Ralph’s Restaurant, the Newest American in Paris

by phyllisflick on May 15, 2010

Ralph Lauren’s eponymous new restaurant Ralph’s created a lot of buzz in Paris, long before it ever opened.   It was everywhere in the French press, tweeted about on Twitter, fuelled by the New York Times report that Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group had been brought in for consulting, and that the French kitchen team, including a chef from the Bristol, had spent a week in New York learning to make American classics like burgers and fried chicken.  They wrote that Michael Romano, the chef, partner and chief of culinary development for Union Square Hospitality, was brought to Paris to work with the French chefs right up to the opening.   For once, Paris would have a real American restaurant, and not just the cheap Disneyseque imitations that serve lousy to mediocre American fare.

Naturally, with all this talk, I called for a reservation the day it opened.    The woman I encountered on the phone had that snotty disposition that I have come to know too well in Paris and I was already put off, thinking that they may import the beef from the good old USA but should think about importing American-style service.  The pre-opening press blitz had paid off, the first table available was in about 2 weeks, and this was only opening day.

Unfortunately, the weather was cold and rainy the night of our reservation and we were seated in the bar rather than the beautiful courtyard which is sure to become a coveted spot once the warm weather finally kicks in.  No matter, because the dining room and bar area are stunning, with dark wood, rich leather banquettes and chairs, and elegant white clothed tables.  Once seated you get the feeling you’ve been transported to some exclusive New England hunting club.

The menu is old-school American, with dishes like shrimp cocktail,  New England clam chowder, crab cakes, fried chicken, meat loaf, steaks, turkey, veggie and tuna burgers, and of course a cheeseburger.   The Black Angus beef is imported from Lauren’s own ranch in Colorado and is grass-fed and hormone free.  A tad bit old fashioned perhaps, but it all sounded great to three expat Americans.

I decided on the New England clam chowder, which was very good, with potatoes, bacon and a generous portion of plump clams.  Friends tried the crab cakes (deemed a bit spicy) and the sweet pea soup which was not only beautiful but delicious.

The burger, at 27 €, was a bit of a disappointment but perhaps my expectations were too high.  It was perfectly good, with heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, real bacon, cheddar cheese, and a very good bun. But it not nearly as juicy as I had hoped (which is always the problem in France) and the fries were average at best.  I’ll pay 27 € for a burger, but at double the price of most burgers in town, I want amazing French fries and these were not.

My friends both enjoyed their meatloaf and fried chicken but were under whelmed by the sides of mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach which needed salt.

We were stuffed when it came time for dessert and could only manage to share what turned out to be a very good carrot cake.

Contrary to my original experience on the phone, the staff that night were friendly and professional and our waiter Julien was particularly adorable.

All in all this was an enjoyable, albeit expensive, experience. I think, however, if Mr. Lauren wants to fulfil his promise of creating the best American restaurant in Paris a bit of work has to be done, starting with those fries.   Sure the setting is beautiful and I’m sure the see-and-be-seen crowd will be quite happy with the food but if he wants an excellent American restaurant, and it seems that he does with the all the behind the scenes work he’s put in, then they need to bring the level of the food up a notch.  And if were up to me, they’d add an amazing Caesar salad to the menu too.

Ralph’s
173 Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris, 6th Arrondissement
+33 1 44 77 76 00

And if you are in the mood for American cuisine in Paris, and don’t want to shell out the big bucks you’ll need to spend at Ralph’s, here are a few more addresses:

Coffee Parisian:

Definitely one of the best burgers in Paris and their eggs Benedict isn’t bad either.

4 rue Princesse, 6th
Open daily

Joe Allen’s

A bit more upscale than Coffee Parisian, with good burgers, wings, quesadillas, and other American fare.  Very friendly service and big screen TVs make it an ideal for sports lovers.

30 rue Pierre-Lescot, Paris 1st.
Open daily

www.joeallenparis.com/joeallenparis.com

Floors

Located in the north of Paris, not far from Barbes, this very hip, three-story, defunct print shop turned American themed restaurant makes pretty decent burgers.

100 rue Myrha, 18th

Closed Monday, Tuesdays and Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.

H.A.N.D.

Short for “have a nice day” this newly opened American-style diner serves burgers, club sandwiches, Caesar salads and American-style breakfast.

39, rue de Richelieu, 1st
Closed Sunday and Monday nights, with continuous service.

Razowski

This is one I have yet to try. The menu lists several different burgers, a pastrami sandwich with mayo! (beurk), another strange combination called a spinach Caesar salad, and a few requisite American desserts.  I would give it a try for its terrace alone, which over looks the lovely Marché Saint Honoré in the 1st.

www.razowski.fr

American Bistrot

Another new comer I have yet to try, that looks quite cute.  So far it has had just ho-hum reviews.

74 Rue de la Folie-Méricourt
75011 Paris

www.qype.co.uk/place/1400449-American-bistrot-Paris

Breakfast in America

A pretty authentic looking 50′s style American diner with two locations.  The first, which is located in the 5th, opened in 2003, the second opened three years later in the Marais. I have been to both locations at least once, but unfortunately never went back because I wasn’t that impressed.

