Soul Food in Paris: Chez Haynes

Chez Haynes

This post is in honor and memory of the victims of Katrina. Please donate what you can to the Red Cross or the charity of your choice. Thank you.

In 1949, Louisiana-born Leroy Haynes opened the very first American restaurant in Paris. He was a cook, an actor, a wrestler and a sociologist, he had many friends from both sides of the Atlantic, and his restaurant quickly became a favorite hangout for the local African American community and visiting celebrities. Jazz musicians, singers and dancers, Hollywood actors, all of them smiling and beautiful on the black and white pictures hanging from the walls, with little notes to Leroy scribbled in the corners. When Leroy died some fifteen years ago, his wife took on the operations and made sure Haynes’ spirit and food lived on.

In its present location since the mid-sixties, the restaurant‘s facade looks unprepossessing to say the least, with the kind of secretive look that makes you wonder if it’s actually open, if you’re welcome to step in or if maybe it’s a private club. This undoubtedly explains why, although Haynes is but a few blocks from our place, we had never dined there.

But considering the current catastrophic events, what better time than the present to go and eat a little soul food? So off we went a few days ago, our neighbor-friends in tow. The restaurant was very quiet that night, with just a few other tables, which allowed us to chat for a while with Haynes’ widow Maria, and Cesar, the Brazilian waiter who also organizes wildly popular live samba nights on Sundays.

While we perused the menu we were brought a basket of toasted corn bread (apologies for the less-than-stellar cell phone pics) and a little jar of spicy sauce, which we slathered on the sweet, moist and crusty corn bread with great displays of pleasure. We then shared an assortment of three first courses — fried gizzards (who could resist), the chef’s coleslaw with pineapple and hot chicken tamales.

Wanting to keep the whole menu American, we decided to have wine from California, and toasted to better times for New Orleans with a very forgettable Paul Masson chardonnay — maybe we should have stuck to margaritas!

For the main course, Stéphan ordered the T-bone, which Maria warned us was actually a simple filet de boeuf because her French butcher won’t cut T-bones. No matter, the (huge slab of) meat was tender and juicy. Patricia had the Mexican chili (the best she’d ever eaten) and Maxence ordered Sister Lena’s barbecued ribs (the meat could have been juicier in our opinion). As for me, I had to have the New Orleans gumbo with shrimp, chicken and okra — delicious and full of flavors.

We had very little room for dessert, but for the sake of research we felt it was our duty to sample some of the homebaked goods: we shared a slice of cheesecake (which everyone liked but me) and a slice of a truly admirable banana cake, served warm.

Haynes’ is a charming, homely and friendly place. The food is prepared with honesty and simplicity, the legendary decor brings an additional depth to the experience, and I will definitely be back. Must try the honey fried chicken!

Chez Haynes
3 rue Clauzel – 75009 Paris
01 48 78 40 63

This post is in honor and memory of the victims of Katrina. Please donate what you can to the Red Cross or the charity of your choice. Thank you.

  • http://www.lambertplanet.com kathie

    That sounds a wonderful place. I’ll persuade John to take me. Where can you get cornmeal here (in France) and what is it called? Please let me in on the secret as I regularly made corn bread when we were living in London.
    Thank You.

  • http://yvonnep.web-log.nl yvonnep

    This sure is a very, very good idea. Next time we’re in Paris…

  • Patsy

    Clotilde –

    Thanks for your thoughtful and heartfelt posting today.

    I’m a food writer and I couldn’t face writing another restaurant/marketing/cooking feature for this week after the disaster, so I, too, decided to write about New Orleans, my times there, and I included some of my favorite recipes from the region.

    There are two specifically food-related charity organizations I can add for your readers’ consideration. They are America’s Second Harvest and Feed the Children.

  • Patsy

    PS: I neglected to list the addresses for the Katrina aid organizations. Here they are:
    http://www.secondharvest.org and http://www.feedthechildren.org . Thanks for any donations!

  • Jean-Paul

    Les spare-ribs sont ils toujours aussi bons ???????? Et surtout les foies de volailles panés avec les oignons frits, Quel régal !!!!!! On y allait déjà il y a 30 ans. C’est super la famille continue d’y aller. Ton oncle
    We used to go there 30′s years ago !!! What about the spare ribs and the delicious breadcrumbs poultry livers with onions. Very good idea to go there. Your uncle

  • Carrie

    Good God, this post made me sad. There never was, nor ever will be again, anyplace on earth like New Orleans. My mother grew up on the Gulf Coast, so we’ve taken several trips down there. I’ve spent most of my adult cooking life trying to recreate old creole and cajun recipes, vegetarian-style. In the spring my boyfriend and I made competing cajun gumbos — mine “zherbes” (for penitence) and his crab and lobster — and it made so much we called everyone we knew to come eat them. Some racist Americans are saying all kinds of horrible things about the black poor of New Orleans, clearly knowing nothing about what life was down there. It wasn’t about having money and looking pretty, like it is in the rest of the country. It was about eating well, loving well, and living simply, surrounded by music and friends. I’ll miss it.

