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Paris: Favorite cafe, chocolate shop, and boulangerie “hangouts”

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Paris Cafe de la Marie
The Café de la Mairie, one of the author's "happy places." Photos by Theadora Brack

By Theadora Brack in Paris—

’Tis the season to be jolie, so I’ve decided to whip up a little something special for you, Cheapos. Here are a handful of my favorite hangouts in Paris. They’re all food-related and drool-worthy, but that’s no big surprise as I eat, love and pray daily for an abundance of treats. Ho-ho-ho!

(By the way, if you haven’t already, check out Bryan’s fantastic Paris gift-giving guide!)

1. Café de la Mairie
8 Place Saint-Sulpice, 6th arrondissement (Metro: Saint Sulpice or Rennes)

Located next to Église Saint-Sulpice, the Café de la Mairie is where I catch my breath during my bargain shopping sprees on rue de Rennes or in Saint-Germain-des-Près. Here the historic joint rocks a New York coffee shop or Baltimore diner vibe. Dogs, kiddies and chit-chat abound! It smells great, too, like my grandmother’s Butcher’s Hill row house during holiday meal preparations.

I recommend ordering Cantal jeune cheese (which can be difficult to find back in the States!) with a baguette. This substantial sandwich costs €4, and is large enough for two. The bottled soda pops are served up all old-school with ice, a spoon and a slice of lemon. Service is consistently friendly and swift.

Tips: Ask to sit in Jeff’s section. He’s a charmer. The terrace has a catbird’s view of the famous church just across the square.

Who else has found inspirational bliss here? Literary greats like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Albert Camus, that’s who, along with Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, and Saul Bellow—just to name a few!

Also, if time permits, pop by Saint-Sulpice, and hang with its Delacroix inside. For the love of Dan Brown, DaVinci-Coders, don’t leave without walking the famous Rose Line (which cuts right through the altar).

2. Triadou Haussmann
80 Boulevard Haussmann, 8th arrondissement (Metro: Saint-Lazare)

Nestled in between Gare Saint-Lazare and Printemps Homme, I recently discovered the historic Triadou, after attending the launches of the holiday window spectaculars at the grand magasins along the hustling, bustling Boulevard Haussmann. Open since 1935, the family-run café is now my new favorite post-shopping stop. Its handsome terrace with its iconic cane chairs, neon lights, and outdoor heaters is also a prime people-watching spot.

So what’s on the menu? I recommend going with the baguette jambon beurre Gruyère (ham, butter and Gruyère cheese). Recognize a running theme in this post? Yes, I am hooked on baguette sandwiches! The bowl-sized café latte is consistently rich and piping hot, topped with a thick layer of foamy cream and served with a chunk of dark chocolate. Making hot chocolate just got easier, and I just can’t get enough.

3. Chocolates and Macarons by Christophe Roussel
5 rue Tardieu, 18th arrondissement (Metro: Abbesses or Anvers)

Is it possible to have too many addictions? I don’t think so. This week, I am happy to shout out that there is a new macaron in Montmartre, and it’s dipped in dark chocolate. Created by charismatic Christophe Roussel and Julie Haumont, the shop’s Calder-like macaron mobiles in the window caught my eye and tempted my tongue. So I ventured inside.

The shop’s interior is bright and trippy, boasting a tie-dyed, psychedelic color scheme in pink, green, purple and orange. Here I definitely felt a “Groovitational” pull and—in a fit of rave—I purchased one too many macaroons to count. Soon I was I feeling the sugar rush, and singing Simon and Garfunkel’s “Feeling Groovy,” as I kicked down the cobblestones to the “I love you” wall in the square behind the Hector Guimard entrance to Metro Abbesses. Ba-da-da-da, all is groovy!

Here’s another loving spoonful. In 2010 Christophe and Julie received Paris’s “Salon du Chocolat Prix Spécial Innovation.” His chocolate bar (yes, you heard me right—it’s a bar that serves chocolate) is located at the Hôtel du Cadran at 10 Champs de Mars in the 7th arrondissement. Don’t leave without tasting Roussel’s signature scrumptious (and Man Ray/Lee Miller-inspired) chocolate lips, or his new chocolate-coated lollipop macarons. Oh, la la.

Au Levain d’Antan Paris

4. Au Levain d’Antan
6 rue des Abbesses, 18th arrondissement (Métro: Abbesses or Pigalle)

Extra! Extra! Read all about it here. This year, boulanger Pascal Barillon of Au Levain d’Antan won the “Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris.” Located in Abbesses, Au Levain d’Antan is where I buy most of my croissants and pain au chocolat pastries. (By the way, in the past five years, four boulangeries in Montmartre have won the coveted award. Could it be that there’s something special about the old hill’s own local earth, wind and fire?)

Fast forward, the amiable Pascal Barillon scored a shiny medal, cash, and the honor of baking bread for President Nicolas Sarkozy and First Lady Carla Bruno-Sarkozy at the Palais de l’Elysées (the French presidential palace) for one year! The annual award is based on aroma, texture, crust, and size. And yes, Virginia, size DOES matter, at least when it comes to bread—this year 32 of the 175 competing baguettes got eliminated because, well, they came up a tad on the short side.

Cheapos, here’s what else is short—life! So find your happy place. Bon Appétit!

Your favorite hangouts?

Do you have a favorite cafe, restaurant or bakery to add to our list? Tell us about your favorite Parisian hangout in our comments section.

Also in our guide: Heading to Paris anytime soon? We’ve got favorite hotel hangouts, too! Read our editors’ reviews of their favorite hotels, all located in central Paris and all visited, inspected and photographed by us. Read more in our Paris guide.

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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