By Ellis Nassour, Ole Miss alum and noted arts journalist and author
If, as is often stated, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, wouldn’t it be nice if you could have it all day? Well, a Connecticut Yank figured a way to do just that – in Paris, where he’s brought not only authentic American breakfasts available into the wee hours in three locations but also the diner experience.
On Saturday, January 4th, 2003, after two years in the making and seeking backing, Craig Carlson fulfilled his long-time dream. He opened his Breakfast in America [B.I.A.] diner in the heart of the Latin Quarter. There had been months of trials, tribulations, and delays dealing with the labyrinth of rules, regulations, inspectors, and the French work ethic. This led to curiosity and anticipation about what this American was up to. He could hardly believe the day had finally come. It arrived with one of the heaviest snowfalls Paris had seen. He stood at the door to welcome customers, afraid that there’d be none.
The aroma of strong American coffee tempted a few passersby. They came in, warmed up with bottomless mugs, and to what was coming hot off the grill. And they keep coming. B.I.A. has become so popular with locals and tourists; there are now three locations in easy to reach neighborhoods.
The French are as mad about food and wine as they are about amour. So, there was always apprehension about how they would react to hearty portions of diner fare. In place of croissants, crepes, and petit déjeuners, there’d be stacks of pancakes with maple syrup and choice of blueberries or strawberries, along with eggs, Western omelets, bacon, hash browns, and toast.
The menu has grown to include wraps, chili con carne, club sandwiches, fresh-baked bagels, cheesecakes, root beer, and milkshakes. Needless to say, along with pancakes, the real American hamburger has proven to be a smash – along with the introduction of toasters at each table and Sunday brunch.
Carlson came to France as a student and didn’t take long to fall in love with the country. Thanks to Paris’ thriving art house cinemas, he developed a love for film and decided to pursue it as a career. After studying at University of Southern California film school, he worked at Disney, wrote scripts, made a short film, and was able to return to Paris to work on a TV show.
“I really missed the good old-fashioned American breakfast,” he says. “The only thing the French knew about American cuisine was fast food and French fries. I became obsessed with opening an authentic diner and serving traditional American breakfasts.”
July will feature the dual celebration of the Fourth and the 14th (Bastille Day) with a menu boasting tangy BBQ ribs, corn on the cob, potato salad, chili dogs, along with B.I.A.’s breakfast all day and their famous burgers.
If you happen to visit later in the year, don’t miss their 14th Annual Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner, the one time they take reservations for three seatings of their candlelit three-course feast.
Locations: 17, rue des Ecoles, 75005 Paris (near the Sorbonne, Panthéon, Notre Dame, art houses, and cabaret extraordinaire Paradis Latin); 4, rue Malher, 75004 Paris (Marais, near rue des Rosiers, the famous Jewish quarter); and 41, rue des Jeûneurs, 75002 Paris (adjacent to Grands Boulevards, near Opéra Garnier, Le Grand Rex cineplex). Full bar. No reservations. For more information, operating hours, nearest Metro stations, and phone numbers, visit www.breakfast-in-america.com.
Where Carlson found time to write quite a successful book, Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France (Source Books; includes recipes) is unknown. But he did it, and it’s filled with the warmth of his dreams and the naked truth of how difficult it was to fulfill it.
American Concierge: Touring with Your Own Private Expert
Paris: City of Lights, City of Love, fine food, wine, and cheese; and which has long been an inspiration for artists, novelists, and composers. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world and home to the world’s most renowned museums – not to mention, the Eiffel Tower and popular entertainment venues the Moulin Rouge, Lido, Paradis Latin, and Crazy Horse.
Do you ever have as much time in Paris as you desire? And each time you visit, you wish you’d discovered more. Rosemary Flannery and Madison King, two ex-pats, now longtime Parisians, can help make the time you have more valuable and memorable. They’re part of the team of luxury tour service American Concierge, which custom designs itineraries for one, two, a group, a family.
The word “concierge” is important here, because they personally guide you during your visit – arranging pickups, dinner reservations, entry fees (so there’s never waiting in line), tickets for opera [don’t miss the tour of the breathtaking splendor of the Palais Garnier Opera (with the box reserved for the Phantom!) and cabaret spectaculars.
Tours are quite flexible because you create them. The list is endless. Some choices to consider: a French cooking lesson, cheese tasting, and full lunch in a private home, jazz clubs, cruises on the Seine, even visits outside the City, say to Versailles.
Their experience enhances your Paris experience – and, considering the personal service American Concierge offers, rates are affordable.
Mademoiselle Flannery, Monsieur King, and resident concierges will escort you by Metro, taxi, or private car. The concierges also know choice locations for petit déjeuner (breakfast) with fresh pastries, croissants, teas, hot chocolate, and decadent chocolate and macaroons.
A popular tour is the three-hour Nightlights, an evening ride, perhaps with Monsieur King, who’ll sweep you through Paris in a late model sedan, luxury van, or vintage auto for stops at the Trocadero for a glittering light spectacular of the Eiffel Tower, down the Champs-Élysées past the Grand Palais, hopping out at the majestic Arc de Triomphe, then on to the Latin Quarter, Sorbonne, and monuments such as the Pantheon, and on across the Île de la Cité to the doors of Notre Dame; and, finally, across the Pont-Neuf to one of the City’s highest points and famed Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre.
If you’re passionate about art, book Mademoiselle. Flannery for a memorable tour of museums — not only the grandeur of the Pompidou, D’Orsay, and Louvre but also prized private collections at the Jacquemart-André, Marmottan-Monet, Nissim de Camondo, and Louis Vuitton Foundation Musees – not to mention Rodin masterworks in Les Tuileries on the way to the Musee de l’Orangerie [home of Monet’s “Water Lilies].
“As anyone who has visited Paris knows,” states Ms. Flannery, “it’s easy to fall in love with its culture, beauty, and the way of life in diverse communities. As we guide visitors, our goal at American Concierge is to make you feel at home and share our love of the City in a way that will make you never forget it.”
American Concierge is the brainchild of partners Sharon Carr, who splits time between New York and Paris, and Ivan Zatkovich. Her Paris-based chief operating officer is Guy Didier, former president of Paramount Pictures, France.
For more information on dozens of tours, pricing, and personal blogs by the company’s ex-pats, call (866) To-Paris (86-72747) or visit www.AmericanConcierge.com.
Ellis Nassour is an Ole Miss alum and noted arts journalist and author who recently donated an ever-growing exhibition of performing arts history to the University of Mississippi. He is the author of the best-selling Patsy Cline biography, Honky Tonk Angel, as well as the hit musical revue, Always, Patsy Cline. He can be reached at ENassour@aol.com.
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