Au Sauvignon

Au Sauvignon

I was recently reading a Paris-based website and a reader had written to them, asking them why they were always talking about restaurants in the 10th arrondissement where “.. there isn’t much to do there.” The response was that that’s where most of the new and interesting places are opening. And while it’s not where most visitors dream about staying when they come to Paris, there are certainly plenty of interesting shops and restaurants there, as that’s where the younger chefs are setting up shop.

I get the reader’s point, that they (like many visitors to Paris), are looking for more traditional French restaurants, such as bistros and brasseries. The other evening I went to a bistro in Paris, up in the 11th, with a friend who is a food writer. The menu outside noted that the cuisine was fait maison (homemade), and we were excited about trying this address, which he’d heard was very good. And I had brought along my camera, hoping to share it.

But alas, the food at the unnamed bistro was served tepid and while it was made with the ingredients that were, as the French would say, correct, the dishes served to us were obviously prepared in advance and rewarmed. (And served on cold plates, which negated the reheating of the food.) It was all very average, including the lemon meringue tart, which, due to the lack of taste, made us conclude that it had obviously been languishing in the refrigerator long enough so that all the flavor had been leached out of it, replaced by that unmistakable dullness of refrigeration.

Au Sauvignon

But there are nuggets of “old Paris” here and there, including over in the 6th and 7th, where many visitors tend to go. (And since that’s where there is the highest concentration of chocolate shops are, it’s hard to blame them!) So if you’re not up for a trip to the 9th, 10th and 11th arrondissements, where most of the newer restaurants in Paris are opening, you can find that wonderful feeling of old Paris at Au Sauvignon. It isn’t the place to get duck confit or steak frites. Nor is it a place to stretch out for a while and enjoy your table as long as you want. In fact, as soon as we were finished, the waiters kept checking back on us, to see if we were ready for the check. But for a quick bite or a late afternoon glass of wine, it’s perfect.

The welcoming staff will not introduce themselves by name, but will seat you promptly, and you won’t need to wait long before they come by to take your order. The little laminated menus they’ll bring over feature les Casse-Croûtes au Pain Poilâne (€5,30), simple little sandwiches of well-curated meats and cheeses, served between slender slices of the most famous bread in the world. (Which is just a few blocks away.)

Au Sauvignon

Some of the sandwiches have stuffed goose neck, others and have a few slices of cured ham slapped between the bread. There’s fritons (cracklings) and foie gras. We went with dried sausage and jambon d’Auvergne. The French don’t put mustard on ham sandwiches, but use butter instead. And here, they spread the Poilâne bread with superlative French butter before slapping on a few slices of meat, pressing the casse-croûte (appetite-“breaker”) together, and cutting it into bite sized morsels. For vegetarians and cheese-lovers, you can treat yourself to some Cantal, which is ripened at Barthélémy, the highly regarded (and equally bite-sized) fromagerie just around the corner. When in season, oysters are on offer, with a glass of Sancerre or, yup, Sauvigon blanc.

Au Sauvignon

Prices are reasonable in this casual, drop-in café (as you can see, they don’t spend a lot of money on plates), and I hadn’t gone with the intention of sharing it, hence the pictures taken with my aging, but always available, iPhone. But Au Sauvingon hits all the checkmarks for engaging places in Paris that serve good food, prepared with top-notch ingredients, in a traditional environment.

The servers and staff are friendly (well, just friendly enough…) and efficient, proving what I often say to people who think that the French don’t work hard; go watch a good Parisian waiter in action. I think they might deserve one of those UNESCO heritage designations. As for the rest of us, visitors and residents alike, we deserve good food, and wine – no matter what neighborhood we find ourselves in.


Au Sauvignon
80, rue des Saints-Pères (7th)
Tél: 01 45 48 49 02
Métro: Sèvres-Bablyon or Saint-Sulpice

Open daily, 8am to 10pm (Closed Sunday)


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33 comments

  • ron shapley(NYC)
    December 1, 2014 1:45pm

    6:45 AM ET….Now I’m really hungry. Thanks Dave

  • Jennifer Kornblum
    December 1, 2014 4:55pm

    David,
    I thoroughly enjoy your posts! In defense of Au Sauvignon – I have visited it numerous times during my Paris stays and found it very local and delicious. In fact, for a New Yorker, it was interesting to find out that it’s known for the smoked salmon platter. I never felt rushed there and the service was really good. It’s not ‘american’ service and it’s not a brasserie and I don’t need to know the names of the servers, but the nice corner location and the offerings for what it is were excellent.
    Jen

  • shell
    December 1, 2014 5:12pm

    Ooooh, that sandwich! (And I remember being surprised by butter on a ham sandwich, but it works!)

