Not “Too French”: Eating in Nice, France

Mark Bittman, New York Times Travel writer, claims that if there is something wrong with France, it is that its food is too “French.” He goes on to say, “Offerings like crepes, coq au vin and cassoulet are so common that there is a danger of forgetting that they all have actual regions of origin and are not national dishes.” In his article Nice: Going Straight to the Source for Provençal Cuisine, Bittman gives advice to travelers in Nice, France who are looking for local cuisine. Not only does he offer overviews of restaraunts, he gives delicious food suggestions.

“The good restaurants in Vieux Nice are truly authentic, not even remotely fancy, though a couple are lovely, especially if the weather allows you to sit outside. By fortunate coincidence, they’re also notably inexpensive, though all of them would remain worth a visit if they doubled their prices.

Chez Palmyre is not the best restaurant in Vieux Nice, or even the best on Rue Droite (Acchiardo, I think, could make that claim), but if you asked me for the one restaurant you should not miss were you in town only for a day, this would be where I’d send you. It offers real, local home cooking, so that even if there were an equivalent in every city in the world (which there most decidedly is not), each would be unique.

Chez Palmyre is the opposite of stylish and trendy; the décor is irrelevant, as if done by one of your more impoverished and tasteless older relatives. The service is friendly and effective; the owner, a large, middle-aged, hard-working woman wearing coke-bottle glasses, brings you menus and tolerably decent wine, takes your order and proceeds to go cook it. The ingredients are from the local markets (by “local,” I’m pretty sure we’re talking about a half-mile radius), the menu changes daily, the repertory is limited, and the experience ironically exotic. What will you eat? I’m not sure; nearly everything on the menu changes daily. For first courses, I sampled a plain but flavorful vegetable soup with croutons; a fine little salade niçoise; and hard-boiled eggs with anchovies, a fish with which this stretch of the Mediterranean is obsessed.”