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Paul Bakery, 120-Year-Old French Bakery-Café Now in Several DC Locations


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Hi all!
I'm writing to make you aware that PAUL Bakery, a 120 yr. old upscale authentic French bakery, will be opening up its US Flagship shop on May 2, 2011 in Penn Quarter. PAUL is an authentic family-owned boulangerie (Bakery Café) that delivers the highest quality, freshly-baked bread & pastries in a traditional French bakery environment. It will be open 7 days a week from 7am to 7pm.

In Washington, our breads will include traditional baguettes and country breads, whole grain breads, and fruit and nut breads. We will serve the flaky, buttery croissants and pains au chocolat that you can normally only find in France. PAUL will also offer a wide range of sandwiches "“ that are made on baguettes, quiches, salads and soups to be enjoyed in the bakery or to take away. At night, you'll also be able to enjoy a glass of wine to accompany a baguette with cheese and charcuterie plate.

PAUL will be located in one of DC's most prime retail/restaurant locations: 801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, with its front doors opening onto the plaza of the US Navy Memorial, and directly across from The National Archives. A second PAUL store will open in Georgetown at the corner of Wisconsin Ave. and M St. later in the year. The opening of the PAUL stores here in DC are part of a joint-venture (PAUL DC VA MD Bakeries, LLC) which has been formed in partnership with the Capital Restaurant Concepts - the folks behind Paolos, JPaul's, etc.

More info about PAUL can be found at http://www.Paul-USA.com

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Mindful of the number of threads on DR.com about the state of baking and bread in our area and my own long time wish that we had more spots that really baked like the French, Mark Furstenberg, others who really do it the right way, I was very intrigued by this post.

While the proof will be in the rise (and run) come May, I pm'ed the poster to ask for more info. With permission, I post the response I received here. Could this really be what has long been lamented as not viable or at least present in DC?

In response to my request for more info about the people and methods behind the planned open (unedited):

"PAUL is going to serve traditional breads and pastries using the 120 recipes developed over 5 generations by the Holder family of French bakers. The breads you buy here in DC are exactly the same traditional breads you’d find in a bakery in Paris. The chief baker in Penn Quarter has just moved here from France and has worked at PAUL for many years. He will be providing rigorous training and oversight to our locally-hired team of bakers. The hand-crafted bread is baked on-site (and throughout the day to ensure freshness), using a traditional 7-hour fermenting and baking process to ensure the bread’s taste, texture and aroma. Please come try it out when it opens on May 2nd!"

And, here's a link to a Post article from last weekend with some of the back story (the bakery is mentioned about 3/4 of the way into the article):

http://wapo.st/g8bB6g

Good luck PAUL! Please let us know as you get closer to open and can share more details.

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I've been to the now-closed Paul on Biscayne Blvd in North Miami several times. I don't remember the bread being all that and a bag of chips. They do have 500 locations world-wide, according to their website, so they must be doing something right.

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Has anyone had experience with Paul in Europe? I'm sure I have on trips to France and the other countries where they operate but, for the life of me, can't remember the marque related to a specific quality or type of baguette.

Yes, very high hopes on this one. We'll know in a few weeks.

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Has anyone had experience with Paul in Europe? I'm sure I have on trips to France and the other countries where they operate but, for the life of me, can't remember the marque related to a specific quality or type of baguette.

Yes, very high hopes on this one. We'll know in a few weeks.

Over the past five years or so I have experienced their products in both Paris and London, especially one branch near Convent Garden in London. They have great breads, wonderful pastry and excellent sandwiches. They bake a variety of breads including croissant. Prices have been very reasonable too. Some branches have sit down space. I eagerly await their DC venture.

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When I was in Paris in 2008 I noticed Pauls all over the place, and that they were very busy, and gave me the impression of a Parisian version of Au Bon Pain. Our last morning we went early to one in St. Germain and ate pastries outside before the rest of the neighborhood woke up. We were kicking ourselves for making do with the hotel's not very good breakfast our previous mornings. I don't remember details about what I had, but my sister remembers she had a long pastry filled with chocolate and custard, and I have a photo of her looking at it with love.

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they were very busy, and gave me the impression of a Parisian version of Au Bon Pain.

Agreed. I have eaten at them dozens of times in Paris and thought the same thing. The product is good quality but certainly not the best - It's no Poilane or [insert favorite Paris bakery/pastry shop]. But it is still a lot better than Panera, Corner Bakery, etc. and most any pastry/bake shop in DC.

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Are you sure that the Paul's in Florida are closed? They are listed on their website (see below) and they have recent yelp reviews.

I went to the Miami Beach Paul's in the spring of 2008. It was the first time that I ever had a French-style macaron.

