Literally hidden on the most discreet part of the lively rue Greneta in the 2nd district of Paris, not far from the Passage du Grand Cerf, you’ll find (if you know where to look) a tiny, hip, cozy little restaurant called Rice and Beans. So branché*, in fact, that it almost seemed like an exclusive club, only accessible to those ‘in the know.’
I first heard about the place after discovering Le Camion Qui Fume, Paris’ first food truck and venture of former Rice and Beans chef Kristin Frederick. After tasting the slow-cooked and beer-infused pork sandwich at the mobile restaurant, I figured that scoping out her former place of work was probably a must.Very few visible signs welcomed me in from outdoors, aside from a barely legible sandwich board boasting guacamole! Burritos! Tacos! I had to walk past the entrance twice, first spying a busy kitchen and a trash bin and thinking that the entrance must be further along, only to double back and make my way inside.
I was welcomed by an energetic and smiling young man, who quickly ended his phone conversation and initiated me to the art of Rice and Beans. The menu was simple (as all good menus should be): marinated pork (carnitas), tacos à la carte*, burritos, rice, beans, guacamole… The decor, however, was anything but simple. Colorful and cheery, it felt like what I imagine Mexico looks like in my head (having only experience in Cozumel, and for a few hours on my cruise stop last summer, I can’t pretend to know what Mexico actually looks like). Skeletons and pinatas, photos of sandy beaches, trendy food magazines and picnic style tables, an open kitchen with an intimate counter-style dining area, and smooth music emanating from the back room made me feel very happy about the day’s choice of dining.
I barely looked at the menu, stopping right at the top when I saw pork carnitas, and ordered an El Super pork burrito and grabbed the latest edition of Fooding magazine to pass the time, although I hardly needed it with all the eye candy filling up the small and cluttered-yet-spacious room. A mere three or four minutes later and my Mexican fare was laid before me, steaming, fragrant and wrapped in foil, with a small ramekin filled with hot sauce on the side. Roasted pork, cheddar, guacamole, rice, beans and various other garnishes… I had nothing left to do but dive in.
The first bite was heavenly: the guacamole was tangy, the pork sweet and spicy, the rice full of subtle flavors, the hot sauce just hot enough. I devoured by burrito and realized, much to my surprise, that I had no room left for dessert. The best part was the bill, only 8.50 for an all-in-one, copious meal. Even better, they accepted tickets restaurants*, and mine just happened to be worth 8.30€. I fished 20 centimes* out of my purse and gladly handed them to the man behind the counter. As I was leaving, he asked how the food was. I replied that it was excellent, but mentioned that the restaurant was hidden from prying eyes, and a bit hard to find. “Ouais, c’est pour les connaisseurs*,” he replied with a wink. That’s when my suspicions were confirmed, and I realized that maybe this little place wasn’t, like nearly all restaurants in the capital, just trying to make a quick buck, but maybe, just maybe, was actually interested in just making really good food, and serving it to a select few insiders.
*branché: hip, trendy
*à la carte: sold individually
*tickets restaurants: restaurant vouchers given by most companies in France that don’t have on-site dining options (i.e. a cafeteria)
*Ouais, c’est pour les connaisseurs: Yeah, it’s for those in the know
To find out more about Rice and Beans, visit their website: http://riceandbeansparis.fr/
To see the schedule of Paris’ first food truck, Le Camion Qui Fume, visit their website: http://www.lecamionquifume.com/