Written and photographed by Christine Miksis
If you’ve traveled to Paris, you’ve probably been to the Latin Quarter, Saint-Germain-des-Près and le Marais, but you may have missed their unassuming yet stylish neighbor, the 2nd arrondissement. Quelle surprise—this neighborhood with a true local, Parisian feel also happens to be my home.
In the heart of the city, the 2nd is about a 10-15 minute walk from the Louvre, the Seine and Palais Royal. The historic market street Rue Montorgueil draws in a number of locals and tourists alike with its cheese shops and fishmongers. Because the neighborhood also houses a handful of intriguing passages* and a multitude of fashion showrooms and shops like Sandro and Maje, a lot of young, fashionable things flock to the restaurant and bar scene after working or window shopping.
A big part of the scene is Café Noir (65, Rue Montmartre). When I want to feel cooler than Casey’s homemade Pinkberry, I go here. Perhaps I’m biased because of its obnoxiously close proximity to my apartment, but I assure you this bar will hold your interest for hours. On weekends, local twenty-somethings knock back 3.5 euro Stella drafts and Ricard pastis while listening to cool DJ beats and scoping out the kooky eclectic décor. Some old French guy creeping you out in the corner? Go take a smoke break with the adorable hound dog chilling on the corner of Rue d’Argout.
Savor some truly delectable specialties of Lyon by chef Frédéric Thevenet at Aux Lyonnais (32, Rue Saint-Marc), a beautifully-adorned bistro near the Passage des Panoramas. Since the Alain Ducassse team is behind this venture, the service, décor and updated dishes are upscale, but its affordability, friendly staff and vintage French ad prints lend it an unexpected down to earth air. Having an adventurous palate will allow you to enjoy delicacies like rognons de veau and boudin noir, however the offally-challenged can still enjoy plates like the incredibly flavorful ravioles de Romans traditionelles with a parsley chiffonade.
At Frenchie (5, Rue du Nil), young chef Greg Marchand perfectly balances fresh market ingredients to produce simple yet brilliant nouveau French cuisine like smoked trout with asparagus and raspberry verbena panna cotta. The small menu changes weekly but always offers three courses at a mere 35 euros. The Paris-meets-New York décor is just as clean and satisfying as the food. Wood beamed ceilings, exposed brick and stone walls, handsome dark wood tables and warmly glowing low-hung light bulbs make for a romantically cozy atmosphere. The only downfall is that you must book months in advance.
L’Epicerie de Bruno
You could spend hours in L’Epicerie de Bruno, an adorable tiny shop (30, Rue Tiquetonne) that sources a large range of spices and herbs from around the globe. Bring home oh-so-cute mini brown bags filled with spices as gifts for friends. You can buy a bag with one sole herb like lavender, or a mélange of spices and herbs to make tikka masala or masala chai tea.
Within the past few years, the boulangerie-patisserie Regis Colin (53, Rue Montmartre) has won the coveted first prize from the Chambre Professionnelle des Artisans Boulangers-Patissiers for its croissants, baguettes and galettes. Considering how many croissants, baguettes and galettes are pumped out of Paris on a daily basis, that says a whole lot. The croissants are so perfectly crispy and flaky on the outside, while the inside is slightly doughy with just the right amount of buttery goodness.
Rice and Fish
I hear that eating too much French food will turn you into a snail. So avoid that and eat some killer California-style sushi rolls, a feat that was impossible in the City of Lights until Rice and Fish (22, Rue Greneta) opened up shop. Do yourself some good with the TNT rolls (spicy tuna, avocado, garlic ponzu sauce and ginger topped with fresh tuna and cilantro) and remember it’s rude, not to mention impossible, to talk with a bouche full of maki. You don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of the boyishly handsome waiters.
Cancel your trip to Italy and get your pizza fix from the “vice champion du monde de la pizza,” Il Campionissimo (98, Rue Montmartre). You can’t go wrong with the mouthwatering Trianon with mozzarella di bufala, cherry tomatoes and a generous amount of basil, or the Diavola, with mozzarella, spicy sausage and tomato sauce. Bring your own cutlery and take it to go for a picnic in the gorgeous Palais Royal, a stone’s throw away in the 1st arrondissement.
*Hungry to discover more specifics about the passages or other culinary gems in the 2nd? I just did a walk-through of the ‘hood with my friend Braden Perkins, chef of the private supper club Hidden Kitchen, which he’s written about on Hidden Kitchen’s official blog.