After church yesterday, I wandered around the neighborhood with some friends looking for a place to eat. The 8th arrondissement is a hard place to find a restaurant which isn't expensive or touristy. It's also a pretty sleepy area on a Sunday. Most of the places were empty, but we passed by one restaurant that was bustling. It was full of families with kids (a little unusual) and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. We looked for the menu (la carte, in French), but couldn't find one posted outside. But because it looked like the place to be in this neighborhood, we decided to try it anyway.
When we sat down, they didn't bring us la carte, but instead asked us how we wanted our meat cooked. We told them, and within a couple of minutes, they brought us a small salad. Then, within a few moments of our finishing, they brought us a plate of steak with frites (fries). On top of the steak was some kind of sauce, maybe an herb butter. We began to eat, unsure of what we had gotten ourselves into. But it was fabulous! The steak was tender and juicy, and the sauce only added to the delicious flavor. The frites were crispy and golden. We looked around and realized that everyone else was eating exactly the same thing. This is the only thing they serve in the restaurant, something which explains the super-fast service.
Then, just as we were finishing our hearty portions, the waitress came over with a second helping of everything. I was shocked, becuase this does not usually happen in France. There are no "seconds," at least not in restaurants. French establishments usually offer a portion size which is just right -- not too big, like most American restaurants, but not too small. But here she was, giving us more steak (not as much as the first time) and frites. We couldn't say no.
As we sat there, I could watch the line out the door grow, so that by the time we left, there were a couple of dozen people standing outside waiting to get in (at 2:00 PM). This is clearly somthing which many Parisians know about and have made their Sunday lunch tradition. Turns out that Le Relais de l'Entrecote has several locations, including in Geneva, and many people have reviewed it on Paris food websites. But we just stumbled into it one Sunday afternoon. Sometimes, those accidental finds turn out to be the best places. And Paris is full of such accidental finds.
See their website: http://www.relaisentrecote.fr/