Tag Archives: Paris cafes to visit

My Favorite Café Is…La Belle Hortense

by Filly di Somma

I used to organize a literary evening at La Belle Hortense with an international writers group—a mixer for new authors where we’d discuss books and drink wine. Where better to host such an event than La Belle Hortense, because it’s not just a café; it’s a book store, too.

©Lisa Anselmo

Since 1997, this café, with its facade of electric blue, in the heart of the Marais on rue Vieille du Temple, is a literary oasis for all who pass in this trendy Paris neighborhood. On the facade is posted: Cave-Librairie-Bar Littéraire (Wine Shop-Book Shop-Literary Bar), and La Belle Hortense is all this, and more.

Every day from 17h to 2h (5pm-2am) you can stop by for a drink (there’s a good selection of French wines by the glass, or bottle), buy or browse something from their stock of beautiful novels and other books then sit, either at the bar or comfortably installed in the well-lit room at the back. The hours pass quickly in this timeless place— the sort you can only find in Paris.

The old zinc bar where you can have a glass and a read. There are tables, too. And if you’re hungry, they’ll order in from one of their cafés across the street. ©Lisa Anselmo
View toward the back room. Lots of little nooks where you can sit and read. ©Lisa Anselmo

From time to time, La Belle Hortense also offers readings associated with wine tastings . The wine producer and the author of the book are both present, and you can chat with these knowledgable people. What could be more Parisian? And if you’re hungry, you can visit, or order in from, one of their three other cafés across the street, all owned by restaurateur, Xavier Denamur: Les Philosophes, Au Petit Fer à Cheval, and L’Etoile Manquante. Xavier is a fascinating man, and has a few books of his own, which are also on sale at the café.

Books and booze happily reside together on the bar. ©Lisa Anselmo
The hostess pauses from serving her clients to stock the bookshelves. ©Lisa Anselmo

At this magical literary café you’re encouraged to consume both wine and books “without moderation,” either to stay, or to take away. But why not stay? La Belle Hortense is a beautiful combination of my two most favorite things: literature and oenology, and I highly recommend you explore it.

The eclectic selection of books, just across from the zinc-top bar. ©Lisa Anselmo
A whimsical chandelier hangs overhead while you read and sip. ©Lisa Anselmo
Detail of the back room. The building dates from the 17th Century. ©Lisa Anselmo

La Belle Hortense, 31, Rue Vieille du Temple, 4ème.
Métro: Saint Paul or Pont Marie, 01.48.04.71.60

FILLY di SOMMA is a hospitality professional who lives between Rome and Paris. She grew up in her family’s hotel business in Castellammare di Stabia, in Italy, and hospitality is in her blood. She has dedicated her career to bringing people of different cultures together via tourism, and organizes cultural events such as Paris Hospitality, Discovering Japan in Paris, Social Writing, and Paris Italian culture. Filly speaks five languages including Japanese, and is also a travel journalist, contributing regularly to Where Rome, among others. Discover her blog.

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Edith’s Café Spotlight: La Tartine

[Trouvez ci-dessous la version française]
Dorothy and her suitcase are waiting for me at La Tartine. Dorothy just arrived from Seattle. Once a year she makes her pilgrimage to Paris because “Paris is my only home in the world,” she says. She didn’t have to tell me where La Tartine is, because it’s a café I’ve known forever. What is a tartine? It’s a piece of bread with a bit of butter that most French people, like me, eat for breakfast. (Don’t assume I eat croissants full of butter every morning. If I did, my clothes would not fit me anymore.)

I greet my friend with a bonjour as I arrive. “Happy to see you again!” I say. “How are you ?” I give her a kiss (faire la bise) on both cheeks. 

Bonjour, ma chérie!” Dorothy is funny; she always calls me ma chérie (my darling). “I’m very happy to be in Paris, but I’m exhausted.”

