Bob Sends Me to the Pig Restaurant

Glaces - Plat du Jour
A no-frills snack-bar in the rue de Clichy, has a Plat du Jour.'

After Three Hours With a Reader, 50 Minutes For You

Paris:- Friday, 30. January 1998:- More than a few Metropole readers visit Paris and some of you make an extra effort to see me while you are here. Although this subtracts from your time with Paris, I welcome these visits and do everything I can to be at them.

Meeting Metropole readers in person is very valuable to me. As good as email exchanges are, there's nothing like a good face-to-face meeting for finding out how spoken words win over written words - and for finding out how much written words may have missed their mark.

Today's reader has picked a restaurant in a rare corner of the 17th arrondissement, near Clichy. In fact it is on the avenue de Clichy and is not far from the Marché des Batignolles, where I did some research into Christmas food and drink for a issue in late 1996.

It is cold, but above freezing and the Bob's Hairdressing avenue de Clichy is not up-scale. It has a working-class Paris neighborhood look to it, with its household-hardware stores that sell stepladders and paint, and its modest cafés and corner bars and all the solid food and drink shops that cluster around a major market.

This is Bob's great place; maybe only a little bit lopsided.

Last time I was here I saw less because I was focused right on the marché itself, but today I am thinking I should really come back here and crawl around a bit to find what hidden delights there may be; because it looks promising.

In the restaurant, the sun is coming in flat from the rue Cardinet, whacking me right in the eyes. As we talk the sun shifts west and I shift a bit to stay in the shadow of a window frame. We are on a glassed-in terrace, and there is a working heater just below the bottom of the window and with the sun making the place bright and the warmth, everything is fine.

What is especially good is the waitress who I have been flirting a little with, since I got here before my lunch partner showed up. Although she is dressed in Paris street-chic, I wonder what part of Africa her ancestors came from; but I am a little too shy to ask about these things. If it was a guy I wouldn't hesitate, but I don't want to seem too flirty. There are a lot of really good-looking people who have Africa as an origin and they are a big Paris bonus asset.

We get our food and the restaurant fills up. It is not one of the noisy places and we can talk without effort and the comings and goings of other diners are no bother, and our conversation goes on for about three hours in this winter sunlight, while the avenue traffic whispers by outside.

My man is a long-time Paris visitor and he's just realized a dream to acquire an apartment here. In addition to taking care of details of this, he is also having working meetings with scientific colleagues - which he has been doing regularly for more than twenty years.

We talk quite a bit about this magazine, Metropole, and some of the things I learn, I have made comments about in this week's Café Metropole column. By 15:30 he has to sprint to another meeting - about a furniture mix-up - and I have to find a subject for this piece, and get it wrapped up within 60 minutes - before the light goes, before I have to pick up the car from the muffler shop and go and get the kids.

I head up the avenue de Clichy, away from Clichy - which is really beyond the city limits - and shoot the *Café le Soleil* which is plastered by sunlight. Too blasted, I think, because it will surely overload the pin-head 'brain' of the digital camera.

Luckily I find a city edition of Le Parisien still available and then I am at the Marché des Batignolles. The shops look good but they are mostly still shut up for lunch.

I am standing beside the south side of the marché on the rue Lemercier when I realize I am looking at a strange shop. It has no car parked in front of it so I shoot it. This makes me think I should find out what it is so I walk straight across the street and go in.

Besides the film posters in the windows, the inside is floor-to-ceiling movie photos, mementos, knick-knacks, souvenirs, and posters - all of it having movie themes. The ceiling is very high and it goes right up there and it is stunning.

"Ho!" I say, "What is this?"

A short guy with a good tan says, "This is a hairdressers. It is for men only," and he adds, "And for children too."

For men only! This is truly rare. I mean, besides the decor of the place - there are few 'barbershops.' For all I know, there are few barbershops anywhere anymore. It has been a good many years since I got used to the smell of whatever it is they do to lady's hair and the kind of chit-chat you usually hear while getting your haircut, if you can hear anything over the noise of the dryers.

