If the croissant is the signature Parisian morning dish, then the sandwich takes the midday role. France may have a reputation for two-hour, wine-fueled lunches, but the reality is that a baguette sandwich is the more common option, easy to take along and eat in a park while you read Sartre and revel in your lunch break.
Of course, there are baguette sandwiches and then there are baguette sandwiches; it’s not because you’re walking the streets of Paris that you can walk into any place, order a sandwich, and be transported to simple Parisian culinary heaven. Not to mention that if you want a coffee to round that sandwich off with, you’d better be choosing very carefully. So if you want that quintessential Parisian sandwich, and you want it done well, and you want it all to come with a good coffee at the end, where do you go? Folks & Sparrows.
Recently celebrating its one-year anniversary, Folks & Sparrows has become a favorite in the 11th arrondissement, serving up easy lunches in a laid-back atmosphere, and proving that even a dish as basic as a sandwich deserves the best treatment.
Folks & Sparrows is part cafe and part specialty food shop, with a selection of handpicked items like sardines from Portugal, locally distilled gin from Distillerie de Paris, specialty tea, and bottles of artisan vinegar.
The master of the menu is the Prince de Paris sandwich, a baguette stuffed with Prince de Paris ham, comte cheese, mustard, and pickles, and doused in a red pepper vinegar. There are several sandwiches on the menu, including a vegetarian option, as well as several formules, to make your entire lunch order super simple.
Folks & Sparrows balances a French and West Coast vibe beautifully. Exposed timber at the front of the space and the tiles on the floor make this place distinctly Parisian. At the back of the cafe, there’s a skull and antlers hanging on the wall, and underneath the Marshall speaker, there’s a collection of old New Yorker magazines that they picked up second hand. I spent my afternoon coffee break drinking a Chemex of Kenya coffee roasted by Café Lomi, eating a slice of pistachio and raspberry loaf, and reading about O.J. Simpson’s trial and smirking at cartoons from 1997.
In a neighborhood that’s full of hip jaunts, it’s also the small details that make a big difference, like when I asked for a carafe of water and got one with a few sliced cucumbers in it. More importantly, it’s nice to pop into a spot that cares about local tradition and quality, and not just the food trend du jour. In a culture where burgers have threatened the lunch tradition of baguette sandwiches (one out of every two sandwiches sold in the country is in fact a burger), it’s promising to see places like Folks & Sparrows taking an iconic French quick lunch item and giving it the respect that it deserves, focusing on quality, local ingredients in the process. Folks & Sparrows is a good example of “slow food done fast,” proof that attention can be paid to even the smallest detail, and bringing hope that maybe one day mediocre sandwiches and terrible coffee will be a thing of the past. I’d hope the same for the burgers.
Anna Brones is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in Paris, the founder of Foodie Underground, and the co-author of Fika: The Art Of The Swedish Coffee Break, available now from Ten Speed Press. Read more Anna Brones on Sprudge.