Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
French Afternoon II: Heure Heureuse at Café Chloe
The wife of the French President is singing “I am sexy” on the sound system. Carla Bruni. She sounds très sexy, too.
Nicolae the bar guy says it’s a song called “Raphael.”
So I’m hearing this ’cause it’s about five in the evening, and I’ve jes’ got off the trolley at Park (12th) and Market, and started heading west towards the setting sun. That’s when I happened on Café Chloe (721 9th Street at G, 619-232-3242). Talk about French. Lightning strikes twice!
Little tropical sidewalk sit-out area
Not only that, but Nicolae, who I met once before, says it’s happy hour.
Dang. French Resistance? I ain’t got none. Mainly because as it happens, Huey – the sun – has found a gap between buildings and is flooding golden light onto their sidewalk tables.
I come inside, just to see if they have any Happy Hour thing I could afford. Ten bucks, I say to myself, that’s it. And I mean it ’cause that’s about all I’ve got.
Inside, looking out
“What’s ‘happy hour’ in French?” I ask Nicolae.
We work out it must be “heure heureuse.” Sounds cool if you can make it sound like more than “Er, er, hers.”
The HH choices for food and drink fall into $4, $5, and $6 deals. Hmm. Looking for le biggest bang for le buck here. Pity, because they have a “charcuterie” plate for $6, and “tarte flambée – with bacon, caramelized onions and “crème fraiche” for $5.
The $4 choices are petite house salad , warm olive selection, cheese with walnut bread, or “pommes frîtes,” yes, real French fries, with three dips.
Four-buck drinkies are a German white, a French red, or a San Diego amber ale from Mission Brewery, jes’ down the road.
I almost go for that, but then fall for the name on the red. “Grand Cres Cuvée Classique 2010 (Languedoc).” Wonder if they mean “Grand Crue”?
Am I turning into a snob? Hey, I see a book: “How to be a Snob on $10 a meal.” The book tour! The signings…
“Decided?” says Nicolae, like he really wants to say “Happy Hour doesn’t last forever, mon brave.”
“Yes. The olives and bread and the Grand Cres Cuvée…”
“The $4 red?”
It’s all good. Get out into that sidewalk corner patio, with sloping sun, scrunching on the French bread, a ton of olives, green, black, swimming in a lake of olive oil that you can dip your bread into, plus cloves of raw garlic and marinated onion…
And the Grand… the $4 red ain’t half bad either. Guess 2010 must’ve been a good year in Languedoc.
All told, I get out of there $9.75 poorer. Oh, and had to leave a couple of bucks – the last – for Nicolae, for putting up with me.
And here’s the thing. They definitely have created a little piece of Parisian paradise here.
The rest of the menu? Up there. But the Er-er-euse can be a pretty happy place.
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