Eating in Paris can be a risky business. For every iconic, Michelin-starred restaurant and hidden local gem, there is a tourist trap waiting to snare you and your Euros in a web of average onion soup and tasteless tarte tatin. In a city with such a storied foodie rep, choosing your next meal can often be fraught with anxiety, for fear of getting it wrong. Small wonder most of us stick to what looks smart and shiny, rather than venture too far off-piste.
However, as a small stall is proving, sometimes pushing the boat out is often the best way to unearth something seriously remarkable. In a quiet corner of the world famous Marché des Enfants Rouges, “Chez Alain Miam Miam” is making waves as one of the best sandwich makers in all of Europe, if not the world. In this city, full of countless classic dishes, earning such a reputation over something so ostensibly simple is seriously impressive.
Every day, Miam Miam (which takes its name from the French word for “yum”) attracts hundreds of locals and tourists alike, many of whom are willing to wait hours in line for a taste of one of the stall’s signature sandwiches. The menu offers a small selection of staples, served either on freshly baked French bread or gluten-free buckwheat crepes. It all sounds deceptively straightforward.
Head chef and proprietor Alain Roussel has spent 25 years honing his craft in the baking business. Opening Miam Miam in 2005 with the intention of providing a limited but exceptional array of lunchtime treats, he quickly garnered attention from anyone lucky enough to stumble across the stall. Before too long, he was catering for clients willing to wait up to two hours for a taste of his food.
Because of the nature of the lengthy queue that wraps itself around the tiny stand like a living rope, there’s something ritualistic about ordering a sandwich from Miam Miam. Patrons stock up on wine and cheese from nearby eateries before settling in for the long haul, and Alain himself encourages his customers to interact with one another. Speaking to “Food & Wine”, he admitted that, though “it can be very long—it is necessary to come well-accompanied, or it is also an opportunity to meet other people during this waiting time.” It’s all a part of the experience.
Once you’ve tasted one of the sandwiches themselves, it’s easy to see why so many people make such a fuss. Toasted baguettes are piled high with your choice of fresh fruit and veg, carefully caramelised onions, mellow melted cheese and pink slivers of sliced cured meat. According to Alain, it is the quality of these ingredients that makes a sandwich from Miam Miam an unforgettable eating experience. That the customers keep coming back for more after such a sizeable wait tells you everything you need to know about how tasty the end result really is.
French food is full of so much deliciousness that it’s easy to neglect some of it’s unsung heroes. As enjoyable as a plate of foie gras and toast or a rich, steaming bowl of boeuf borgingon may be, sometimes what you really need is something a little more straightforward. As Alain Roussel and his stand have been proving for over a decade, French cooking remains more than up to the task.