PAUL® LINCOLN ROAD

450 Lincoln Road

MIAMI BEACH - FL 33139

PAUL® AVENTURA MALL STORE

19575 Biscayne Boulevard, Store # 383

AVENTURA - FL 33180

Tél. : (1) 305 682 8012

PAUL® SAWGRASS MILLS MALL

1800 Sawgrass Mills Circle Space 2500

SUNRISE - FL 33323

Tél. : (1) 954 846 0344

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Yesterday I was in a meeting and I noticed someone eating a delicious looking sandwich and macaron. The bag said PAUL Maison de Qualite. For some reason that rang a bell, and the reason is that they have a few other US locations, all in South Florida, including one on very hip Lincoln Rd in Miami Beach, which is where I remembered PAUL from.

This is a very exciting development! And according to the PAUL website, they have another location planned for Georgetown.

Check it out: http://www.paulusa.com/

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I went the other day for lunch and had a ham/cheese baguette. Overall it was very good, a lot better than other options in the neighborhood. The ham was just okay, but the baguette had a nice crunch/chewiness (even if my jaw was a little sore by the end).

Also enjoyed a chocolate and almond (? not sure I am remembering this correctly) croissant for desert. Again, much better than anything else I can get in the neighborhood (including the farmer market on Thursdays) but not as good as anything Praline in Bethesda offers. The croissant was still a little warm but I'm not sure if it was still warm from cooking or from some sort of heated storage.

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I have had the salmon sandwich twice and loved it both times. I wish they carried French saucisson and ham from Bayonne (jambon de Bayonne), my two favorite French sandwiches though the salmon is much healthier. They will make a sandwich to order if you prefer a different bread than what they pre-prepared. My downfall though will be the flan pastry. I was never able to find the French version of flan in the states and always able to walk off the calories in France on vacation!

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0 for 2 on the sandwiches from Paul.

Sandwich Mixte - ham, swiss cheese, butter, got it with tomatoes and lettuce. Really one could make a better sandwich from a well stocked grocery store. The ham was flavorless, tomatoes of supermarket quality (during the height of tomato season no less), the butter was pretty much non-existant and flavorless (certainly did not have the full rich flavor one equates with good european butter), romaine lettuce that could just as easily be from a plastic bag. The baguette was nothing to get excited about.

Tomato & Mozzarella - Again just no flavor, bland tomatoes, bland mozz, bland pesto, bland baguette.

I wonder if the sandwiches suffer from being pre-made and sitting in a chill case...but the basic level of the ingredients used just seems average at best.

The cheese fougasse on the other hand was worth the price of admission.

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Had smoked salmon sandwich today. Fiance had a gigantic farmhouse salad and a leek quiche. The service is mediocre, but the bread was really nice as was the food. Had to flag down our quiche from one of the servers and there were flies all over the place, it was kind of gross.

Plus the family of 8 next to us didn't help, they were sitting at 4 different tables and wouldn't shut up.

Take out would probably had been a better idea.

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Georgetown location is open. Pretty good croissant, a little dense but not on the bready end of the spectrum The largest macarons I've ever seen; my friend, a recent convert, loved hers. They also had large canelés, pleasantly rummy, creamy inside, dark outside, just as they should be. Need to go back to try a baguette. Too small a space in front of the counter to accommodate the steady inflow of customers - lots of jostling going on.

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Georgetown location is open. Too small a space in front of the counter to accommodate the steady inflow of customers - lots of jostling going on.

It was super busy on Easter Sunday. I wanted to buy something but given that I just got off the train and was juggling two backpacks in a tight space, I wasn't quite fitting inside the store.

On the other hand, I wish I had the creativity to make this story up, but I just had to share, because I don't know who was the worse offender: the customer or the staff?

A woman came in, first-timer, asked the woman behind the counter: "Do you sell a tres leches cake?"

Lady behind the counter: A what?

Woman (enunciating slower): A tres leches cake.

Lady behind the counter (asks a male co-worker): Can you help her, I don't understand what she's asking.

Man behind the counter: Can I help you?

Woman: I was wondering if you sell a tres leches cake?

Man behind the counter: Never heard of it - what is it?

Woman: Never mind.

[Woman exits.]

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I'm currently enjoying a salmon & spinach quiche from Paul's which is delicious and just what I wanted--but I do have a question: Is it justifiable to charge six bucks for a macaroon? I actually ordered it (at the counter) and then turned it down when I learned the price. Seemed awfully steep, especially when their croissants are more like $3.50.

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In their defense, the $6 macarons are 4-5" across. They do sell normal size macarons for $15/dozen.

On the other hand, their macarons were not particularly good. The enormous version is too dense and has a brownie like texture. I actually prefer Trader Joe's macarons, and have tasted better versions at various area French restaurants.

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It was super busy on Easter Sunday. I wanted to buy something but given that I just got off the train and was juggling two backpacks in a tight space, I wasn't quite fitting inside the store.

