Wednesday April 9, 2008

Paul USA

Sometime in the distant foggy past (ok, 1889), Paul really was a single bakery in Croix, France. Over the last couple of decades, it’s expanded to a worldwide empire, with shops all over the world. Their foray into the US began in 2005, and currently consists of five shops all in our little neck of the woods. The North Miami Beach location is the center of the hub, where all the baking is done, and that’s where these pictures are taken.

Paul messes with my head a little bit. On the one hand it’s got a faux-rustic corporate sheen, with the fingerprints of expensive consultants visible everywhere (note, for example, the faux-mismatched chairs in the dining room). Walking in there feels more like walking into a theme-shifted Friday’s (or Starbucks, for that matter) then A La Folie. On the other hand, there’s the genuine French heritage, the decent food, and the wait staff with French accents. If you’ve ever been to Panera, it’s sort of like that, with maybe another notch up in quality and price, and the eurotrash theme.

So, the food. Above are my eggs benedict from a recent excursion. The goal was to spend as much as possible on brunch for two sans alcohol (and yes, you can get your brunch combo with Champagne or Mimosa), and mission accomplished at over $30 for what is, essentially, fast food. Mind you, the eggs benedict was delicious, as was every sandwich, pastry, and coffee I’ve tasted there. You line up, order your food, and they bring it to your table. All the bread is baked by Paul’s staff, as are the pastries (I believe?), and it’s served in that French style, where the portions are not overly large and everything has a small field-green salad on the side.

All the same, I’m inclined to give it the thumbs-down. The corporate stench that lingers in the air sort of ruins the experience for me. I can go to any diner and get food that’s almost as good and a lot more honest, and if I want faux-rustic corporate food I’ll go to Panera, Crackel Barrel, or some such, where it comes without the Epcot-planet overtones. Your mileage may vary.

14861 Biscayne Blvd. and other locations
N. Miami Beach, FL 33181

Update: In the comments, Kathie reports that Paul in Miami “doesn’t even compare” to Paul in Paris. Over at Flickr, BeanBlossom reports that service at Paul on Lincoln Road is terrible. (N. Miami Beach location always has gushingly good service. I sort of prefer medium snooty service with my French food, another reason I like Folie.)

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  1. L2M    Wed Apr 9, 09:25 AM #  

    Sad thing is, given the dearth of European style bakeries in Miami, Paul has probably the best bread in town.

  2. kingofrance    Wed Apr 9, 09:51 AM #  

    dude, I thought you were going to stay quiet about A La Folie

  3. harumi    Wed Apr 9, 10:39 AM #  

    When I taught a class in North campus, I went to Paul almost every week. The bread is very good, but I don’t care their coffee too much. Bread is as good as Croissant Time in Ft Lauderdale.
    I took my French friend and she said the food taste same as paul in france.
    You can’t compare with Panela. They are so much more American and corporate than Paul. Paul actually reminds me French bakery in Japan.

  4. alesh    Wed Apr 9, 12:07 PM #  

    I dunno, Harumi. They may look less corporate, but I think appearances are deceiving.

    But point taken: sometime, I’ll stop in there just to buy a loaf of bread and report back.

    king~ one of these days i’m going to bigtime spill the beans. Sorry in advance.

  5. red    Wed Apr 9, 01:04 PM #  

    the thing is french people don’t really go to bakeries to EAT, if they buy something to eat at a bakery it will be a quick sandwich or a croque monsieur, they usually go there to buy a baguette or pastries. Paul doesn’t make the best bread but for Miami it’s clearly one of the bests, always good to have the taste of france in south florida cause the baguettes here SUCK, same for croissants or pains au chocolat.

  6. Kathie    Wed Apr 9, 02:34 PM #  

    For the best baguettes in Miami, you have to go down south of the Falls at Delices de France at SW 144th St and US1. I ate breakfast at Paul’s while in Paris and their breakfast and coffee is amazing. At the time, it was 8 euros for eggs, coffee or hot chocolate and a half baguette with butter and preserves. When Paul opened here, I went to try to experience again that wonderful breakfast experience, but doesn’t even compare.

  7. Beanblossom    Wed Apr 9, 06:28 PM #  

    Hey! I usually read the blog first and then see the flickr pics. Today was Opposite Day. :)

    Until that visit to Paul, I have never told anyone I wanted the tip back (because we added $6 tip when we paid at the counter using credit card). As a former server for many years, my biggest pet peeve is when someone cannot admit they screwed up and instead gives BS. I’m great with apologies and accept them!

    I guess I expected better from them given the hype. It doesn’t bug me as much when Panera screws up.

  8. Rick    Wed Apr 9, 07:30 PM #  

    What am I missing here?

    You profess not to like “corporate” chains. So you visit a corporate chain restaurant where you describe having delicious food but you give it a “thumbs down” because it’s corporate? WTF?

    I mean, why bother? If you’re not going to like it simply because it’s “corporate” even when they do what they’re supposed to do, that is, serve you a “delicious” meal, what sense does it make to patronize these places and then provide a “rating?”

    Again, I may be totally missing the point of you going into some place that you know is going to rub you the wrong way. If I am, please let me know.


  9. alesh    Wed Apr 9, 10:10 PM #  


    That’s fair enough. There are a few reasons I went, and honestly I wasn’t fully aware of the corporate background until I did my research this morning. But the real reason is that I accept the corporate thing, and sometimes deal with it pretty well. Cracker Barrel is plenty corporate, but I’ll eat there given the chance. All the places I buy my clothes (with the possible exception of the occasional thrift store) are corporate, and yet I’m fond of lots of those. I even sort of enjoy Panera once in a awhile, and they lay on the corporate eatery schtick as thick as anything this side of the fucking mermaid.

    For me, whether a place is someplace I like to return to over and over depends about equally on the food and the atmosphere. Some “corporate” places work for me, most don’t. Honestly, price has something to do with it, too; Any place like this is going to be more expensive then fast food, less expensive then a “restaurant” — where within that narrow range a place falls makes a difference. Not because I can’t afford a $15 breakfast, but because I want to feel a certain way when I’ve spent $15 on breakfast, in light of the fact that I know I can have a delightful breakfast for $8 at any of several Kosher delis (delightfully non-corporate) in the neighborhood (post coming soon!).

    Admittedly, this is all pretty idiosyncratic and personal, and I tried to make that as clear as possible in the post.

    I hope that makes sense.

  10. joe    Wed Apr 9, 10:58 PM #  

    “I even sort of enjoy Panera once in a awhile”

    In a vein similar to Paul’s, Panera got it’s start as a local bakery/cafe in University City, St. Louis called “The St. Louis Bread Co.”

    It was absolutely fantastic, then. Now, it’s corporate blegh.

  11. Carlos Miller    Thu Apr 10, 12:44 AM #  

    As corporate as they are, Panera has some amazing Asiago Cheese Bread.

  12. .    Thu Apr 10, 08:53 AM #  

    Stopped by Paul on the beach yesterday evening. Food was alright. Baguette was too chewy. Chocolate croissant was very good.

    I’d give it an overpriced B, which probably makes it one of the best in town, sadly.

  13. Carolina    Fri Apr 11, 02:48 PM #  

    Overall, service is mediocre(Lincoln Road) to average(Sawgrass). Food, however is bland and a bit overpriced. I’m willing to over pay if service is great and food is good. Paul doesn’t meet both, so I don’t go. Yeah, it’s corporate, but that is the last of my worries when the food isn’t good. Oh, and Panera? Tried it once and that was more than enough, never again.