17 rue des écoles, 5th; 4 rue Malher, 4th.

Open daily from 8h30-23h with non-stop service.

www.breakfast-in-america.com

Ralph’s in the Press

United States of Saint Germain, L’Express

Danny Meyer helps Ralph Lauren make burgers on the left bank, New York Times

Table Hopping: Ralph’s in Paris, Alexandre Lobrano for New York Times Magazine

Can Ralph Lauren Turn the French on to American Cusine ?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsey June 7, 2010 at 08:43

I’ve eaten the burgers at both H.A.N.D and Razowski and I’d say that the best burger I’ve had in Paris is at neither but rather at Super Nature the organic restaurant in the 9th. Quality meat, a more unique take on the burger bun and a quinoa cake and sweet potato fries when I went. Really excellent. Their brunches are copious as well! definitely worth a try if you’re into burgers!

http://www.super-nature.fr/supernature.html

I’ll have to try American Bistro, it’s in my neighborhood!

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Joe Lillard June 7, 2010 at 12:42

You’ll get a better burger at 1/3 the price at Bistro Burger on the Place aux Herbes in Uzes. You will, however, have to settle for limousin instead of angus – no great loss.

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tom August 21, 2010 at 18:04

I have to agree with Joe, we were there last night and the burgers were great…….
Rumor has it that they are opening a restaurant in Paris rue Montorgueil in 1st arrondissment end of October….

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forest September 3, 2010 at 12:14

hi Phyllis!

As you know we stopped in there this week to test the cocktails. I’m pretty much of the same mind set – it’s gorgeous, but I think RL needs to bump it up a notch on the consumables

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mac October 30, 2010 at 09:43

My first question is why you would want to eat “American” when surrounded by so much delicious local choice?

I’ll now go right to my last thought which is that this seems to be defining a fine dining class of restauarnt by it’s chips??
That’s combining pretentiousness with some wierd food xenophobia.
Get over it and just eat local’

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Phyllis Flick October 30, 2010 at 10:33

Mac, I’ve been living in Paris for ten years and so yes, I often eat other foods than French and will continue to do so. As a tourist I might agree with you, but as someone who lives here, I would go mad only eating French food. And I’m sorry, a restaurant that charges 27 € for a cheeseburger and sends their chefs to NY to train shouldn’t be using frozen tasteless fries. If it’s pretentious to want homemade fries, than I am happily pretentious!

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forest October 30, 2010 at 11:26

While I’m a big proponent of eating local while traveling, I have to agree with Phyillis on this one. I don’t know where you’re from, Mac, or where you live, but surely you don’t eat only ‘local’ for every meal, every day. That’s just combining monotony with some weird aversion to trying new things! :)

As another American who’s lived here nearly a decade & someone who is interested in food and the Paris restaurant scene – I think we are in a particularly good position to judge Ralph’s – whether it’s based on the fries, drinks, service – any aspect of it.. When in the US, I eat French, Italian, Japanese, etc – how well can I judge it? I don’t know. But, I can certainly tell you if Ralph’s is turning out fare on par with the American quality/style/standard they claim to subscribe to – or Phyillis can in this case!

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MICHELLE HUMPHREYS November 1, 2010 at 11:09

I have just returned from 3 days in Paris with my 2 teenage daughters, and our first lunch stop was Ralp’s in St. Germain, as our hotel was around the corner! The store is absolutely stunning and reeks of class including the restaurant, a beautiful wood paneled room overlooking the square courtyard! Lovely!
We all ordered the cheeseburger as I had read so much about the meat being flown over from Colarado, they didn’t disappoint, tasty, succulent melt in the mouth meat with some nice home made coleslaw on the side!
But the Ranch fries, shock horror were frozen!
How difficult would it have been to make some handcut fries, especially with a price tag of 27 euros for the dish? Outrageous!

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B Baron November 2, 2011 at 18:22

Just back from Ralph’s. They have obviously listened to all the criticism about the fries. They were some of the best I have every had: very crispy on the outside with a fluffy soft center. The expensive cheeseburger was terrific. Better than most in the U.S. If you don’t care about the cost, it’s a great place.
11-2-11

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James Casa March 31, 2012 at 17:18

I had my birthday lunch there a few days ago, came out very disappointed and angry. The reception was the usual cool offish French style, nothing unusual there, the surroundings are nice and comfortable. The waiter was courteous to start with, the apple and gin aperitif was very good, followed by some very good crab cakes.
My wife and I both ordered the St Germain Burger, on arrival my Wife’s burger was perfectly cooked and she enjoyed, although she has had better in Paris.
Mine was complete raw just seared on the outside, how they can cook the same order completely different at the same time,this is just not right. We returned it for another straight away, after a 20min wait another burger arrived, this was completely burnt on the outside, with a disguise of melted cheese, the meat in side cooked this time for sure but over and try and tough. Not once did we get an apology for the under cooked burger or the wait for a recooked burnt offering. So in these circumstances one thing to do is to vote with ones feet pay the bill,leave and never return. Not once were we asked if we enjoyed are meal, I think they well knew their failings.

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