On the other hand, I wish I had the creativity to make this story up, but I just had to share, because I don't know who was the worse offender: the customer or the staff?

A woman came in, first-timer, asked the woman behind the counter: "Do you sell a tres leches cake?"

Lady behind the counter: A what?

Woman (enunciating slower): A tres leches cake.

Lady behind the counter (asks a male co-worker): Can you help her, I don't understand what she's asking.

Man behind the counter: Can I help you?

Woman: I was wondering if you sell a tres leches cake?

Man behind the counter: Never heard of it - what is it?

Woman: Never mind.

[Woman exits.]

I'm a year late but hadn't seen the above and can't resist. Maybe she should have asked for a trois laits cake and all would have been well? :D

In their defense, the $6 macarons are 4-5" across. They do sell normal size macarons for $15/dozen.

On the other hand, their macarons were not particularly good. The enormous version is too dense and has a brownie like texture. I actually prefer Trader Joe's macarons, and have tasted better versions at various area French restaurants.

Defintely give Sweet Lobby a try if around Capitol Hill or in serious search of a respectable, classically French-style macaron.

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In their defense, the $6 macarons are 4-5" across. They do sell normal size macarons for $15/dozen.

On the other hand, their macarons were not particularly good. The enormous version is too dense and has a brownie like texture. I actually prefer Trader Joe's macarons, and have tasted better versions at various area French restaurants.

There is a place in Georgetown called Macaron Bee that looks interesting. They have a very wide variety of colors/flavors. I too have no interest in the gigantic variety of macarons. The small ones pack more than enough sweetness (I found the TJ chocolate to be the best; the vanilla were way too sweet for me).

Back to Paul -- the Penn Quarter location is a terrible space, long and narrow. Not good at prime times. Great coffee eclair, though. I have also tried the newest location at Connecticut and K, in the new building on the corner. Went early in the morning, but the space looked much more conducive to eating in. I got an apricot pastry that was very good, not quite great.

I can see how the tres leches cake query was met with bafflement. The workers are of the "we know what we know" ilk. They don't sell tres leches cake, so they don't know tres leches cake.

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I had the Faluche Roast Beef ($7.95) for lunch today. The bread was good, but that is where is ended. While I like a good balance in my sandwich (i.e., it doesn't have to be loaded with stuff), it does have to have something in it. Miniscule amounts of roast beef (one piece), grilled artichoke (two pieces), tomatoes (two slices) and spinach (plenty of that), no Roquefort (even though it was advertised as having it). It also took them almost 15 minutes to warm it up for me (to go order, when I ordered it, I was the only one in line).

At the same time, the pastries looked awesome, but the prices also were quite outrageous.

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After walking out of Founding Farmers dumbfounded (we made a reservation via OpenTable, they didn't have it in their system, we showed them the confirmation email, they told us they wouldn't seat us), my colleagues picked Paul as our dining destination because 1) it was across the street and 2) I couldn't convince them to go to Johnny Rocket's. Normally, I wouldn't try to convince anyone to go to Johnny Rocket's, but after my experience at Paul last month, I really wanted to avoid going again.

My sandwich (pastrami) suffered the same fate as my last sandwich there, not much more than bread to the sandwich (the bread is quite awesome though). Getting my iced tea was also a struggle (they pour it behind the counter for you, but won't bring it to your table, so I had to wait for whoever was the iced tea bitch for the day to do it). But, the biggest complaint that I had this time was the "table" that we sat at. It was a four top, but you could not actually fit all four of our plates on the table without one or more of them hanging precariously over the edge of the table. With one hand on my plate and my bag of chips between my knees, I was able to eat my bread sandwich with my other hand.

One thing I will say about this place, it is always an adventure when I walk in there.

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Since the Metro Center Paul opened up, I've had several visits...first I think their bread is pretty weak, esp. the baguette style breads, which they seem to use a lot for their sandwiches.    I'm going to assume that the pre-made sandwiches which hang out in the case doesn't help the bread's cause much.

A sandwich of salami, cornichons, and butter had good flavor, but the bread was dense, leaden even.  A sandwich of mozzarella, tomato and pesto was better, served on an olive bread.  I had them make it fresh and it helped.

Their regular coffee is weak, but the mini-pastries make for a nice morning snack.

Saturday we were wandering around downtown and needed a small snack, so we hit the 701 Penn Ave location.  The leek tart and the salmon served on puffy pastry were both nice, the pile of salad greens were overdressed.  The pistachio macaron was solid.  But it was nice sitting outside on the plaza on a beautiful day.

My overall impression of Paul is you think it's going to be better than what you get.

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Their baguette with ham, cheese, and butter is horrible.  With this classic sandwich I expect a nice boiled ham, not something smoky.  The sandwich had thich, almost Virginia-style smoked ham instead of a classic french ham.  It was not good.  And the bread was leaden.

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