The best thing while travelling is searching for new wine bars. But in the name of balance, all the more often I find myself in nice cafeterias. I may not know much about coffee making techniques, but like one of the greatest characters in the TV history, Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks, I surely recognize a cup of damn good coffee! Try these Parisian gems – for aromas and atmosphere.
In every city I have my own soft place to fall, a place to return time and again. There is always certain serenity in that moment; like greeting an old friend who has been waiting for reunion. Some people laugh at this, saying that big metropols have enough corners to explore for a lifetime. I just happily disagree… and spend as much time as possible in lush and beautiful Square Maurice Gardette in the heart of Paris 11ème.
This adorable square is populated with locals instead of tourists. Old uncles reading their newspapers in the park while little kids are frolicking around. Those trees and bushes are not too polished, whereas surrounding houses are magnificently renovated.
One of my loveliest discoveries is just behind the square, on a peaceful passageway full of small artisan boutiques. Broken Biscuits is among the tiniest cafés I have seen in Paris. The entrance is so pretty it looks like a film set, and the moment you open the door you feel like at home. The young Irish-British couple who established this place two years ago is playing great soul music while baking new pastries to their counter.
As I sip my coffee and enjoy delicious almond tart, some neighbours and stylish hipsters pop in. They all seem to know each other. Needless to say, latte here is superbly textured and tasty, with a particularly lingering finish. Next time I will come for breakfast, try something salty and bring someone precious with me.
10 Passage Rochebrune (Paris 11ème). Wed-Fri 8:30–18, Sat-Sun 10–19. Metro: Père-Lachaise (line 2) / Saint-Maur (line 3) / Saint-Ambroise (line 9).
A sky blue wooden door with old-fashioned letters “cordonnerie” (cobbler). A space so tiny you can hardly fit in. In popular and fashionable Marais – which to me is the most beautiful arrondissement of entire Paris – yet enough off the beaten track.
Opened in early 2014, in Boot Café au lait is prepared with utter care, accompanied by a cute smile. There are only six seats inside so if you don’t get one straight away, hang on a minute. After these coffees and cookies you already have forgotten you had to wait at all. Just let yourself become wrapped in soft shades of lilac and cream white. There is something strangely calming in this room where we nearly sit on each other’s lap.
Taking a closer look at other customers, chic seems to be the keyword: a stylish French couple, two Chinese fashionistas with huge shopping bags. But still this charming little coffee heaven is light years away from those superfancy and overtly polished Marais spots. And I would be mad if I didn’t return for Boot Café’s cookies…
19 Rue du Pont aux Choux (Paris 3ème). Open daily from 10 to 18. Metro: Saint-Sébastien – Froissart (line 8) / Oberkampf (lines 5, 9).
LE PETIT NOIR
Located near funky Canal Saint-Martin, Le Comptoir Général is an exciting mixture of vintage and rustic: a cultural centre, an African museum, a bar-restaurant, a plant shop, a music venue, and a second hand clothing mecca. Known for its offbeat, laid-back, unpretentious ambience, it attracts locals and travellers who love to chill out while catching a glimpse of Franco-African history.
I remember LCG from Le Petit Noir – one of the best coffees I have enjoyed in Paris. Although it takes a while to prepare, nobody in the queue is complaining or sighing out loud. The result is well worth waiting for: perfectly creamy, thick and smooth texture that melts in your mouth.
So tumble yourself into one of the chairs or enjoy your cup by the window. The sense of time is easily lost here: last spring I immersed myself in watching the raindrops whipping the window for an hour or maybe two. A true sign of feeling good.
80 Quai Jemmapes (Paris 10ème). The centre is open daily from 11 to 02. Metro: Jacques Bonsergent (line 5) / Goncourt (line 11).
LES SAINTES CHÉRIES
Despite my current black period, I have always loved bright girlie colours, especially pink. No wonder I fell in love with Les Saintes Chéries in a minute. This pretty café is decorated with lollipop shades, funny animals and cactuses. But inspiring interior – and hearty service – would never be enough if the coffee wasn’t good.
No worries, here the cappuccino is fluffy and feather light on your lips, bursting with flavour. Also their ginger juice and avocado smoothie are definite must-tries. And Les Saintes Chéries is not only about coffee: downstairs you will find a small boutique selling furniture, jewelry, retro textiles and nearly whatever you can imagine.
If you are not in a hurry, I suggest you walk a bit along Rue du Château d’Eau. After trendy cafeterias and quirky bistros, the whole world suddenly changes as you pass masses of African guys hanging in front of noisy beauty parlours, waiting for their missus to finish hour-long hairdresser and nail sessions. This end of the street has not yet been hit by gentrification, a typical urban phenomenon that is rapidly changing once so edgy 10th arrondissement into a fascinating bobo playground.
EDIT (December 2017): Looks like this lovely colourful café does not exist anymore. As I walked by, I only saw decoration & gift shops under the label of Les Saintes Cheries.
41 Rue du Château d’Eau (Paris 10ème). Open daily 11–19. Metro: Château d’Eau (line 4).
TEN BELLES & MYRTHE
Crushed on supertiny cafés and laid-back street scene of Paris 10ème, for me this duo was love at first sight. Ten Belles is my address when I want good, well-brewed coffee from local beans in a cozy setting. Myrthe, in turn, is a great epicerie for delicious gluten-free pastries, cheap and healthy veggie lunch (last time I enjoyed a simple rice salad of 5 €), tasty teas and juices as well as delicious souvenirs (such as cheeses, marmalades and confitures) to take home.
Or grab a coffee to go from Belles or a bottle of natural wine and some cheese from the latter, walk 50 metres to the canal and blend among the locals. If you don’t have any company, on a summery evening on the canal bank you may win the heart of a Parisian for a second. For a Finn used to spending summers by the sea, Canal Saint-Martin may first seem small, but there is certain magic in the moment the sun goes down and colours the water red.
10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles (Paris 10ème). Mon-Fri: 8–17, Sat-Sun: 9–18 (Ten Belles). Mon-Sat: 10–20, Sun: 11–18 (Myrthe). Metro: Colonel Fabien (line 2) / Jacques Bonsergent (line 5).
Living in Paris 20ème last summer, I daily walked or cycled along Rue Alibert while heading home. There is something cheerful in these hoods with spacious street plan and numerous restos, even though the intersection of Alibert and Rue Bichat shall always be remembered for those horrible November 2015 shootings towarded at Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge.
Just a stone’s throw from them you will find a nice, relatively new café called Radio Days, the charm of which arises from great coffee, awesome service and old gramophon where you can play albums from the shelves. Popular among 30+ people looking like art directors or architects, this cozy little café has risen among my favourites.
15 Rue Alibert (Paris 10ème). Mon & Wed-Fri: 8:30–17, Sat-Sun:10–18. Metro: Goncourt (line 11).
Meanwhile I happily continue my eternal quest for a perfect cherry pie.