fun doesn’t have to cost a bundle :)

  • My experience in Paris has usually been that American “concepts” are pretty much “interpreted” and usually not very successfully. Muffins, cupcakes, bagels, burgers, I have been disappointed by all of them, with only a few exceptions.

    Mini bowling, on the other hand, sounds like an excellent interpretation :-)

  • My husband and I have been in a bit of a romantic funk lately, so we went bowling recently. Those two hours were the most revitalizing and invigorating for our relationship — we did both 10-pin (what I am used to from the States) and 5-pin (which I know as Canadian bowling). You mention the balls being grapefruit-sized — are they the hole-less rubber balls, then?

  • My experience is that French PR people receiving you at the entrance of a function interested only in the name of the newspaper you write are absolute “nuls” i.e. brainless rude robots. You should have left at once.
    A part de cela why not go to Versailles celebrating the 400 years of the grand garden architect Le Notre and get yourself some extraordinary veggies and fruits from its kitchen garden. You are after all our very own Sun King.

  • And the little Lebanese place? I’m always interested in finding such cheap, decent places. Moreover that would doubtless have some vegetarian items, and had compiled a short list of places with veg options for a friend who was doing research in Paris (I’m not vegetarian).

    There is a tiny, two lane mini-bowling alley at a hipster (and largely Lesbian, though welcoming to people of whatever gender and orientation) resto-bar/salon de quilles near my place, called “Notre Dame des quilles”… I don’t think they serve hot dogs but they do serve beer, wine and sandwiches, perhaps burgers. It is a great improvement over the seedy joint there beforehand, that mostly sold drugs.

    Have a happy whatever Pascal celebrations you take part in this time of year… Whether I attend Passover Seders or Easter Feasts, they are all pretty secular and dedicated to food, wine and friends… Doing one this Sunday (just by accident), nominal Christians and Jews in attendance, perhaps we should invite a couple of our secular Muslim friends…

  • If you can turn these disappointments around, then the world is your lobster << am I right??!! Am I???

  • Your blog turns my bad days right around into good days. Thanks for doing it. It’s excellent and a bright spot. I love it.

    I am wondering – do they call it “canard” pin bowling in France?

  • Off topic, but I just ran into an old SFChronicle photo of you here:

    http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/2013/03/28/from-the-archives-vintage-photos-of-famous-chefs-and-restaurateurs/#10917-10

    …just missing SF today…

  • “So after spending close to an hour sitting there, waiting, and watching the attractive young women next to me get their table set up with bread and different spreads, I decided to split ” Sitting?

  • Not my favorite “sport” but drinking Cote de Provence Rose @ bowling alley, now that would make it fun.
    LL

  • You are so cute! I made your split pea soup and it was delicious thanks for all the beautiful posts!!

  • That is so cool.
    Grilled cheese sandwhich at home always soothes the crappiest day.

  • Hi, David, It always make me wonder why people who are in business don’t seem to understand that without consumers, one will not be in business very long. I always enjoy your blog. Thanks, Milt Gersh

  • So, I had been reading your blog for a few months and decided….based upon your writing, that I had to see Paris. ( I had been reluctant in the past…I don’t speak French and had read the French don’t speak English or Italian. ) Anyway…took the train from Amsterdam to Paris last month and spent a week. I now have to go back. I was completely impressed with Paris, the food, the sights, the wine and the bread.
    Needless to say…. Thank you for your blog. I loved my visit!

  • Bowling!? Bowling is great and I thank you for reminding me. I am a Canadian bowling fan living in Seattle. Land of the Big Balls. 5 pin is definitely harder as it’s possible to actually swish the ball between the pins, known as ‘going for 10 the hard way.’ Recap: rose, bowling, grilled cheese…sounds parfait!

    Oh, btw, made the pickled peppers and they are addictive! Thanks for the recipe!

  • That “bowling” is something else, my best friend and I did that for years — but I can’t remember what it’s called!

  • I haven’t done candlepin bowling since I left New England. I’d love to do that again. I think it’s great fun to enjoy a bit of wine and a lot of laughter and then call it exercise.

  • Doesn’t take too much Googling around to see the new restaurant openings in Paris, and those with an American concept… but yes, polite of you not to mention it. Restoparis told me all I needed to know.

    I don’t live in Paris but well further south, so I shan’t be organising mass boycotts, but what a shame they screwed up their opening by underestimating my favourite food blogger.

  • Hello David,

    I like your blog, thanks for that…
    Please give us the bowling adress ? Oberkampf ?

  • Hi Ludovic: The bowling place is linked in the post, at the end of the 4th paragraph. Have fun!

    CathG: Yes, easy to forget the power of a kick-backside grilled cheese sandwich : )

    sudeoise: I’ve wanted to get out there for years but have been so busy, the best I could do was take a bit of time to race to this restaurant opening. Unfortunately your assessment of many pr folks here is spot-on, and some won’t even invite you to events unless they are assured you’re going to write about them – positively, of course. Thankfully there are some good ones as well. Wish more people hired them!

  • David…you intrigued me with the mention of the Lebanese restaurant We’re going to be in Paris again in July and have always enjoyed finding new and reasonable places to eat. This sounds perfect, as we love Middle Eastern food.

