by Amy Thomas
Author Amy Thomas kicks off our series, “My Favorite Café Is…” with this tour of the Montorgueil District.
There was at least one time in my life that felt like I was living a Hollywood script: when the in-house recruiter of my New York-based ad agency strolled into my office to ask what I thought of Paris. Fast forward six months, and I was living the dream—I had gotten transferred to Paris.
I chose my apartment in the second arrondissement for its proximity to Rue Montorgueil, a delightful pedestrian street that is chock-a-block with marchés, fromageries, fleuristes, patisseries, chocolatiers and other temples of food and drink. Naturally, the classic French cafés were plentiful—about a dozen alone on “my” little stretch of the street.
Before long, I had my own routine and favorite spots. I was going to les vernissages (gallery openings) on Thursday evenings. To le marché bio (organic shop) on Boulevard Raspail on Sunday mornings. Getting warm baguettes from the boulangerie on my way home from work during the week. And wholeheartedly embracing the café culture any old day:
Mardi, 7h45: Café du Centre
A French lesson with my tutor before work. I found I learned more when I had a pain au chocolat and café crème to inspire me.
Mercredi, 20h: Le Café
A hot date with une salade de chèvre chaud. Is there anything better than solo dining? Anything better than café salads, served with baskets of crusty baguette? In a word, non.
Jeudi, 19h: Lézard Café
Not ready to climb the six flights up to my apartment just yet. Oh, look, a table au terrasse. Don’t mind if I do.
Vendredi, 22h: Le Compas
A late dinner and carafe du vin after my American friend and I got in a cheesy blockbuster at the Cinéma Les Halles. Croques and burgers—the perfect Franco-American finale.
Dimanche, 16h: Au Rocher de Cancale
After a weekend of flaneuring, Velib’ing, and other favorite Parisian activities, a moment with a book and a chocolat chaud. I really was living the dream.
Each of these spots had their own personalities, of course. And I frequented cafés beyond my own happy universe, of course, of course. Because the cafés are everywhere in Paris. They’re such an important part of life. The stained walls. The dark woods. Those irresistible bistro chairs.
Passing time at a Parisian café is an everyday luxury. They don’t rush you, don’t shame you, they never disappoint you. Instead, they invite you in and make you feel part of the very history and culture that seduced you. Let’s hope it stays that way.
AMY’S FAVORITE CAFES
Café du Centre
57 rue Montorgueil, 01 42 33 20 40
Most cafes in Paris have been there for generations, or at least feel that way. This one is a little newer; it’s airy and bright from two walls of windows and has a jam-packed terrace.
62 Rue Tiquetonne, 01 40 39 08 00
“Funky” isn’t exactly a word associated with the French, much less a French café but with its dangling globes, shelves of antiques and other unexpected charms, that’s exactly what Le Café is.
32 Rue Étienne Marcel, 01 42 33 22 73
Lézard serves a relatively varied menu for a café (pasta, duck, prime rib (!)), but more often than not, the young Bobos thronging the giant terrace are there to drink.
62 Rue Montorgueil, 01 42 33 94 73
A fabulous corner location, a boisterous clientele, an excellent late evening option.
Au Rocher de Cancale
78 Rue Montorgueil, 01 42 33 50 29
A classic. While the interior is actually non-descript, the building and café have been around since 1848, giving it a well-worn, cozy vibe. Of all things, don’t miss the beautiful façade.
AMY THOMAS is the author of three books including Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (And Dark Chocolate) and its follow-up, Brooklyn In Love. For two lucky years, she got to call Paris home. She now resides in Brooklyn as a freelance writer, covering food, travel, and parenting.