  • LYNANNE
    December 1, 2014 5:35pm

    I would like to add to David’s post and say that Au Sauvignon get BRILLIANT morning sunlight in the summer – June through September. It is located on one of my daily Velib’ routes and a place I have often looked at longingly as Parisians drink their coffee and gobble up their croissants whilst the bright light beams down on them. So I tested it myself one day and was not disappointed. Now I’ll need to check out the lunch menu.

  • December 1, 2014 5:41pm

    I’m delighted to see that you’ve given the thumbs up to Au Savignon, one of my favorite places for munching and people attaching. I found this place on a cold rainy January and took up residence at a back inside table with a couple of friends where we spent the afternoon slowly ordering different small items on the menu…with no rush at all from the wait staff and fun to observe the inner workings of the place. Now I love to go all alone, sit at a front table and have a glass of Sancerre with a foie gras Poilaine bread sandwich with fig confit. Heaven!

  • Bill
    December 1, 2014 5:47pm

    And to think I was wondering what kind of groovy camera you were using!

  • December 1, 2014 5:47pm

    I will be in Paris in February and staying in the 6th. This is perfect.

  • December 1, 2014 5:50pm

    My grandmother always used butter on her poultry sandwiches. I can’t recall if she used butter on ham. I’ll give it a go.

    Happy Holidays’ to you, David. Thanks for the joy of your blog, Honey Bunches.
    :)

  • Norman Olson
    December 1, 2014 6:12pm

    I once succeeded in having them grill my cheese sandwich. Well worth asking. Full disclosure: other times they have declined saying, impossible. Love the place grilled or not.

  • Gateau
    December 1, 2014 6:15pm

    I love you David.

  • Lynn
    December 1, 2014 6:19pm

    I’m afraid some readers may never read your faint-praise of Au Sauvignon. With my email program I read the first few paragraphs of negative narrative (tepid, rewarmed food and refrigerator-languished tarte) followed by the photo of Au Sauvignon. If I hadn’t already been familiar with Au Sauvignon I wouldn’t have followed the link to the full article. And even after reading it all, I wondered why you wrote it with such qualified enthusiasm. Perhaps a second visit would have allowed you to recommend something other than the delicious tartines. I glad your very thorough readers could add some additional recommendations. Is there a bistro in the 6th or 7th that you really love?

  • December 1, 2014 6:28pm
    David Lebovitz

    Norman: When I first moved to Paris, before I knew better, I went to Le Baron Rouge wine bar and ordered the charcuterie platter, with some wine. When the barman brought over the charcuterie, I asked for some mustard and he bellowed back at me, “Our charcuterie is too good to serve with mustard!” After that, I got it and now serve butter with mine. Glad you got them to grill your sandwich, but as you mentioned, I wouldn’t expect them to do it as a rule : )

    Lynn + Jennifer: I really like Au Sauvignon. Sorry if the impression at the beginning of the other place we went to was confusing. (I added a line in there to let people know that the other place is in the 11th, but I don’t like naming places I don’t really like unless they are actively trying to be bad – which does happen…) – but that was a lead-up to the story, so I hope readers will read the entire stories and posts I write.

  • Elizabeth Stewart
    December 1, 2014 7:13pm

    Have received duplicates of this blog posting. Perhaps both the old and new systems sent it out??

    • December 1, 2014 7:16pm
      David Lebovitz

      Perhaps. I spent about 22 hours this weekend tethering between the company that I’m moving to, my web people, and me (with zero tech knowledge) trying to move the old contacts over to the new system, and get the new one in place. Thanks for letting me know. I appreciate your (and everyone else’s) patience if they get double messages, which will be temporary while I work with them today to continuing the iron out any wrinkles in the transition. Thanks! : )

  • Margot
    December 1, 2014 7:25pm

    Here’s a good one for the 7th: Laiterie, 64 rue de Bellechase. It’s a resto, not a bistro, but the owners are adorable, the food really is faites maison, and the cute bartender made me a pretty pink Cosmo last summer upon request. I know, I know, cosmos are so pre-financial meltdown.. but it’s still nice to know a girl can get a pink cocktail (with a smile) in Paris without trudging northeast to the 9th, 10th, & 11th.

  • Gigi
    December 1, 2014 7:44pm

    My mother uses mayo on sandwiches, as a rule ( which I detest, btw).
    However, for all my life, she has used only butter on our leftover turkey sandwiches- some butter one one side, cranberry on the other. She would always say – no, only butter on these!
    I don’t know why she does it that way, but to this day, of course I use butter too and it’s goooood!

