A Night Out Like the Parisiennes
“The bottle's not important as long as it gets you drunk.” Or, as it was originally said, "Qu'importe le flacon, pourvu qu'on ait l’ivresse.”
This line, by French poet Alfred de Musset, was originally quoted back in the 16th century, but look around and you’ll see that the very attitude it describes is still present in the minds of people living in Paris. I had made a couple of visits to Paris going back to 2011, mostly to see my best friend from college, before I recently took the plunge and moved here for one year. There was something about Paris that really clicked with me. It wasn’t the clichés that the world casts upon the French capital; rather, it was the irresistible charm that exists in the lives of the people here that captured my heart. This is true especially of the girls in Paris, a.k.a. the Parisiennes. Thanks to them my new adventure in Paris has been pleasant, because when it comes to two of the most essential things in my life—good food and booze—it is they who are the fiercest ones. Before getting to know them, the image I associated with the word “Parisiennes” was skinny girls in snobby clothes walking everywhere as if they were strutting down a catwalk. Sure, there could also be an Amelie Pouline (the heroine of “Amelie”) who spends most of her day chasing romance in Montmartre, but I haven’t met her yet. Forget about Chanel and Louis Vuitton; the Parisiennes I know wear clothes from clearance sales at H&M and Zara. They are practical and hard working with a strong sense of dignity. When Friday comes, however, this discreetness is left at the office. Seeing them dining is a great joy because, literally, they eat and drink like pirates. Their ability to completely lose themselves in momentary happiness is what I respect the most about these women. So, with that in mind, I give you the top three places where my friends and I often go to indulge. Bon appétit!
The holy trinity of Chez Gladines is made up of these ideals: quality, quantity, and price. It is the only place in Paris where you can eat authentic and cheap Basque cuisine. The first time my friend took me to Chez Gladines, all I was told was that this place is located by Saint-Germain, a boulevard in the fifth district (the center of Paris). So naturally I assumed it would be bit pricy like all the other restaurants in the area. Well, I was very wrong. Here at Chez Gladines, you can dine to the point of loosening the button of your jeans, and do so without going broke.
The majority of the famous Basque dishes on the menu cost less than 10 Euros (about ¥1,300), which is almost nothing considering the sheer volume of quality food served on each plate. One of my favorite dishes from Chez Gladiens is the salde complete (8.90 Euros, or about ¥1,200): a huge bowl full of green lettuce topped with sliced ham, fresh tomatoes, an egg sunny side up, and baked potatoes. Despite its size, the flavors are amazingly delicate and well balanced. When you taste the melted cheese with mustard dressing, you will literally have a food orgasm. Don’t forget to order a pint of profound Basque beer (5 Euros, or about ¥660, for 50cl) to wash it all down. I have to warn you, though: there is no “light” food available at this restaurant, so don’t go there unless you are starving. Once you know the joy of Chez Gladines, there is no going back.
Address: 44 Boulevard Saint Germain, 75005 Paris
Open: Mon-Thu 12-11 p.m.; Fri-Sat 12 p.m.-12 a.m.; Sun 12 p.m.-11:30 p.m.
This is another secret spot that you will never find by surfing the internet. Located in the Mecca of Parisian art, Montmartre, L’Escale is always packed with young people. Most of them are regulars or friends of regulars who are about to baptized by L’Escale’s star attraction—its mojito. Walking in, you can’t fail to notice the long line waiting to be served. Why is it that this bar is famous for the mojito, especially when the drink has nothing to do with France? Well, I’ve been an avid mojito drinker all over the world, but no other place I’ve visited has ever filled a glass right to the brim with fresh mint and chunks of lime.
Pure generosity is what sums up the philosophy of L’Escale. Behind the bar, you will see a man with big smile. His name is Amédée, the owner of L’Escale. He came to Paris from Madagascar to study law, but three years ago he quit studying to open up this fine bar with his beautiful wife.
I asked him once if it’s OK, business-wise, to put this much rum and mint into each drink. He giggled a bit and kept pouring more rum into my glass bottle. “I like to serve people,” he said. Amédée! Amédée! Where is my man Amédée? How are you Amédée? In the midst of a busy bar, people are constantly calling his name. It is only then that I notice, the true charm of L’Escale is not its mojito. It’s Amédée. His love of the bar and the people who come to it is what makes L’Escale so special. At L’Escale, no one is a stranger because everyone talks to everyone, and as night falls, they become good drinking mates. People come to this bar because they know that Amédée and his generous mojitos bring everyone together.
Address: 34 rue Clignancourt, 75018 Paris
Le Sainte Marthe
Finding a traditional French restaurant in Paris is easy, but finding one with a traditional atmosphere is decidedly harder. Le Sainte Marthe is one of the few French bistros where you can enjoy both great cuisine and a lovely ambience. Located on a quiet street called Rue Sainte Marthe, away from the bustle, Le Sainte Marthe welcomes people from all generations for brunch and dinner. The cozy terrace on the old-town cobblestones and red interior walls covered with ancient photos give you the impression of being back in Paris as it was at the turn of the last century.
On the last Friday of each month, a traditional band play classic French songs. As soon as the sound of the accordion fills Le Sainte Marthe, everyone, old and young, starts singing along, often joined by folks coming in off the street. “We are like a big family under the roof of Le Sainte Marthe,” Soumia, my waitress, told me once.
This is what I really love about Le Sainte Marthe: its attitude of following traditions yet at the same time, remaining inclusive for everyone. It leaves you in a room to enjoy your dish while surrounding you in old school French dining. I always order the terrine de foie de volaille maison (5.50 Euros, or about ¥730): a homemade pâté of poultry that comes with salad, a pickle, and fresh baguette, and goes perfectly with a glass of red. Afterwards, I recommend stopping by Canal Saint-Martin, just five minutes away, where I assure you, the charming scenery of the canal will complete a magical night out.
Address: 32 Rue Sainte-Marthe, 75010 Paris
Open: Sun-Fri 10 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sat 5 p.m.-2 a.m.
Special thanks to Marine, Sarah and Penelope. Your secret places are now all public. Sorry!