Don Bauder 6:30 p.m., Jan. 20
French Afternoon: Sir Crunch? It's a Croque!
Funny how things go in pairs. Today, we’re talking French. Everything’s French, and all by luck.
For this first one, blame the number 2 bus. I was heading south from North Park.
Came down 30th to Juniper. Made it past Rebecca's without stopping for a Coffee and Scottish scone. Iron-will. But then we dogleg right and left on 30th's crazy route and roll past...aaaargh! Café Madeleine. They have Illy cawfee. Love that stuff. Maybe one cup...
So now three minutes later, I’ve jumped and run back half a block.
Christina the owner...
...is pouring me a cup of the elixir, straight from its vacuum-packed can.
Or, I coulda had that other great French export, Orangina...
And then, I'm about to take it to the tables outside, when I spot the fateful woids:
If you translate, it doesn’t sound so cool. Sir Crunch? But there’s something about that dish. I mean, it’s just the original French fast food, right? Like, it first appeared on a Parisian menu 100 years ago. 1910.
Just a danged sandwich. Grilled flat bread – not even baguette! – with ham in between and béchamel sauce drooled and browned on top. (The Croque Madame? Same, plus fried egg on top.)
But I guess it's my cryptonite. That and a coffee. And specially Illy. Just love the taste.
“I’m sorry, we only have egg bread today,” says Christina. “It should be Texas bread.”
She looks at me, like, is this a deal-breaker?
“No problemo,” I say, in my best French.
Jesse the chef in the tiny kitchen here sets to buttering big slabs of bread and hauling out the ham and working on the béchamel.
Five minutes later, he hands it to me, two big fat slabs of grilled egg bread with a mound of ham in the middle and the melted, toasted béchamel on top, and a little pile of lettuce beside it.
I hand over $7.50 for it and $2.25 for the coffee.
And they’re fine. But what gets me is the atmosphere. It’s really French here. Christina shows me the new Belle Époque murals that this gal named Alexandra Pastorino has painted on the outside wall at the corner.
Talk about perfect corner Café.
The other good news: Number 2 buses come every 15 minutes. Hell, it’s almost like hailing a cab.