Friday, May 6, 2011

Paul in review

A few nights ago, Penn Quarter Insider rushed to get to Paul before their 7:00 p.m. closing time for an early dinner.  Surprisingly, the place was packed.  There was a line going almost all the way to the door, and most of the seats were full.

There were two of us, and we were both excited to try Paul's fresh baked bread by having one of their signature sandwiches.  We were surprised to find, however, that the sandwiches are not made to order.  So if you wanted yours without mayonnaise or on a different type of bread, you're out of luck.  Furthermore, they are all pre-made in the morning and when they run out, they are out.   By the time Penn Quarter Insider got there, they only had two types of sandwiches left.  Also, be aware that the in-store menu doesn't exactly match up with the online menu, so grab a menu when you walk in.

This system, where they are simply picking up sandwiches and handing them to you, did not make the process go quickly.  The line was long and moved very slowly and the time from ordering a pre-made sandwich to paying for it took an inexplicably long time.

Paul, however, does not seem to be in the business of serving you quickly, so like so many Penn Quarter restaurants.  The space is extremely quiet--even when packed--and very relaxing.   Sitting down in the restaurant makes you feel as if you have been transported to a small town in France.  The hustle and bustle of Penn Quarter melts away around you.

The decor aids this ambiance.  There are classy chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, for example.

Even the high chairs for their younger guests are classy and decorative, not the cheap wood and buckles you are used to seeing:

Another refreshing change is how clean the restaurant is.   We are so used to going to quick-service restaurants in Penn Quarter where the tables are hardly ever even wiped down.  You are constantly sitting in and amongst filth, but not at Paul.

At Paul every table is clean and each place is set with a new and clean paper place mat.  You sit down, and the stress melts away.

The food is hard to judge since you don't get exactly what you want, and, in this case, we only had an option of two sandwiches.   The Sandwich Pavot Poulet was not amazing, but it was good.   You don't get to choose your bread, of course, despite their large selection of bread.  This leaves you buying a loaf of whatever bread you really want to eat on the side, which one person in our party did.

The bread is good.  It's very good.   However, our expectations for the bread were exceedingly high.  We aren't sure the bread is really we-spent-seven-hours-making-this bread (even though they did), but it is good.  The poppy seed baguette was the perfect combination between crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  The flamand two olive bread is loaded with olives, but it's also loaded with olive pits.  Those come as a surprise, since even olives in a bowl at a bar usually have the pits removed.

All-in-all, Paul is a great place to sit around on a weekend and relax or read the newspaper.  The atmosphere is one that you do not find in Penn Quarter very often.  It is classy, clean, and quiet.  The food is good, though not exceptional.  Sandwiches that are pre-made and sit out all day are only going to be so good though, and these are about as good as they're going to get.  Of course the inability to custom order makes it hard to be completely satisfied.

Our expectations for Paul were very high, and we were extremely excited to try it.  It is not perfect, but we will be back.

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