Croque monsieur is a classic of Parisian cafés, those eateries that stay opened all day (yep, that’s a major selling point here in Paris, where lunch is between 12 and 2 and dinner starts at 7). They serve a menu of “snacks” like omelettes, quiches, and the aforementioned toasted sandwich, made simply of ham, cheese, and occasionally, a béchamel sauce. A croque madame, meanwhile, is served with a fried egg on top.
Unfortunately, in recent years, many such cafés are sourcing their croques from industrial operations, and it can be tough to find a good one here in the capital (a phenomenon I discuss in the most recent issue of the Culture cheese magazine).
There still are a few places where you can still get a good croque in Paris, though. The one above is from Eclectic, a restaurant not far from the Beaugrenelle shopping center in the 15th. The terrace has views over the Seine, and the sandwich is made with a double layer of ham and cheese and three slices of good quality pain de mie or sandwich bread.
Image © Jean-François MALLET
Other folks are revisiting the classic croque, like Yannick Alléno, whose version, depicted above, looks more like a work of art than a simple sandwich.
Madame Messieurs, meanwhile, has created a menu that’s entirely croque — but not necessarily all that traditional — redefining the sandwich so that figs and walnuts or even smoked salmon can take the place of the classic ham and cheese.
Either way, the croque monsieur is a great option to eat sur le pouce*!
*Direct translation: on the thumb. But what it really means is in a hurry, something the French do rarely!
Where to Get a Tasty Croque in Paris
Le Nemrod (51, rue du Cherche-Midi) – This has long been one of my favorite Parisian croques. Served as an open-faced sandwich on Poilâne bread, it’s an absolute classic. (Watch out, though! The vocab here is a bit different — a madame is called a complet.)
L’Eclectic (12, rue Linois) – This croque is served on its own, but order a salad (and some spicy mustard!) on the side.
Le Comptoir du Relais (9, carrefour de l’Odéon) – This small bistro-cum-tapas bar makes a croque monsieur with Kiri, a French cheese similar to cream cheese that’s rich and decadent.
Terroir Parisien (20, rue Saint Victor) – Yannick Alléno’s Parisian restaurants feature Merle rouge cheese, which comes from just outside Paris, in Seine-et-Marne.
Madame Messieurs (80, rue de Maubeuge) – The croques here deviate from tradition, but that doesn’t make them any less delicious.
Buvette Gastrothèque (28, rue Henri Monnier) – This award-winning croque monsieur takes a simple sandwich and kicks it up a notch, but manages to do so without deviating from the original recipe: bread, cheese, ham, and béchamel — that’s it! — and yet Parisians can’t get enough.