The 2nd is the Bermuda trapazoid of Paris. For being so close to the center, it’s an amazingly difficult place to locate. Most maps of Paris bleed this crooked rectangle into the 1st and 9th. GPS navigators seem to spin out of control once you cross Petits Champs. Other than the well explored Montorgueil, unless you have a J-O-B here in Paris, chances are you have missed a lot in the 2nd.
Of all the people we have met in Paris, only our friends Christine and Dan actually live in the 2nd. Dan spends his day merging and acquiring companies at his office in the 8th, while Christine left her job in Manhattan with a restaurant PR firm to pursue a career in child education services. Today she took time off from dealing with the whims of screaming children and the concerns of parents to show me the best people watching, passages and good eats of her hood.
We started our day in the 2nd with some pastries from Eric Kayser at the north end of Montorgueil, then headed across the street to Starbucks to grab a coffee and a table for some people watching. I know what you’re thinking, “but you lived in Seattle, how can you drink that stuff?” Don’t worry, we will make it up to you later in the day with the BEST espresso in Paris, for now though we are going to need to be mobile so get your Upside-Down, Caramel, Half-Caff, Latte and eat your pastry. This north side of Montorgueil hosts a Normandy beach like collision of office workers and tourists with their respective glares of contempt and starry eyed gazes. The conflict makes for some great people watching. If your lucky you might catch a glance of some naked musicians cruising the street with boom-box in hand: http://new.fr.music.yahoo.com (WARNING not at ALL safe for WORK).
With coffee in hand, head to the Passage du Grand Cerf. This completely renovated passage is dotted with designers and boutiques selling imported Indian tchotchkes, lamps made from old machine parts and well selected home goods. The far end of the passage spills out onto rue Saint-Denis, a storied little street of sleeze shops and brothels open for business during the day. Originally the street served as morning entertainment for the market men who set up stalls and sold foodstuffs at nearby Les Halles. The market has long-gone, but the peep shows, porn shops and leopard print heaping cleavages selling their goodies remains.
Turn around and head west on rue Tiquetonne. Here you will pass two of the places we buy ingredients from, l’Epicerie de Bruno and G. Detou. Continue along Etienne Marcel around Place des Victoires and take a right into Galerie Vivienne. This L shaped passage features a wine shop and tasting room, an art gallery, an antique book shop (a good place to stock up on postcards), a wooden toy store and Jean-Paul Gaultier at the far end. There is another quick passage, Galerie Colbert, which parallels Galerie Vivienne one door west. The real estate developer who owned Galerie Colbert wanted to make a grand passage that would compete with Galerie Vivienne, but now has been stripped down to an art school and the back entrance to Le Grand Colbert.
One block away, back towards where you came from, is rue de la Banque and restaurant Liza. I’ve never been to Beirut, but friends who have visited say “if you like Paris, Beruit’s like a hipper version of the city of lights”. The lebanese food here is very well executed with flavors that are clean and refreshing. A welcome break if you have been eating buttery French food for a week. The star of the show here is the lunch-only “Déjeuner sur un plateau” which features a variety of mezzes and a plat on a tin platter specially designed for the restaurant. The platters start at 16€ and the space itself, draped with lace, hammered tin, inlayed glass and star patterned light fixtures is absolutely gorgeous. There is also a boulangerie next door where you can get the house baked bread and pita rolled into a portable sandwich.
Order one of the desserts at Liza which are fantastic, but skip coffee and head north through Bourse to Passage des Panoramas. This is the oldest of the 19th century passages in Paris. Here you get the feeling of bustle that all the passages must have been like in their day. Passage des Panoramas is loaded with restaurants, most of which we haven’t tried. There are a few notables amongst them though, Racines the gastro wine bar is about halfway down and Passage 53 is at said address. There are also shops selling vintage postcards and old stamps, as well as a store filled with old doll parts, wood block letters and funky sunglasses.
On the south end of the passage (probably where you came in) is an unassuming cafe called Gocce di Caffe where owner/barista Antonio Costanza is serving up perhaps the finest espresso in Paris. Check out Adam’s review and interview here: www.alifewortheating.com
The combination of water, booze, coffee makes my bladder shrink to the size of a chipmunk’s. If I’m going to be humping the bathroom line, I might as well do it at a place that can replenish fodder to the flow with good beer and pastis. We chose to pre-funk the late afternoon hours sitting at the le Cafe Noir on rue Montmartre.It’s as good a place as any with a good beer selection and a great vantage for watching ray-ban, converse, skinny jean hipsters. If you fancy grub with your hooch head just down the street to Max Y Jeremy where a plate of Iberico ham and a glass of Rioja should do the trick.
If you haven’t heard of Frenchie, I have a Nigerian uncle who has an inheritance you should contact him about. Here’s the skinny, Gramercy Tavern/Jamie Oliver trained chef Greg Marchand moved back to Paris when his wife Marie was pregnant and opened restaurant Frenchie. Since it’s opening just over a year ago, Frenchie has been bathed with praise and garnered all sorts of well deserved acclaim. The food here is clean, market to table cooking that just doesn’t exist in Paris at this price point. Be sure to book a table early though, as they are now booking nearly 3 months out.
You can get a lot of shitty, watered-down, cheap cocktails in this town. You can also get a lot of well made, but 25€ and up cocktails. What Experimental and it’s now empire of cocktail joints (Curio Parlor, Prescription Cocktail) does is make some of the best cocktails in Paris at prices that are a downright bargain. 12€ gets you a tasty Old Cuban made with homemade bitters. 11€ brings a silver goblet of crushed ice, a bushel of mint leaves and a heafty swig of bourbon. End your night of drinking here and you will wake up with the “I think I peed in the hallway of the hotel” hangover rather than the “I think I gave my phone number to a tranny last night” variety.
Boulanger Eric Kayser
16 rue de Petits-Carreaux – Paris – France – 75002
Passage du Grand Cerf
8 rue Dessoubs – Paris – France – 75002
4 rue des Petits Champs – Paris – France – 75002
14 rue de la Banque – Paris – France – 75002
Passage des Panoramas
49 Passage des Panoramas – Paris – France – 75002
Gocce di Caffe
25 Passage des Panoramas – Paris – France – 75002
Max y Jeremy
30 rue Saint Sauveur – Paris – France – 75002
5 rue du Nil – Paris – France 75002
Experimental Cocktail Club
37 rue Saint-Sauveur – Paris – France – 75002