The warm interior of La Tartine ©Edith de Belleville

I laugh as I point out that we’re wearing the same exact outfit: a black dress with white polka dots.

“It’s my travel uniform when I come to Paris,” she says. Then she tells me to order what I want. “It’s my treat.”

It’s almost lunchtime, but Dorothy orders only a café-crème (coffee with milk). It’s two o’clock in the morning for her, so she’s not in the mood to eat, even though there are many different tartines on the menu: goat cheese, ham, duck. I’m in the mood for something exotic, so I choose the Scottish tartine with smoked salmon.

Everything in this café reminds the 1920s, from the gold, geometric Art Déco engravings on the wood bar, and on the wall to the old posters and the lamps that give off an amber glow.

Art Deco details at La Tartine ©Edith de Belleville

Sitting next to us, an old bearded man is writing. He closes his note book and takes a sip of his beverage, something topped with sweet whipped cream, or crème chantilly as we call it in French. It looks good. I ask what he’s drinking.

Un chocolat viennois,” he tells me, winking.

I explain that I was tempted to order one, but decided not to because the decadent Viennese hot chocolate would not go with my Scottish salmon. The gentleman agrees, nodding his head.

Our young waiter arrives with our orders, and I ask him how long the café has been around. “I like it very much.”

“Since 1924 ,” he answers with a smile. “We’re not allowed to move anything. The bar hasn’t changed since then.”

The bar at La Tartine hasn’t changed since 1924. ©Edith de Belleville

“Incredible! 1924!” I say.  “The same year as my perfume!”

I explain to Dorothy that the law forbids altering historic landmarks, like certain old buildings, even showcases of historic boutiques—and fortunately, vintage cafés like La Tartine.

I ask Dorothy if we should order dessert.

“Good idea!” She tells me to choose what I want.

But it takes me fifteen minutes to decide so I ask the waiter to help me make up my mind. Jérôme (I asked his name) recommends the homemade French toast. I tell Dorothy that in France we call French toast “pain perdu” (lost bread), because we use day-old bread in order not to waste—or “lose”—it.

Pain perdu at La Tartine. ©Edith de Belleville

Since Dorothy has to wait to check in to her hotel, we stay a long time in this charming café. The atmosphere is perfect for staying all day: no blaring TV, no radio with awful music—nothing too modern here. Just silence like in the good old days. We swap stores about what’s new in our lives since last year.

“You know, Edith, when I’m in Paris, I am reborn,” Dorothy tells me. “I become more feminine, more myself. I like everything here: the fabulous clothes of the Parisian women, the light, the smell of the food. And I really like the old cafés like this one.” Then she adds, “And this pain perdu.”

She’s right. The pain perdu (which I ate all by myself) was delicious. I thank Jérôme for his good advice, then point out that he has the same name as Napoléon’s youngest brother: Jerôme Bonaparte. (I can’t resist a teaching moment.)

But now it’s time to go; Dorothy needs to rest.  I apologize for talking too much with the waiter and the old man. “But when I’m in a café,” I say, “I like to learn about the lives of my fellow Parisians.” I thank her for inviting me to this lovely place.

“Oh you’re welcome, ma chérie!” she says. “I’m glad you chatted with the waiter. My hotel is just next door, so I know where I’ll be having my breakfast every day for the next two weeks.” She shoots me a big smile. “I’m so glad I invited you to lunch because, thanks to you, the waiter won’t treat me like a tourist. You gave me credibility here. You’re my credibility lunch date!”

I laugh, and faire la bise with Dorothy, bidding her “Au revoir.

As I walk away, I wonder if Dorothy was onto something. Maybe this could be my new career: Credibility Lunch Date for visitors to Paris. I’m available! —Edith de Belleville

  • Where? 24 Rue de Rivoli, Paris 4ème
  • When? Monday to Saturday, 8:00am-11:30pm; Sunday : 11am – 11pm
  • What to drink? Happy hour 4:00-9:00pm; Beer Pils : 4 euros; Cocktails: 5 euros; Coffee (100% arabica): 2.50 euros; Café crème: 4 euros; Hot chocolate : 4 euros; Viennese  coffee or Viennese hot chocolate: 5.50 euros; Tea: 4.50 euros; Fruit juice: 4.50 euros
  • What to eat ? A tartine with a small salad (ham, goat cheese, smoked salmon ) from 10 to 12 euros; French fries: 4 euros; Desserts: brownie, French toast, apple pie, crêpes: from 7 to 8 euros
  • How to go?  Métro Saint Paul, line 1

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EDITH DE BELLEVILLE is a licensed tour guide in Paris, and the author of Belles et Rebelles, à l’ombre des Grandes Parisiennes (Éditions Erick Bonnier) available in French at Fnac.fr Amazon.fr and Amazon.ca

__________________________

VERSION FRANÇAISE

La Tartine ©Edith de Belleville

Dorothy et sa valise m’attendent à La Tartine. Dorothy vient juste d’arriver de  Seattle. Une fois par an elle fait un pèlerinage à Paris car Paris est ma seule maison au monde dit-elle. Elle n’a pas eu besoin de me dire où se trouve La Tartine car c’est un café que je connais depuis toujours. Qu’est ce qu’une tartine? C’est un morceau de pain avec un peu de beurre que je mange, comme la plupart des Français, au petit-déjeuner. N’imaginez pas que je mange un croissant plein de beurre chaque matin. Si je faisais cela je ne pourrais plus rentrer dans mes vêtements. 

Bonjour Dorothy ! Je suis contente de te revoir. Comment vas-tu?  Bienvenue à la maison! lui dis- je tout en l’embrassant chaleureusement sur les deux joues pour lui faire la bise.

Bonjour ma chérie !  Dorothy est drôle, elle m’appelle tout le temps ma chérie. Je vais bien, très heureuse d’être à Paris mais je suis épuisée.

Regarde nous sommes habillées pareil ! lui dis-je en riant. Elle et moi portons la même robe noire à pois blancs.

C’est ma robe parisienne quand je voyage à Paris. Prends ce que tu veux c’est moi qui invite.

C’est presque l’heure du déjeuner mais Dorothy ne prend qu’un café-crème. Il est 2 heures du matin pour elle et elle n’est pas d’humeur à manger. Il y a plusieurs tartines différentes sur le menu:  Avec du fromage de chèvre, avec du jambon ou avec du canard. Comme je suis d’humeur exotique je choisis la tartine écossaise avec du saumon fumé écossais. Tout dans ce café rappelle les années 20 :  Les gravures dorées géométriques Art déco sur la bar en bois et sur le mur, les anciennes affiches et les lampes qui diffusent une lumière couleur d’ambre. Près de nous est assis un vieil homme avec une barbe qui écrit. Il ferme son cahier puis déguste sa boisson qui déborde de crème chantilly. Ça a l’air bon. Je lui demande ce qu’il boit: 

Un chocolat viennois me répond-il avec un clin d’oeil.

©Edith de Belleville

 Je lui explique que j’hésite à en prendre un. Finalement je lui dis que j’ai changé d’avis. Le chocolat chaud décadent autrichien se marie mal avec le saumon écossais. Le vieux monsieur m’approuve en faisant oui de la tête.

 —J’aime beaucoup ce café, depuis quand existe t-il? je demande au jeune serveur qui nous apporte nos commandes.

1924 me répond-il avec un sourire. Nous n’avons pas l’autorisation de bouger quoique ce soit ici. Le bar n’a pas changé vous savez.

Incroyable! 1924! La même année que mon parfum!

J’explique à Dorothy que la loi interdit de détruire le patrimoine parisien comme certains immeubles anciens, les devantures des vieilles boutiques et heureusement pour nous, les cafés vintage comme La Tartine. 

Un détail du bar. ©Edith de Belleville

 —On partage un dessert Dorothy?
Bonne idée! Choisis ce que tu veux.

Je prends quinze minutes pour décider ce que je veux. Je demande au gentil serveur de m’aider à faire mon choix. Jérôme (je lui ai demandé son prénom) me conseille de prendre le pain perdu maison. Je dis à Dorothy qu’en anglais on appelle cela le toast français mais qu’en France on l’appelle le pain perdu car on utilise le pain de la veille pour ne pas le perdre.

Dorothy doit attendre que sa chambre soit prête alors nous restons un long moment dans ce charmant café. L’ambiance est parfaite pour rester toute la journée:  pas de télé, pas de radio avec une musique horrible, rien de trop moderne ici, juste le silence comme au bon vieux temps. Nous échangeons des confidences sur ce qui est arrivé de nouveau dans nos vies depuis un an.

Tu sais Edith, quand je suis à Paris je revis. Je deviens plus féminine, plus moi-même. J’aime tout ici : Les fabuleux vêtements des Parisiennes, la lumière, l’odeur de la nourriture. Et surtout j’aime les vieux cafés comme celui-ci et ce pain perdu ajoute t-elle. 

Le pain perdu que j’ai mangé à moi à toute seule était délicieux. Je remercie Jérôme pour son choix judicieux et je lui apprend qu’il porte le même prénom que le plus jeune frère de Napoléon, Jérôme Bonaparte. C’est l’heure de partir maintenant, Dorothy doit se reposer. 

Désolée si j’ai tellement parlé à notre voisin et au serveur.  Quand je suis dans un café j’aime bien savoir comment les Parisiens vivent à Paris. Merci pour l’invitation. 

©Edith de Belleville

—Oh je t’en prie ma chérie. Au contraire, je suis contente que tu aies beaucoup parlé avec Jérôme. Mon hôtel est juste à coté de La Tartine alors je sais maintenant où je vais prendre mes petits-déjeuners chaque matin pendant deux semaines me dit -elle avec un grand sourire. Grâce à toi le serveur ne me verra pas comme une touriste. Tu es mon invitée car tu m’as aidée à obtenir de la crédibilité. Mon invitée en crédibilité. Cela valait la peine de t’inviter !

C’est peut-être une nouvelle carrière pour moi : Invitée en crédibilité pour les visiteurs à Paris je réponds en riant à Dorothy tout en l’embrassant sur les joues pour lui dire au-revoir. —Edith de Belleville

  • Où ? 24, rue de Rivoli Metro Saint-Paul ligne 1.
  • Quand ? du lundi au dimanche: 8h-23h30 ; dimanche: 11h – 23h
  • Que boire? Happy hour 16h-21h ; Beer Pils : 4 euros; Cocktails 5 euros ; Café  100% arabicca : 2,50 euros ; Café crème: 4 euros ; Chocolat chaud : 4 euros ; Café et chocolat viennois : 5,50 euros  ; Thé: 4,50 euros ; Jus de fruits : 4,50 euros
  • Que manger? Tartine avec une salade (jambon, fromage de chèvre ou saumon fumé ) de  10 à 12 euros ; Frites : 4 euros ; Désserts: brownie, pain perdu, tarte, crêpe: de 7 à 8 euros
  • Comment s’y rendre?  Métro Saint Paul, ligne 1

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Guide-conférencière à Paris, EDITH DE BELLEVILLE est également l’auteure de Belles et Rebelles, à l’ombre des Grandes Parisiennes ( Éditions Erick Bonnier ) un livre disponible à la Fnac.fr Amazon.fr et Amazon.ca

My Favorite Café Is…Café Charlot

by Adrian Leeds

Everyone who knows me knows that my favorite café is Café Charlot on Rue de Bretagne. When it first opened, it bothered me that it was a bit more expensive than the other cafés in my neighborhood. After ignoring it for a long time, I finally gave in to its popularity, and walked in. I discovered it was way more than a café. It’s a way of life. Let me explain.

Café Charlot is owned by a restaurateur that has other cafés around town (La Favorite, Le St. Regis, for example), and like their other cafés, it looks like a New York idea of a French café, a sort of stylized retro: walls in white Métro tiles, dark wood tables and chairs, the zinc top bar, ceiling fans, indirect lighting — a sophisticated urban feel without being too stuffy.

It’s a gold mine. Café Charlot is always packed for lunch, apéro, dinner—and after. ©Lisa Anselmo

The café also behaves more like a New York restaurant than a Parisian café because the menu and approach to service is more international in style, as is the clientele. The wait staff speaks English, if not a variety of other languages, and they don’t treat you as if they are doing you a favor to wait on you. If you ask for slight changes to your order, they don’t balk; they just ask the chef if it’s possible. I’m the queen of making changes to the dish in order to satisfy my strict diet, and the chef happily goes above and beyond my request to make me not just happy, but elated. In fact, he knows I love his cooking and often rewards me with an extra special something, like a small bowl of the soupe du jour.

A typical plat du jour, but this one is customized, like the side of haricots verts. Special orders don’t upset them so you CAN have it your way. ©Lisa Anselmo

The quality of the food at Café Charlot is way beyond any other typical café I’ve ever known, and I’d put its chef up against the best bistro in the neighborhood. There is almost always at least one plat du jour apart from the usual menu, so I can have lunch there every single day and never get bored. My favorite over the years might be their lamb chops which, when they have them, are lean, tender, juicy, and ridiculously delicious. When they do beef, they do beef! You’ll get a big thick slab cooked to perfection and to go with it, you won’t want to miss their thin, crispy French fries—les frites. If you like salads, you absolutely must try their salade d’haricots verts, a mountain of crispy fresh-cooked green beans topped with a copious amount of pine nuts. The burgers are tall—beautiful totem poles of delight, impossible to eat with your hands (although I once sat next to the actor Jean Dujardin who did just that!). But, I almost never order off the menu when I can have their plat du jour. (I recently learned that my nickname among the wait staff is “Madame Plat du Jour.”)

Why order off the menu when the plat du jour is always exceptional? ©Lisa Anselmo

Café Charlot is the café of choice of many of the fashionistas who invade the neighborhood during Fashion Week. Celebrities abound, not to be “seen,” but to be circumspect. There is every sort of Parisian, part-time Parisian, and even tourists who have heard about the café, but it still feels local because everyone seems so comfortable and at home in this casual place.

I’m truly a regular at Café Charlot and take the same table whenever possible. It’s the second from the left against the back wall. From that vantage point I can see all the goings-on, of which there are plenty. People know they might find me in my usual spot, and often stop in to say hello. And after so many years of coming here, the waiters know me and treat me with tremendous care, which I love, naturally. On top of it all, the WiFi works, and what could be more perfect than its location just a block away from home? I am truly grateful for Café Charlot. It’s my office-away-from-the office and it’s become my way of life. So I pay a bit more, but it sure is worth it!

©Lisa Anselmo

Café Charlot, 38 Rue de Bretagne, 3ème arr.

ADRIAN LEEDS is a French property expert and HGTV personality. She has created a variety of businesses devoted to assisting other expats in their quest to fulfill their dream of living in France. Her company, the Adrian Leeds Group, is a licensed real estate agency offering complete property consultation services primarily for North Americans wanting to live and/or invest in France.
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Le Quartier Montorgueil: A Village of Cafés

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.

Courtesy of Cafe du Centre

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.

Courtesy of lafourchette.com

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.

Courtesy of Lezard Café

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.

Photo: Edith de Belleville

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.

Courtesy of Au Rocher de Cancale

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

©Lisa Anselmo

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.

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.

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