  • I am sorry you had such a dreadful experience at the restaurant opening. I applaud your even tempered response, however. You are a true gentleman. While it is easy to say that these things start at the top with the owner, the simple truth is that with the excitement and hard work that surround an opening unfortunate occurrences such as the one to which you were subjected do happen and are not always representative of the mindset and culture of the owner. I’m not making any excuses, quite the contrary really. Bad management is bad management. The bowling place sounds wonderful though, and I am pleased to hear you were able to salvage your day.

  • Just been to Kayser on way home and sat down to read your blog while eating one of their wonderful raspberry financiers, only to read you were there the other day. In truth hardly a day goes by that I have not been in. Rather fancy their mini tarte au citron. My son is such a pre-breakfast regular in Boulangerie de Monge that the woman gets his order ready as he walks in the door. Not doing any good for his French practice.
    Had best partridge I’ve ever eaten at A La Biche Au Bois last night. Pig’s trotter at Le Comptoir as good as ever. Not tried bowling though, too busy eating!

  • Ciao David! I’m happy to join your site: it’s very instructive and give me the opportunity to know new way to cook! I’m a food blogger, nice to meet you and to read your posts!
    Your books seems very interesting… :) I guess I could buy one of them!
    Have a nice evening!
    Mari

  • David,

    Regarding French steak cooking levels (I couldn’t figure out how to comment on a more relevant page…sorry…)

    You say “saignante” is medium rare. I’ve always been told that it’s rare, and that “a point” is medium rare.

    I was on the verge of being embarrassed for being misinformed, and misinforming my visitors…but when I checked online, it seemed to say I was right and you are wrong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperature_%28meat%29 (I know, I know, Wikipedia, blah blah blah, but they have a handy chart, and most other sites I checked agree with me.

    Thoughts/comments/response?

    Thanks!

  • Hi David, enjoyed your blog. Next summer (am in NZ) I am opening a small new concept food option and your blog has a great and simple reminder to not forget the good old basics – customer service and good quality product! many thanks !!

  • Ha I’m so horrible at bowling. But I’m sure some wine and snacks would ease the pain of losing miserably :)

  • The restaurant you describe in the opening sounds like a place on Long Island trying to act like a Manhattan club–without ever actually having been to one.

    Bowling works for you; mini golf can lift me out of a terrible mood.

  • Hi David, I find it astoundingly stupid of them to treat you like that – if they had the slightest idea of the following you have and the positive impact it could have made for them if they’d been up to the job of being, er, hospitable….! Serves them right, though, really, if they just treated everybody well, then they wouldn’t make that kind of blunder…. I’m very curious as to who they are, now, although I won’t be rushing over there!

  • Ew. Everyone should be served equally at restaurants (or anywhere for that matter)! You are a gentleman in your response here…and I love how you reply to your readers comments too! Your blog is always a good read;)

  • The husband & I are currently in Paris for a 2 wk holiday. Whilst he has been here before, I am in charge of planning the days activities ( I think so if something doesn’t go according to plan, he won’t be responsible!) I can’t wait to tell him I want to go bowling.
    Oh, and David – you should have seen the Hub’s face when I pulled out your Paris Pastry app to find a boulangerie near us. It was priceless!

  • This looks like what’s known in Baltimore as duckpin bowling. Fun!

  • Daveed, bet you were wishing you’d worn your boa, as you watched the fashionistas get all the attention. lol. Glad you were able to salvage the day with some bowling. It’s funny – I would never have though there would be a bowling alley in Paris. Who knew?

  • We just returned from Paris and I wish I would have known. Will be entry No. 1 for what to do when we go back!! BTW: based on several of your blog’s recs I visited restaurants and Ble Sucre…thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. Here’s one to pass on if it’s not already in your repertoire: Moose’s bar for March Madness basketball games! Watched my beloved Kansas Jayhawks in this cozy, inviting bar and it was the hit of Americana I needed. 16 Rue des 4 Vents/ http://www.mooseparis.com

  • There’s no kind of fun like the kind you have when you’re too grumpy to have fun!

  • G’day Dave, what’s the name of the Lebanese restaurant and also the Lebanese rosè you tried? What did you think of the wine?

  • Have to say that while I enjoy your blog I am struck by the pity party it attracts – poor you, you’ll have to settle for Frenchies! A place where, by the way, we mere mortals can only dream of going. It’s the trend now I guess, the bloggers become famous by waxing poetic about the joys of finding their way in the big city until voila the city rolls out the red carpet and the posts begin to ring just a little false to us plebes dans la rue. Just sayin . . .

    • Not sure I understand your point. I was expecting that if I was invited to a restaurant to try the food, that I would be able to do that when I arrived there. And the restaurant is more of a café, so while I didn’t see a menu, I’m sure “mere mortals” would be able to go there once it opens. (And as an aside, the owner isn’t French, so am unclear about the reference to having to settle for French people.)

  • Ah, sorry to be so snarky ;) it was a reference to M. Marchand and Frenchie. So many cool places and articles abound on how to try and even get in . . . Hence the jealous mere mortals comme mois.

  • Looks like New England candlepin bowling. I remember it well.

  • Hey David, You made me curious about Frenchies plans :) I love Gregs food and would love to know what kind of ‘thing’ he is cooking up right now. Would you tell us?
    Thanks, Sue

  • Could you please tell me the name of the Lebanese restaurant? I’m going to be in Paris in July and my husband and I and some of our friends love Lebanese and Middle Eastern food.

    Thank you for your help in this matter!

  • Excellent post! as usual. I just love to feel the passion for food on your website David, thanks for sharing