A la Grenouille
26 rue des Grands-Augustins Danton 10-55
The early part of this epicurean tour of the Left Bank included the dignified Lapcrousc, a patrician establishmc-nl touching on the rue des Grands-Augustins. The final recommendation is set on the same street, but what a contrast! The last terms you could apply to the Grrnouille arc patrician and dignified. It is an engaging madhouse. Everybody knows about the darned place, and I can't add much to your enlightenment except to tell you the beginnings of its owl-faced proprietor, Roger Spinhirny. For years he washed dishes in the basement of Maxim'. But finally his big day arrived. He was given a waiter' apron to serve at a dinner given by the King of the Belgians. The maitre d'hotel gave Roger the assignment of serving the soup, a magnificent bisque d'écrevisses. He passed his imposing tureen around the table and, to his surprise, found that none of the guests would have any. He returned to the kitchen crestfallen-but the maiter d' hotel was livid. “Ta cravate, Roger, la cravate!” he roared. Roger' hand darted to his celluloid collar. His mechanical black bow tie was gone! But it hadn't pone far. It had fallen squarely in the middle of the bisque d'éctcrevisses, a butterfly as forbidding as the black widow!
After such a beginning, Roger lost hope of becoming a conventional restaurateur, and luckily enough. Instead, he opened La Grcnouille, a narrow little place in a courtyard, consisting of a kitchen and three small rooms, dense with tables. Something in his perverse personality told Roger to be rude, instead of suave, to his customers. According to his mood, he cither kissed the ladies roundly as they arrived, or ignored them stonily. As they left, he either pinched, slapped, or, shall we say, cupped their derrières. He instructed his waiters to be familiar, not polite. The result was electric. All Paris flocked there at once. They'vc been flocking there ever since, waiting in the courtyard to be admitted and to be pushed around. I don't know why I've indicated (the telephone number. A request for 1 reservation would be greeted by bowls of derision. (Get there by 7:30, however, and the chances are line.) If your dignity is easily rumpled, don't go near the place. But if you enjoy a hilarious evening, have a look. Roger is tired of nipping and of making so much money, I gather. But the public won't let him stop. It finds his boite just alxiut the most amusing place on the Left Bank. It really has quite an atmosphere. The walls ate covered by very Latin prints, posters, and portraits including the more obscure obscenities from the Baldas Quatz' Arts. You arc crammed around small tables and told to read the menu on a distant slate (and given binoculars if you can't). The addition is oral, the service hectic. But the food is good enough, particularly the frogs' legs, and the prices arc reasonable. The cook wears a bandanna and is a close replica of Aunt Jemima, except that a strong French cigarette dangles perpetually from her lower lip.
It's a nut house. Everyone has a hilarious good time. I've only heard of two people who were bounced from the place. They were a couple of businessmen trying to talk—of all things—business.
We hope that this small list will provide you with some notable evenings. If you are still game, the Frog and his owlish owner Roger may well provide the most unforgettable evening of all!
Your eager but human reporter pauses for breath before he plunges into the gastronomic picture on the Right Bank of Paris …
Checklist for French Provinces Available
For those fortunate gourmets who are sailing or flying to France this summer, we have assembled a handy checklist of the restaurants and hotels recommended thus far by Samuel Chamberlain in “An Epicurean Tour of the French Provinces,” which began in GOURMET in March, 1949. We will be happy to send you his checklist at your request.