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Bars, bistros, cafés and restaurants...
Maigret's favorite places

by Murielle Wenger

original French

"It was good to see once more a real zinc countertop,
sawdust on the floor, a waiter in a blue apron...
(Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH])

In his indispensable book – almost a bible! – entitled Paris chez Simenon (Éditions Encrage, 2000), Michel Lemoine has catalogued all the Parisian places mentioned in Simenon's works, including those written under synonyms and autobigraphical texts. Therein we find the names of all the streets, avenues, and districts mentioned by Simenon, as well as buildings – from hotels, cafés and restaurants, to shops, museums, ministries, hospitals – and so on and on. We can make a tour of the capital, seen through the eyes of the novelist, and have a complete panorama of references.

It was with the assistance of this book that I was able to check my own research in the Maigret corpus, on the theme I've decided to treat at this time, to discover the cafés, restaurants, bistros and other bars frequented by the Chief Inspector in his long Parisian wanderings.

And indeed, when Maigret is looking for something to eat or drink, he goes into one of these public places, a bar, a bistro, a café or a restaurant. And while the latter may be exclusively reserved for culinary feasts, the others serve principally as thirst quenchers. Though if they happen to serve food as well, Maigret canʻt be blamed for giving it a taste.

To begin, Iʻve done a little statistical analysis concerning these places, and here are my results.

I worked with about 350 references to these establisments in my Maigret corpus, and the first thing we note is that the percentage of bars is the highest (about a third of the citations). Then bistros and restaurants (a fifth each). And finally, cafés (about 15%). However, sometimes these designations are interchangeable, the author referring to the same spot, sometimes as a bistro, sometimes as a café or a bar. And we can also cite brasseries (about 10%), which could be added in with restaurants, but which Iʻve kept separate, since the author himself marks the difference by reserving the more precise term for them. And I've counted references to the Brasserie Dauphine separately, since rather than simply a place for Maigret to eat, it has become a kind of annex, an extension of his office...

Another element to consider is the location of these establishments, and that's especially where Michel Lemoine's book has been extremely useful... Like him, I've used the Parisian arrondissements for my groupings. And we see that it's in the 9th arrondissement that the largest pecentage of examples (more than a fifth) is found. This 9th arrondissement is among those in which Maigret investigates most often (perhaps the explanation...), it's Pigalle, with its mythical Simenonean locales... Place Clichy, Place Blanche, and the Rue Fontaine. But it also encompasses all of Montmartre and the Grands Boulevards, other favorite sites of the Chief Inspector. Some 12% of the mentions are in the 8th arrondissement. That's the quarter of the Champs-Elysées, but also of those little streets "behind the scenes" of the major arteries, and the Place des Ternes. We find next, each with about 8% of the citations, the 18th, 1st, 6th, 3rd and 4th. Between 3 and 5% of the citations are in the 14th, 10th, 17th, 5th, 2nd and 11th arrondissements, with 2% in the 12th and 15th. There are only 4 mentions in the 7th, 3 in the 19th, and 2 in the 13th. Finally, the 16th and 20th are mentioned but once apiece. Below is a map of these arrondissements, grouped by color accoding to the number of citations....

We should note that these 350 notations concern not only places frequented by Maigret, but also those simply mentioned in the text. At this time we'll focus on the establishments actually visited by Maigret, and to examine what he drinks, and what he chooses to eat, and thus to create a list of the Chief Inspector's "favorite places".

The first point we'll consider is that of the drinks Maigret consumes in the bars, cafés and bistros. And we note that when the Chief Inspector visits one of these establishments, the author does not always specify what he has there. However, we find a good hundred of them specified. And when we examine these, over a third are – no surprise – beer, the famous "demis" our hero imbibes, leaning on the zinc counter. We then find almost a fifth are glasses of white wine, and a tenth, Calvados. And then, in lesser quantities, run grog, coffee, marc brandy, anise apéritifs (Pernod, Pastis), Cognac, and various others.

