Paris ♥ NYC. Although for as much as the City of Lights-out-at-Midnight loves the City that Never Sleeps, Paris gets around to borrowing only 5% of NYC trends, usually years after they become popular stateside. Hence the current trend of coining Parisian neighborhoods with NYesque names. The neighborhood centered around rue de Martyrs which includes places like Le Cul de Poule, La Pizzetta and Rose Bakery is now referred to as SOPI (south of Pigalle). NOMA is the north Marais, an area usually defined as north of rue des Quatre Fils/rue de la Perle and on either side of rue Charlot and rue Vieille du Temple.
While the south-side of the Marais is frequented by more of a Harissa and falafel stained belly shelf type of cliental, the north-side is inhabited mostly by the spindly hipster varieties, all geared up with moleskin planners, converse sneakers and dark ray bans. Keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle for this tour though, cause while they look lanky and waifish, if the check from home hasn’t cleared, all that peddle biking, those tight jeans and some caffeine deprivation will make them grouchy.
Despite working till 1am the night before and having to pack for a six-week work trip to South Africa the next day, my friend Alexandra wasn’t at all grouchy when I asked if she would give me a tour of her hood. Alex has been living in the north Marais long before the neighborhood nickname was coined. She shares her flat with her cat -named “cat”- and her boyfriend Zaheer who works at one of the top perfume houses in Paris and -looks wise- could double as Pete Sampras, the jury is out on his tennis skills. Alex’s day-job is sorting through gigabytes of photos for Agence France-Presse, to decide what images will make it into the news. When she is home, she uses her selective eye to sort the hip places in her hood from the mere posers.
First stop was breakfast treats at Pain de Sucre. Pastry chefs and Pierre Gagnaire alums Didier Mathray and Nathalie Robert have become the square tart and marshmallow mavens of the 3rd. Chocolate covered marshmallows on a stick and individual baba au rhums stabbed with a rum filled plastic syringe are both fantastic as are the mint macaroons.
Next we hit up one of the coolest museums in Paris. The Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature is like an fancy English hunting lodge plopped down in the middle of the Marais. Room after room is curated with themes like falconry, taxidermy, nobel hunting dogs and ornate weaponry. Right now there is an photo exhibition featuring the canine head-shots of French celebrities’ dogs, including YSL’s dog who could pass -looks wise- as Tatie. If this place had a bar, I would never leave.
The marche les Enfant Rouges is like a tasty version of an American food court. Inside the small market there is a fantastic Moroccan traitor, a wine bar serving up soups, salads and cheese plates, a Japanese restaurant run exclusively by Japanese women, a sandwich and socca stand, an Italian traitor and a handful more. The sides of the market are dotted with table and chairs to munch after choosing which grub you fancy that day.
SAM concept store and Merci are two shops where you should find plenty of things to unload your hard earned euros on. The tiny SAM store features novelties like cruise ship and iceberg shaped ice cube trays, umbrellas shaped like samurai swords and throw pillows designed by local artists. Merci is another concept store that features everything from home goods and clothing to a florist and cafe all under one lofty roof. Started by the same folks as the über-fancy tot-spot Bonpoint, profits from Merci go to various charities.
It was a forgone conclusion that American Merce (pronounced Merci) would end up in France. Shorty after graduating from NYU, Merce moved to Paris with a friend and started selling cupcakes and baked goods to local restaurants. “I miss those hip Washington Square coffee shops” she explained to us shortly after moving to Paris. Just over a year after moving here she decided rather than wait for someone else to open a NYC hip worthy coffee shop, she would do it herself. Her shop which is straight out of “Living” features Martha worthy treats and Beatles albums spinning on the record player. Probably after one too many Abbott and Costello like exchanges, the lady and the shop are now pronounced with a soft “c” and without sounding the “e”.
Wine shop? Been there, done that. House made windex blue colored absinth and salted caramel liquor on tap, hello new friends. The newly opened Le Barav Cave features all sorts of funky hooch to get your drink on with. In addition to the bootleg, there is olive oil on tap and plenty of tasty bottles of wine. Much of that wine can be sampled by the glass next door at the always packed and always cheap Le Barav.
Breizh cafe is the frog prince of crepe places in Paris. While the others dole out floppy triangles of pre-bagged emmental, Breizh folds crispy buckwheat flour galettes around ultra fresh ingredients like their white asparagus, smoked duck breast and gruyere chalkboard offering. The dessert crepes are also fantastic here with house made caramel, ice creams and preserves. As they do in Brittany, be sure and order a bottle of cider to go along with your eats.
There are a bevy of good booze joints near here. La Perle -a face hunter fave- has cheap drinks and cold beer. Lines for the toilets can be brutal here on the weekends though when Anas and Mias line up to hide food and find coke in the bathrooms. Andy Wahloo has a killer patio in the warmer months and 6pm – 8pm happy hours that should give you an adequate buzz. If the bouncer -sorry, French bouncer seems like an oxymoron- wont let you in, sneak through 404 and into the patio. L’Egoïste is the newest hip bar on the block and serves up the strongest drinks and the least attitude for the neighborhood.
Pain de Sucre
14 rue Rambuteau – Paris – France – 75003
Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature
60 rue des Archives – Paris – France – 75003
Marche les Enfants Rouge
9 rue de Beauce – Paris – France – 75003
SAM Concept Store
35 rue de Bretagne – Paris – France – 75003
111 blvd Beaumarchais – Paris – France – 75003
Merce and the Muse
1 bis rue Dupuis – Paris – France – 75003
Le Barav Bar & Cave
6 rue Charles François Dupuis – Paris – France – 75003
109 rue Vieille du Temple – Paris – France – 75003
78 rie Vieille du Temple – Paris – France – 75003
69 rue des Gravilliers – Paris – France – 75003
14 rue de Bretagne – Paris – France – 75003