The second I learned that Paul was coming to Massachusetts, I squealed and twirled around my living room like a genuine lunatic. A good macaron is hard to find, so when a New England Francophile gal such as myself discovers that a delectable pistachio macaron is minutes away, she twirls. That’s what I keep assuring myself, at least. Twirling is a perfectly acceptable response to macaron discoveries. Needless to say, a visit to Paul was going to be a priority.
To clarify, Paul is not a person- it is a boulangerie, or a bakery that specializes in the art of bread. The typical boulangerie offers light fare, such as fresh sandwiches, salads, rustic breads, pastries, and desserts. Paris has an abundance of them. Like many, Paul serves breakfast, lunch, and bread galore. It’s a glorious carb fest. The famous eatery’s origins date back to 1889 with the Mayot family in northern France and is now rapidly growing in popularity across continents. Its unique history of introducing the open kitchen concept and token trademark black shop front make it easily identifiable in the boulangerie gamut.
Locally, Paul is infiltrating the East Coast with just a handful of locations currently in existence, and Massachusetts is lucky to house a few of those. While this post focuses on my experience at the Burlington store, I had briefly visited the quaint Somerville location with my sister-in-law. Somerville Paul upholds the typically quirky and compacted French café culture, or as I like to call it- dining without boundaries! The French dine in tight quarters. Regardless, we ordered some tea and dessert there and then crammed ourselves around a marble table, happily consuming our treats. It was a perfect sampling. Not being able to raise your elbows because you might hit your neighbor and/or send an éclair airborne sounds miserable, but since this is exactly how the Parisians dine, it was nice. I felt like I briefly returned to Paris. Oh, the nostalgia!
The atmosphere at the Burlington location feels vastly different from that of Somerville. While traditionally French in esthetic, the store itself is enormous. There was so…much… space. I’m certain I stood uncomfortably close to the woman in line ahead of me out of habit. The marble café tables are large and comfortably spaced apart, so diners don’t have to worry about balancing all of their food on the table or accidentally assaulting neighbors with a baguette. Did I mind that Burlington Paul’s setup seemed a bit more American than French? No. In fact, the location is perfect for introducing people to authentic fare. Good food trumps all else!
My husband and I were eager to try Burlington Paul for two reasons. First, it’s a fifteen minute drive from our house. Thinking about that simultaneously gave me great satisfaction and a deep sense of fear. Satisfaction in that we are a short trip from a necessary French fix. Fear for the abuse both my wallet and my waistline will surely experience regularly onward. However, in terms of authentic boulangeries, it’s worth every cent and calorie. Second, my husband and I just returned from a Paris vacation a few months prior. We were having withdrawals. Anyone can find a mediocre baguette at any supermarket, but once you’ve had an actual French baguette- the first crack of perfectly crusty crust- and you’ll be ruined from all other bread. It’s that divine.
When my husband and I decided to try Burlington, I intended on indulging and taking some home for later. I mean, I had to research for this post, right? Naturally! Upon arrival, we walked into a large event sponsored by 3rd Ave- the retail center in which Paul resides. All of the vendors setup tables with samples and goodies to entice guests into spending more money. Paul greeted us with a vibrant ‘tree’ meticulously filled with mini macarons to sample. I was even more elated to hear the nearby server speaking French. The language fluttered as she spoke, and I was intent to initiate conversation. “Merci! C’était parfait!” or “Thank you! That was perfect,” I praised as she later cleared our dishes. We exchanged simple pleasantries, but I quickly felt this bizarre pang of intimidation, as I often do when trying to speak French to a native. The chipper server was a great sport.
Paul is a delightful retreat when you want to try something different but not eccentric. The atmosphere feels like classic Paris, and the food will downright seduce your taste buds. For the beginner, I recommend this formula for two people:
Breakfast OR lunch (dine in) + baguette (takeaway) + 2 desserts (dine in) + 2 macarons (takeaway)
This sounds like a lot of food. It is, but certainly not meant for one sitting. Paul’s portion sizes are modest, so worry not. Save your baguette for an early evening snack or as a light accompaniment with a protein-based breakfast. My husband and I ordered soup, sandwiches, and desserts. My suggestion- get a little crazy and order a croque. That’s an alternative variation of a grilled cheese. If you are a seasoned francophile, Paul will appease your French cravings, and if you have never had a scrap of French food in your life, Paul will hook you. It is the precision and exquisite craft that makes Paul not only an upscale eatery but also an artful experience for all of your senses. Click here to find the closest Paul near you!
À la prochaine!