In the second installment of our series, “My Favorite Café Is…” bestselling author and artist Janice MacLeod shares her perfect place with us.
For the first two years in Paris, I was like Goldilocks, traipsing all over the city in search of the best café. A place I could call my own. One café would have a cozy atmosphere but terrible coffee. Another would have great coffee but terrible food. Then I came upon the café that was just right: Café TournBride in the 5th arrondissement.
It had it all—great coffee, cozy atmosphere and delicious traditional French cuisine. Plus, it’s location on the pedestrian-friendly rue Mouffetard makes it the perfect perch for people catching. Being here makes me feel like I’m in a timeless Paris—the version you see on all those postcards. People still sit and write letters, read the paper, and catch up on the latest gossip. I often linger here with my journal—sipping, dreaming and listening to French words flutter by on the breeze.
I plan on putting in plenty of time here, and at the end of my days I’ll likely haunt it ever after. We all must find our place in this world. Here in Paris, I believe I have found mine.
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.
Le Café 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.
Lézard Café 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.
Le Compas 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.