Today JJ is chatting with Alieu, co-owner of energetic cafe deli, Sunday in Soho in Paris’s second arrondissement. Let’s get the inside scoop on why this spot is a Good Vibes rated place, with good and drinks eats too.
What was this ideal job you came to Paris for?
My wife had been offered a big job for Dior and I was winding down at my second startup company in New York. My initial idea was to open a juice shop in Paris, but I quickly realized that this idea didn’t fulfil a real need. What I did see was that there was a lack of neighborhood places offering food that was fresh and not too expensive. So I said why not create this! Why not create something that is created to improve your day. The more I thought about the idea, the more I realized what I really wanted was not only to open a place for good fresh food, but a place full of friendly people.
Are there any specific places that inspired you?
Our food is inspired by our travels: Gjusta Bakery, The Butcher’s Daughter, Cava Grill, Dig Inn –and most of all by our community.
What were the most important things for you to be able to recreate an atmosphere found in NYC here in Paris?
Being ourselves. Yes, if you go to the 10th or the 11th arrondisements, you’re going to find places that are really interesting and I totally respect their pursuit – but for me, I often feel like they are expropriations of culture. They’re like chaotic imitations of what you can find in New York. For us the most important thing is to do what we know how to do. No, we don’t have baguettes and croissants, and actually a lot of customers ask us why. But for me, being authentic means staying in our comfort zone. We are a global team – the head chef is from Canada, the sous-chef is from Italy, my wife and I are American. I want Sunday in Soho to represent the American melting pot. No, we don’t have burgers and fries on the menu, because America isn’t about burgers and fries. It’s about dishes inspired by many different cultures like our team.
Ideas for expansion?
We have lots happening. This fall we are launching a products line, including cold pressed juice, granola etc. We are also going to open our upstairs space. We are going to use this for special events, catering and other exciting stuff. The idea came from a 16-person table that was in my loft in Soho. It was a place where our community came together, where the vibes were always good. When we moved to Paris, we shipped over this table. It is now the door to the upstairs space. For me it’s a symbol of the beginning of everything and of bringing Soho here to Paris. It’s a door that opens up to new opportunities.
What can you find at Sunday that you can’t find anywhere else in Paris?
The Modbar – it’s the first one in France. It’s really tough to have real barista customer interaction in-between the big coffee machines you see most of the time here in Paris. So we have this automatic machine. Modbar has electronic profiling, which allows us to change the flavor and taste.
Your favorite thing on the current menu?
The Sailor Man aka the fried chicken sandwich. To me this is the epitome of so much of America. Fried chicken is hard to get here and usually the bacon here is really different… So I’d say if you’re someone who is really looking to after something very copious that is fantastic, this is your pick. Otherwise I would say the Beyoncé or the Brooklyn. I love the bowls because they are complete meals, and they’re representative of the way I eat. I eat balanced! We wanted to create mood food because in the end food that is representative of how we feel. We counteract fried chicken with a vegan dish. We shouldn’t always have to be in the same mood.
What is your ideal Sunday in Soho?
Friends, family, food, wine and laughter.
The thing you miss the most about New York?
The energy. I miss this proactive culture.
Why the second arrondissement?
The baseline customer was always going to be the office worker. We said, how we can improve a professionals’ day? This was the customer the persona. Some people go to the park, smoke cigarettes, etc etc. But what would people do very frequently? That’s where the money is…it’s in a café. Everyone eats lunch. So we looked for spaces in the 8th, 9th and by Opera. We didn’t look in the trendy areas because we knew there wasn’t as many office workers. Finally, we started to look in the second and when we saw the space we knew it was right. We knew this place could evolve.
What is the Savoir Vivre of Sunday in Soho
It’s more of a feeling about embracing culture, being positive, being balanced. From the way you eat, to the way you think. That’s what we try to do here.