So not only is Bob's - this fellow's name is Bob - place a different kind of hairdressers, it has this decor in it that goes on forever. I tell 'Bob' who I am and what I do and ask if I can take some photos and tell him what they are for.

His partner says maybe it will make Bob famous someday and I say this story will start making Bob sitting at Bob's famous on Monday. Bob, to his credit, takes all of this with good humor and sits in one of his own sofas for me, with a copy of 'Studio' magazine.

And here's Bob himself, sort of, reading 'Studio' magazine.

The actual name of the shop is 'L'Actor's Studio - L'Atelier.' The work-stations are composed of free-standing mirrors, placed irregularly around the large room, and each has a sort of old sofa-like barber's chair. The odd part is, with these mirrors all over the place, the incredible decor is repeated in the mirrors and it is hard tell what is mirrored and what is real. Very cool.

When we are finished, after about 90 seconds, I ask Bob if there is anything else unusual in the neighborhood. He immediately says I should see the 'Pig Restaurant.'

For readers who do not eat pork, I think you should know that a lot of French do eat pork, and there is a fair-sized pork industry supporting this type of food.

Despite this, there are plenty of ways not to eat pork in Paris and France because there are a lot of people here who will not eat it. Now that Ramadan is over or nearly over, a lot of French Muslims are having big meals all day long without any pork whatsoever.

I follow Bob's directions and easily find 'La Tête de Goinfre - La Cave du Cochon' at 16. rue Jacquemont. The restaurant next door looks like it too and I hit it first by mistake and they send me one door further to Jean-Pierre's.

La Tête de Goinfre is a neighborhood restaurant on a very quiet street and it does not look unusual from the outside, except that it seems to have no name.

Inside is another story. There are red and white checkered tablecloths and it is all very tidy and cozy and all the decor - of which there is a lot - is all related to pigs. Cochons.

While I am sizing this up, Jean-Pierre, three full-sized customers and the waitress are sizing me up. They are all in very good humor, because this is the end of 'lunch' - near 16:00 - and judging from the size of the bar, which is not big, but is made huge by it's decor - devoted to pigs and wine, or is it wine and pigs? - this place may pay homage to pigs, but it is a serious place for grape lovers too.

One of the customers, who looks like a prosperous doctor who wears a motorcycle jacket, tells me to come back tonight - which leads me to explain about the car's mufflers and the kids, and this sort of story makes me 'local' enough, to almost be invited to move into the restaurant to live.

There is a over-large balloon-glass full of dark red wine on the zinc bar and I am offered this. I decline by pointing at about where my liver might be if I knew where it was and the doctor-type immediately guesses what my problem is.

This is an acceptable sort of refusal, and you can use it anywhere in France if people offer you one you'd rather not have.

But I say it is the other thing and the doctor-type says they take these out these days. Jean-Pierre says he either Pig decor in la Tete de Goinfre has the other thing too, or knows about it - which probably means he knows about his own - and we are all more pals than ever.

After a half-dozen false starts we all get out the door and it is locked. The digital camera is full, but I cross the street and wind off a shot with the 35mm mini - catching the doctor-type getting on his huge BMW motorcycle, while the others scatter, in order to pull themselves together a bit before the evening round starts, at the pig restaurant.

These are tidy pigs, and there are dozens of them. Pick your favorite.

Seeing it like this - this is far from plastic and glitz, monuments and major sights - I am sorry about 'my other thing' because this kind of place is the sort of place in France people have good dreams about, and look for when they come here.

Okay, when I got here after my lunch about 50 minutes ago, I had nothing in the hand and no plan. Now I pass Bob's place and the Jean-Pierre's 'La Tête de Goinfre' on to you. Both are near line 13's métro Brochant; take the direction to Asnières-Gennevilliers.

The direction signs say it is to Gabriél-Peri, but the métro driver will announce the old name of Asnières-Gennevilliers instead. If he doesn't say this, then you'll be going up to Saint-Denis, where the new stadium is located.

If you do accidently go that way, I know a wine restaurant up there and it is supposed to be pretty good...

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