The décor of these establishments, to the extent the author sketches them with strokes of his pen, evokes for us the black and white photographs by Doisneau (see for example,,bistrots.htm) or Brassaï... murky gray light around the light bulb; in a corner, a phone booth enclosed by a frosted glass door; sometimes a billiard table or a slot machine; smoke rising from the pipes and cigarettes; the walls plastered with mirrors and advertising calenders; the waiters polishing the counter, spreading sawdust on the floor; the patron, from Auvergne with a black mustache, shirtsleeves rolled up, and a blue apron; a fat,blonde cashier; two masons in white jackets leaning on the tin counter; card-platyers; and, sometimes, a lady of the night, relying on a hypothetical client; without forgetting the terrace, where one can settle down in front of a marble pedestal table, "to drink a cold beer or some apéritifs, looking admiringly at the pretty women passing by" (Félicie est là [FEL])…

Now let's consider the varieties of more substantial food that Maigret consumes in these places. Of course, cafés, bars and bistros generally serve only drinks, but it happens, from time to time, that Maigret might pick up a sandwich or a croissant. And in even rarer cases, the Chief Inspector might even have a complete meal. Thus, down a few steps in a little Norman bar on the Quai des Grands-Augustins, smelling strongly of Calvados (Maigret s'amuse [AMU]), Maigret, awaiting the results of the interrogation of Dr Jave, will eat a sole normande, rôti de veau, some cheese, and finish with a coffee and a Calvados accompanied by Martine Chapuis. In the Auvergnat's bistrot, Rue Lhomond (Maigret en meublé [MEU]),he appreciates the mutton stew, even if it causes him an unquenchable thirst... Another Auvergnat's, Rue des Acacias this time (La patience de Maigret [PAT]), offers rillettes du Morvan, calf's leg with lentils, cheese and plum pie with cinammon, a tempting menu the Chief Inspector enjoys in the company of Judge Ancelin.

In brasseries, Maigret is often satisfied with beer, but he'll sometimes order the speciatly of the house, choucroute, sauerkraut, served with beer as well. Perhaps at the Taverne Royale, Rue Royale (La guinguette à deux sous [GUI]), the Canon de la Bastille, Boulevard Henri-IV and the Cadran, Rue de Maubeuge ("A fine brasserie, to Maigret's taste, still not modernized, with its classic belt of mirrors on the walls, its dark red moleskin seats, white marble tables, and, here and there, a nickel bowl for used dishcloths." (Maigret et son mort [MOR]), the Brasserie Clichy, Boulevard de Clichy (Signé Picpus [SIG] and La première enquête de Maigret [PRE]), the brasserie on Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle (Maigret et son banc [BAN]), an Alsatian brasserie, situated in an (unfortunately) unknown location, between the quai and the Station and Maigret's office, but where they served a choucroute "lavish and plentifully garnished, with shiny sausages and fresh pink pickled pork" (Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants [TEM]), the Brasserie Franco-Italienne, Boulevard Montparnasse (Maigret et les braves gens [BRA]), and a brasserie on Rue Caulaincourt (Mademoiselle Berthe et son amant [ber]). Not forgetting the two famous brasseries, Chez Manière, again on Rue Caulaincourt, where Maigret ordered the andouillette sausage, while Madame had the cold lobster à la mayonnaise (Maigret et le fantôme [FAN]), and La Coupole, Boulevard du Montparnasse, the setting for the memorable dinner at the end of Les caves du Majestic [MAJ], "What do I owe you, waiter?... I had a steak, something from the trolley, prime rib, let's see... three portions of chips, and three demis…"

As for the Brasserie Dauphine, besides substantial sandwiches, it offers a more substantial menu, where veal seems to occupy the place of honor... various appetizers, small Brittany whiting or herring fillets to begin, then, for the main dish, veal marengo, veal stew "with the good scent of a family kitchen", calf's head, veal liver en papillotes, sweetbreads with mushrooms, and above all smooth, creamy blanquette de veau, "with a golden yellow sauce, very fragrant", or, for a bit of a change, andouillette with mashed potatoes or French fries, or tripes à la mode de Caen... and for dessert, almond cake.

Besides the bistros of Les Halles, where Maigret had M. Pyke try tripes à la mode de Caen et and crêpes Suzette (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]), we find a list of restaurants with diverse and varied menus. Sometimes Maigret eats there alone, as at the Filet de Sole, Place des Victoires (Maigret chez le ministre [MIN]), where he orders a Dieppe sole, and drinks Pouilly; for andouillette, Maigret goes to a restaurant on Rue Neuve-Saint-Pierre (Maigret et le voleur paresseux [PAR]) or Rue de Miromesnil, Au Petit Chaudron, where, if you're on the patron's "good" list, you also have the right to the "baba au rhum smothered in whipped cream" (Maigret hésite [HES]); Rue Caulaincourt, Maigret unearths a little drivers' restaurant, where he savors the veal with sorrel and a Beaujolais (Mademoiselle Berthe et son amant [ber]).