  • http://www.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=chezchristine Christine

    Thank you for posting on New Orleans, I just moved to Paris from the states and am devasated at what’s going on.

    I look forward to going to this restaurant when I need a fix of good ol’ American soulfood!

  • zenitra

    Thank you for the post regarding New Orleans and the food of New Orleans that is so much a significant part of the rich, unique cultural contribution made by New Orleans and the State of Louisiana to us all.

    Please keep the survivors of Hurricane Katrina in your thoughts and prayers and do whatever you can to help.

    Z

  • Rose

    A very thoughtful post, Clotilde, thank you so much. Nice idea to celebrate New Orleans’ great food culture. We are all so overwhelmed by the TV images and the suffering that it’s good to be reminded of what NO once was and will be again — in whatever form it takes.

  • Maria Gikkette

    Dear Clotilde,

    Merci – and Thank You for your generous spirit and kind wishes for our Gulf Coast.
    Paul Masson? Honey, come vist and we will raise a glass of California wine!

  • http://www.toomanychefs.com Meg

    Clotilde, Haynes is my favourite place to go for Thanksgiving dinner (unless I’m making it myself). The food is very authentic and the atmosphere is always great!

  • http://www.toomanychefs.com Meg

    P.S. What was wrong with the cheesecake? Too dry?

  • Pesto Man

    As an Evacuated resident of New Orleans
    (and member of the cz forums) I can only
    thankyou all for the out-pouring of sympathy and love for my city, my only
    quibble, is “please don’t mourn our passing just yet! We are badly dammaged, but not dead, we are a strong determined folk, who will rebuild (with a little help from our friends) and the music will play, the gumbo will simmer, and “the good times will pass” yet again

  • http://glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com shauna

    Thank you, Clotilde, for the little glimpse into soul food in Paris. I’ve been brokenhearted by all this, but I’ve also been sweetly touched by the outpouring of memories and sweet tastes from food bloggers all over the world. I made red beans and rice for the first time last night, in the spirit of New Orleans. And someday, I’ll be able to go there and have the real dish.

    Oh no–Paul Masson wine. That’s cheap grocery store wine here. Please tell them to stock something from Washington State instead!

  • Amanda

    Ah, Chez Haynes. Splendide!

    I went there on New Year’s Day 1999 while living in Paris as a student and an intern. Eager to find the requisite black eyed peas and collard greens that I needed to appropriately fete that holiday, Haynes Bar found me.

    The meal was beautifully done. The fried chicken and greens with “pot likka” is like a gospel hymn, earthy and soulful, nourishing and satisfying. I wasn’t homesick that year at all but the magic of the cuisine and the love of Haynes Bar practically brought me to my knees.

    Merci enormement de me redonner ce beau souvenir.

  • Sarah

    What a lovely tribute, I cannot think of a more humble and fitting tribute to beautiful N.O than for everyone to quietly simmer some gumbo on the homefires and spare a thought for those going without.

    Sarah

  • Alisa

    That was so beautifully written. I have passed that place before, and was curious. Now with your endorsement, and Meg’s! it’s on the must do list!

  • Sylvia

    Thank you for your tribute. I was in New Orleans the weekend before Katrina made landfall but managed to leave 24 hours before it hit, fleeing to Atlanta (500 miles) in my rental car. I must second Pesto Man’s plea: don’t mourn New Orleans’ passing yet! My son was to have enrolled as a freshman at Tulane University; he will be temporarily attending college in California, but we definitely intend to return to N.O., and I know it will rise again. We will never forget the hospitality and warmth of the people there, from the grocer from whom we bought bottled water to the hotel clerk who patiently guided us to I-20 so that we could leave town. The music, the culture, the food, the people–all are unique. Oh–and I got to eat a po-boy and seafood before I left.

  • http://camillelegall.typepad.com Camille

    Salut Clotilde,

    C’est génial que tu sois allée chez Haynes… On en avait parlé quand on s’était vues! Je vais y aller aussi. Tu devrais essayer Bayou la Seine pour sa cuisine cajun, c’est rue Saint Paul, dans le Marais. je me suis régalée avec leurs beignets de tomates vertes, comme dans le film!