  • Kirsty
    December 1, 2014 8:37pm

    What a funny idea that would be to have a ham sandwich without butter, would never happen here in england

  • December 1, 2014 8:46pm

    Have visited Paris many times during last 50 years (my present home is Santa Fe) and have always enjoyed Au Sauvignon. The wine is good. The Poilane tartines are excellent. And, the people watching is superlative. Lots of fashionable ladies, leggy teenagers, distinguished gentlemen. Nearby Bon Marche is probably a popular destination. After my wife does her fashion shopping (at Agnes B, and other shops) we meet in Bon Marche’s spectacular food department. Buy superb smoked salmon and other good things. Back to our two-week rental apartment for a long dinner with much wine, I’m 85. Hope there’s more Paris in my future. In any case, you do a wonderful job of bringing Paris to me every day in a savory and creative manner.

  • December 1, 2014 9:28pm

    Nice to know that some of the old standards are still there. We always used to go to Au Sauvignon after shopping. Nothing like great bread, butter and charcuterie and a good glass of wine.

  • Lisa M in Indy
    December 1, 2014 9:31pm

    Hi, David ~ love all of your blogs. I always learn something new about Paris, your travels and wonderful food! Thank you. Best wishes for a very nice holiday! Lisa

  • tunie
    December 1, 2014 11:27pm

    As an American, land of a million different ways to eat everything under the sun, it is super amusing to hear how aggressively even a bartender is about the way one MUST enjoy any given food. It’s really kind of cool. It educates the public palate and aligns everyone culturally. It is very difficult to imagine this happening in the US melting pot. I suppose that’s why we travel – to experience defined culture. And others travel here to experience a (mostly) judgement-free cauldron of individuality.

  • june2
    December 1, 2014 11:29pm

    Love that they cut those sandwiches into bite sized pieces without any fanfare – just like a mother might do for her child’s lunch. So homey.

  • December 2, 2014 1:01am

    I can hardly believe it; I took photos from the car only a few days ago just because I thought that the Sauvignon looked so authentic…….. :)
    Thank you so much – tomorrow I’m gonna read all the comments too.

  • December 2, 2014 4:18am

    That tartine concotion is gorgeous

  • December 2, 2014 4:37am

    hey David,

    I’ll be in Paris in a couple of weeks. Where would you suggest eating (with camera in tow)?

  • December 2, 2014 7:17am

    i remember coming back from france and spreading butter on ham sandwiches. it still makes people’s jaws drops.

  • Claudia
    December 2, 2014 10:57am

    Dear David,
    I always loved Au Sauvignon and we we keep going there on a regular basis when we find ourselves in Saint Germain.
    All the best, Claudia

  • indusleaf
    December 2, 2014 6:09pm

    Hi David, love your posts, but you do realise that cheese is usually not vegetarian as it is made with rennet from a calf’s stomach? Unless it is made with microbial rennet and clearly labelled as such, cheese is not suitable for vegetarians at all.

  • December 2, 2014 11:00pm

    Did not know to try this spot in Paris..did go to LE GRAND COLBERT though at 10:30 pm in a scary-fast taxi..it did not disappoint..we had Chateaubriand…Lyonnaise Potatoes and Grand Marnier soufflés for dessert. We were surrounded by French people and a chef from Belgium..35 years..who said he always stops in What did he eat?..steak tartar SO RED with real FRENCH fries..I would order that if I was back there..ohhhh.laaa.laa!

  • Tim Hartzer
    December 3, 2014 1:37am

    Haven’t been there for a while, but Le Nemrod at the corner of Cherche Midi and St Placide is (was) similar to Au Sauvignon as somewhere to have a sandwich or salade frisée avec lardons a couple of blocks from Le Bon Marché.

  • JahJah
    December 3, 2014 4:42am

    NOTHING beats Irish butter on a fried bologna on hard dough bread sandwich…

  • Stephanie
    December 3, 2014 10:54am

    Even for someone who has been living here for 8 years, it is so hard in France to identify the great cafés from the mundane. They all look alike and even the bad ones are often full of customers. I look for 3 things: Italian coffee signs posted on the window (Illy, Lavazza, Segafreddo), real chalkboard menus and actual pepper mills (as opposed to pepper shakers). Also, if it is a sidewalk cafe, check out the bread baskets! Finally, if a restaurant lists where their products come from (bread from Poilane bakery, cheese from a certain fromagerie), that is a very good sign too! I’ve had very good luck with these simple checks.

  • December 4, 2014 5:01am

    I have such a love-hate relationship with your blog. I love the way you write and everything you write about. But it just makes me miss Paris so much, and angry that I’m not there. Bah!!

    (Just kidding. I love your site.)