Step Into One of The Most Beloved Crêperies in Paris
Where the wait is well worth it.
October 3, 2017
By Olivia Terenzio | Photos by John Terenzio; Collage ChefsFeed
Every Wednesday through Sunday, a line forms at the Marché des Enfants Rouges in front of Chez Alain Miam Miam.
The line begins in the morning but crystallizes around lunchtime, when locals and visitors to Paris' Marais district enter the covered market, walk past the Moroccan couscous joint and the rainbowed fruit and vegetable stands, and wait for Alain’s crêpes and sandwiches.
In a city swollen with crêpe carts and boulangeries, Alain’s success says plenty. It’s the ingredients he uses that make his food distinct: organic lettuce and mushrooms, basil leaves and citrus zest, regional French cheeses. Smoked salmon and prosciutto. Organic flours. Avocados. The finished crêpes bloom like bouquets: the best edible arrangement you never dared to imagine. And everything on the menu costs less than 10 euros.
Whatever the godfather of Italian subs is, this is its French counterpart. This is the motherlode of the crêpe world, and it’s mostly good for you.
“Miam miam” translates in English to “yum yum.” Alain repeats the words as he piles crêpes and sandwiches high with vegetables. “All organic,” he says, gesturing to his produce. And pointing at the galette (buckwheat crêpe) menu: “Gluten-free.” When one man asks for prosciutto, Alain boasts that it’s from Tuscany.
Alain is the only person working here, today and always. He wears a dirty navy blue T-shirt full of holes, with “Who the fuck is Robin Cunningham?” written in white letters. (If you believe the rumors, he’s Banksy.) Alain’s white hair is thinning, and he’s tucked eyeglasses into his neckline. He makes small talk with each customer, laughs and coos at babies, and charms a family by calling the kids “prince” and “princess.” A tip sign affixed to a red heart-shaped box hangs on the front of the stall. All tips will go to help refugees and migrants, the handwritten words explain.
Alain munches on bits of each ingredient as he throws them into sandwiches: a delicate lettuce leaf, a Comte cheese shaving, thin prosciutto he’s bundled between his thumb and forefinger. He flips sandwiches on a hot griddle using a flat spatula as smoke rises from the surface. The overstuffed buns refuse to close, so he rests the spatula on top to weigh them down.
Behind a glass divider are flat, square buns covered in poppy seeds, short bâtards and skinny baguettes leaning upright in a basket. Mounds of washed lettuce lie in huge stainless-steel bowls, ready to use. A screwdriver and toolbox sit next to a meat slicer set slightly askew, as if Alain was trying to fix it but failed, or got distracted. The front counter is covered with ginormous cheese wedges and tubs of vegetables that someone, presumably Alain, has prepped meticulously: sliced red peppers, caramelized onions, and grated carrot and fennel. The onions stick to the sides of the bin like wet spaghetti.
Occasionally, Alain grows aware of the line. When he senses people getting bored he purses his lips and shimmies his shoulders in a little dance, and everyone giggles. As they pay, he wraps their crêpes in wax paper and a dozen napkins, every last one of which they will need to eat this behemoth.
Often he gives them a bread bun to take home: “A gift."