  • http://croque-choux.typepad.com Sandra

    Dear Clotilde,
    Thank you so much for posting this! I have been living in and around Paris the past 21 years, and I never knew there was a soul food restaurant here (duh!). Also, my father was from Louisiana and could whip up a mean dish of gumbo- another reason I’ll be sure to check out Haynes. Love your blog by the way! Thanks for dedicating this post to New Orleans too. Here’s to better times :o)

  • http://www.appetites.us Robert

    Hey Clotilde,

    Let me echo a few other people in thanking you for thinking about New Orleans. It’s been a long haul, but I think we’ll make it back at some point.

    Keep up the good work, and cheers y’all.

    Robert

  • shannon

    I’m just seeing this post for the first time as i just now have phone/internet service in New Orleans. I am traveling to Champagne with a stopover in Paris and was looking for restaurants when I ran across this post.
    I just want to say that I am surprised and touched by the comments of all of the posters. Down here in NOLA, we all feel like no one cares about what is happening to us any more.
    It gives me such hope to hear that people as far away as paris are hoping for the best for us. Thank you everyone.

    Les Bon Tempes Rouler
    Shannon

  • Caryn

    Thank You so much, you are too kind. I will be traveling to Paris on May 31,2006 from New Orleans. My friends and I are taking our dream vacation. The spirit down here is unbelievable. When all was happening with the storm I meditated on where would I live if Iam unable to return home. Could not think of no other place I would rather be then New Orleans. I look so forward to visiting Paris and will make stop at this soul food restaurant. I am so excited. Thank you so much for caring

    Caryn

  • http://www.anotherfoodblog.com Jackie Danicki

    We visited Chez Haynes tonight, a much anticipated meal for my 29th birthday, and if I didn’t know better, I’d think that you and I visited completely different restaurants!

    Cesar was nice, and the food was quite good (except the cornbread, which was dry). I had gumbo and it was delicious; I also sampled Antoine’s chilli and it was great, too. We started by sharing some American potato salad (very good, considering I hated it as a child!) and the tamales (also lovely).

    But there were a couple of disturbing things about this restaurant. First, there was a man lurking at the front door who looked at us as if we had just pushed his grandmother in front of a train. (He later was hanging out behind the bar and brought us our bread, so he wasn’t just a random ray of anti-sunshine.) Then Maria was deeply unfriendly to us; she stared at us the whole time we ate, and when I smiled at her, she simply turned her head. (I was with my fiancé and his mother, and I can assure you that we were very polite, quiet customers!)

    Finally – and I have to admit, I saw this one coming – they tried to charge us 15 Euros (5 each) ‘music cover’. When we entered the restaurant, there was no band (no customers either; we were the only ones there the entire time, at 8PM on a Friday night). Halfway through our meal, two men started playing the piano and saxophone; it sounded like they were practicing, to be honest, but whatever. While we did see the music cover notice on the menu, the complete absence of any band (or mention of it from our waiter) indicated to us that there was to be no music tonight. Honestly, if we’d known that a band was coming, we would have left: I wanted a quiet family meal for my birthday, and the music only served to make conversation impossible.

    In the end, Cesar accepted that it was sneaky of them to try to make us pay for the music, and removed it from our bill (Antoine explaining that he’d rather put another 15 Euros towards his tip may have helped convince him!).

    Plus, I did not think this restaurant provided good value for money. 16 Euros for a bowl of gumbo and a side plate of rice is bad enough, but 4.50 for a Diet Coke? Cheeky.

    All in all, I could understand why Chez Haynes was completely empty. The guest book at the door was also blank for the previous two days, which says something, too.

    This was the only disappointing, aggravating dining experience we have had during our week in Paris, and I really wish we’d had an experience which had some resemblance to yours, Clotilde. I hate to be so negative about a restaurant, but we had planned this meal well in advance and were so looking forward to it. 115 Euros (including transport from our hotel) and one tainted birthday later, I would not recommend Chez Haynes to anyone. There are so many places to enjoy good food and stellar service in Paris. This is not one of them. I’m just glad your experience was better, Clotilde!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Dear Jackie,

    So very sorry you had a bad experience at Haynes’. I haven’t been there in a few months now, but it does seem like the kind of restaurant where the ambiance is largely dependant on which mood the staff happens to be in (not a good thing, obviously). On the handful of occasions that we went they were very friendly, and the restaurant was half-full or full. And I have never heard of the music cover thing, even when we went on Sunday nights for the samba session.

    Again, sorry about the disappointing b-day celebration, and thanks for sharing your experience so other diners can see both sides of that coin…

  • Jenny Sadler

    This place was wonderful. The staff was very hospitable and they did there best to find a soul food meal suitable for a vegetarian. It was delicious and I appreciated the lack of mockery at a vegetarian trying to order soul food.

  • Laidback

    Chez Haynes closed just a few weeks ago; many years after the death of Leroy.

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