But the Chief Inspector often prefers to share these feasts... At the Chope Montmartre, Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, Maigret, in the company of Chief Inspector Colombani of the Sûreté, and the Director of the Folies-Bergères (Maigret et son mort [MOR]), does honor to the menu... blue trout, partridge with cabbage, washed down with Châteauneuf; at Pozzo's Italian restaurant, Rue des Acacias (Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG]), Maigret has Lognon to dinner of spaghetti and scallops à la florentine, with Chianti; in a restaurant on Rue de Bourgogne, Maigret, with Janvier, enjoys skate with black butter and asparagus (Maigret et les vieillards [VIE]); at La Sardine, Rue Fontaine (Maigret et l'indicateur [IND]), the Chief Inspector, again accompanied by Janvier, is served coquilles Saint-Jacques, braised beef ribs, and Beaujolais; at the Clou Doré, Rue Fontaine, Maigret dines with Lapointe, on paella, with Tavel (La patience de Maigret [PAT]); at the Vieux Pressoir, Boulevard de Grenelle (Le voleur de Maigret [VOL]), the Chief Inspector finds a good table, and then he eats twice... the first time, with Lapointe, a chowder fourasienne, with a little white wine from Charentes, salt-marsh lamb with a red Bordeaux, and to finish it off, an old Armagnac. The second time Maigret is alone, and he has the scallops, then the duckling à l'orange; Maigret invites an American criminologist to dinner on a little street near the Porte d'Orléans, (Cécile est morte [CEC])... they feast on ceps à la bordelaise and coq au vin, served with a Beaujolais, then a creamy mocha cake, and to finish in style, an old Armagnac; in another Italian restaurant, Chez Gino, near the Rue de l'Etoile (Un échec de Maigret [ECH]), Maigret, accompanied by Martine Gilloux, has hors-d'œuvres and a spaghetti Milanaise.

And there are also restaurants where Maigret brings his wife... the Alsatian restaurant on Rue d'Enghien, where Maigret savors a "choucroute as he likes it", while his wife prefers the hotpot Lorraine (L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME]); an Italian restaurant on Boulevard de Clichy where they have spaghetti (Maigret s'amuse [AMU]); sometimes Maigret chooses a restaurant for its specialties of fish and seafood, on the Champs-Elysées (Maigret s'amuse [AMU]), or in the Latin Quarter (Maigret hésite [HES]); on Rue de la Grande-Armée, the Maigrets go to eat vichyssoise, duck à l'orange and brie, while drinking Saint-émilion (Maigret se défend [DEF]); on the Place des Victoires, the Maigrets savor delicious sweetbreads, lamb chops, and strawberry cake (La folle de Maigret [FOL]); in a little restaurant on Boulevard du Montparnasse, the Maigrets, this time accompanied by the Pardons, once more enjoy the menu of their first meal together, mutton stew with a carafe of Chavignol (Maigret et les vieillards [VIE]).

Lastly, to finish up, let's make a little getaway "outside the walls" of Paris, shall we say on the banks of the Seine, at Bougival, where Maigret sits down to dine in a little inn in the company of Dédé (La première enquête de Maigret [PRE]), to savor fried gudgeon and un coq au vin rosé de beaujolais; or on the banks of the Marne, at Joinville where the Maigrets and the Pardons return to Chez le Pères Jules (Maigret s'amuse [AMU]), again for fried gudgeon!, then a grilled andouille and French fries, finishing with Calvados.

And so we conclude our tour of public places dear to Maigret, necessary stops on the route of an investigation... "He needed to escape from his office, to breathe the air outside, to discover, with each new case, new worlds. He needed the bistros where he wound up waiting so often at the zinc counter, drinking a demi or a Calvados depending on the circumstances." (Maigret et monsieur Charles [CHA])

translation: S. Trussel
Honolulu, March 14, 2015

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