I’m often asked if it’s hard being a vegetarian in Paris. The question makes a lot of sense. After all, when you think of French cuisine, you probably conjure up images of bœuf bourguignon, coq au vin, foie gras, even escargots. And ham, well, ham is practically its own food group here. The truth is, though, that between cheese crêpes and savory tarts (as long as there are no lardons in there), I’ve never really had much trouble finding something to eat. But one of the best things about being a vegetarian in Paris isn’t even French …
There are a lot of good falafel restaurants in this city, but my favorite is L’As du Fallafel, a kosher establishment located in the heart of the Marais, Paris’s traditionally Jewish neighborhood. Even though there’s a competitor just down the block and yet another right across the street, the line outside L’As du Fallafel’s carry-out window is always long … even at 2 pm on a Monday, like the last time I stopped by for a falafel fix. There’s a good reason for that, which I know from sampling the other falafel vendors in the neighborhood: L’As du Fallafel’s copious servings of crispy chickpea fritters garnished with hummus, chopped cucumbers, red cabbage, fried eggplant, and spicy harissa (if you want a kick) are simply unbeatable. The name really says it all; “L’As du Fallafel” is French for “The Ace of Falafel.”
Because it was cold and overcast Monday afternoon, we decided to eat in instead of grabbing our pitas to go. It’s significantly more expensive that way (7.50€ as opposed to 5.50€) but considering how messy eating one of these delights can be, you might find the table, chair, and plastic plate you get inside well worth the 2€ difference. Plus, you get to say that you’ve eaten in Lenny Kravitz‘s favorite falafel joint and, maybe—just maybe—your tokhes has graced the same seat as his.
Of course, you all know who Lenny Kravitz is: American rockstar and son of Roxie Roker—you know—the Jeffersons’ upstairs neighbor, Helen. You might not know that Lenny used to date French singer and actress, Vanessa Paradis. Vanessa lived in the Marais, not far from L’As du Fallafel, so I suspect that this is how Lenny got introduced to L’As. They were regulars when Lenny and Vanessa were together and, of course, L’As proudly displays the photographic evidence.
Come to think of it, Lenny and Vanessa’s story is kind of like mine. You know, “devastatingly sexy American superstar meets gorgeous French singer and discovers the best falafel in Paris.” Okay … okay … so maybe it’s not exactly the same story, but it’s close enough for me. Then again, Lenny and Vanessa did eventually break up and Vanessa ended up with Johnny Depp, so maybe that‘s the comparison I should be trying to make. Oh, whatever! If Vanessa’s not responsible for introducing Johnny to some other amazing vegetarian-friendly restaurant, I’m not interested. I’ll just keep coming back for more of Lenny’s favorite falafel. After all, how could you possibly break up with this?
L’As du Fallafel is located at 34 rue des Rosiers in the 4th arrondissement, near the Saint-Paul Métro stop. It’s open everyday except Saturday, of course.
© 2011 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved