The Paris Cafés

La Favorite in le Marais, Paris.

La Favorite in le Marais, Paris.

I just uploaded a couple more pictures from my 2016 Paris trip, and I thought I’d add some extended comments.

La Favorite is a bistro type restaurant in the Marais district of Paris. It’s much like many other bistros that offer 24 hour service (“ouvgerte 24 heures”), and a varied breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. So although it’s not special in Paris, it’s very handy and close to the St. Paul Metro stop. Bistros and their associated sidewalk cafés are probably the best food values in the city. You can get the classic croque and croque monseiur along with other breakfast selections, and all for a pretty good price in an otherwise pricey city. And the food is largely very good, if not gourmet. I like them because they’re where I can experience the real feel of being a Parisian. La Favorite is especially bustling, with fast service, and no-nonsense waiters. I stayed at the nearby Hotel Jeanne d’Arc, and La Favorite was right around the corner when I grabbed breakfast before a day of walking, sightseeing and street photography. As you can see in the photo, it has a complete bar, another standard element of bistros and brasseries in Paris. The only better deal in dining out is to grab a croissant from one of the many boulangeries that are all over the more residential districts. Regardless of how you dine in Paris, find out what the locals prefer, and get a real French experience.

Dishes are generally quite good at most bistros and restaurants, with one caveat. The French don’t do steak very well. I’ve ordered steak at two or three bistros in Paris and elsewhere in France and the beef is generally tougher and more stringy than what most Americans are accustomed. Lamb, pork and fish dishes are by far better, and you usually won’t be disappointed. The French also tend to fail in their conception of the hamburger. I went to a small restaurant in the 2nd Arrondissement that was a self-styled American diner. The cheeseburger I ordered had a flavor I don’t usually associate with the USA’s favorite sandwich. The fries, of course were perfect (the French invented them, after all). But the problem with hamburgers isn’t universal, as I have had good ones in a couple of locations. Of course, I could have gone to McDonald’s for a burger (I didn’t), but I couldn’t see the point. My best advice is to eat and drink as the French do, and you’ll enjoy it much more.

Espresso

Taking a break with an espresso.

Taking a break with an espresso.

The French word “café,” of course means “coffee.” And my personal favorite is espresso. Every café serves it, as either a single or double espresso. It’s hot, bitter and comes with sugar on the side and sometimes a piece of lemon peel to twist in. If you order un café, the default is espresso, although many waiters will recognize a non-French accent, and inquire if you mean an Americano (espresso with water added) or espresso. I usually just order un double-espresso, because it lasts longer (although if you’re outside in cooler weather, the beverage loses heat pretty rapidly.)

Stopping at a sidewalk café for an espresso is, for me, one of the simple pleasures of life in Paris. I feel that I blend with the city, and as a photographer, sitting outside is a great, unobtrusive vantage point from which to take photos of people passing by. Starbucks is everywhere, but I never go there for anything, because it’s an inauthentic experience.

Hope these thoughts on dining in Paris are helpful to you on your next visit.