13 June 2008

Cafés in Paris

If you've never been to Paris, you'll be surprised by the number of cafés you'll see on most of the streets in the center of town. And there are many fewer of them now than there used to be, according to all the statistics.

A lot of cafés serve food, but not all do. Some cafés will have just a daily special at noontime. Others have a more extensive food menu listing salads, sandwiches, and a few main dishes like steaks and fries or roast chicken.

See translation below...

Many cafés have outdoor seating. It's surprising that so many cafés in a city like Paris, which has a very iffy climate, would have so may sidewalk cafés. But as soon as there is a brief ray of sunshine, Parisians want to be outdoors. Their apartments are often small and they don't get a lot of sunshine.

Even in winter, a lot of café terraces are open. Heat lamps are provided. And nowadays, since France passed a law prohibiting smoking in cafés, restaurants, bars, and other public places, smokers can indulge their vice only outdoors. In other words, if they want a coffee or a drink with their cigarette, they have to sit outside.

If you want to save a few cents — and who doesn't with the U.S. dollar at all-time lows against the euro currency — you can have your drink, coffee, or sandwich standing at the bar inside instead of at a table on the sidewalk. And since there's no smoking inside any more, it might be pretty pleasant.

If you do sit outside, you never know if the person at the neighboring table might light up. People with an aversion to cigarette smoke, beware!

A lot of cafés have their outdoor seating area under a big awning, so you can sit out there even if it is raining. And some have full, transparent plastic partitions all around the terrace to protect customers from wind, rain, and cold.

By the way, the sign pictured up above, which was sitting out on the sidewalk outside a café-restaurant called Louise, says:
Non-stop restaurant service from 11:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.

Ask for our English menu.

Our specialties: "Simple fare like what you would have at home."
Steak tartare, lamb shanks, beef Burgundy, pasta, scrambled eggs, mixed salads, smoked salmon, foie gras, seasonal soups, the daily special, and our delicious home-made mashed potatoes or our famous ratatouille! And desserts made by Lilie...
Our prices are displayed on blackboards inside and outside the restaurant.
Welcoming you to our restaurant is our pleasure.
No smoking (except on the heated terrace). Family atmosphere."

Does all that sound like the kind of food you make and eat eat at home?


  1. I'd disagree with the "simple" assessment, though even then I don't know. Half their menu items are either year round or at least winter staples of our home cooking - smoked salmon and salads are year round, beef bourguignon, coq au vin, cabernet braised short ribs (not on their menu but certainly mine!) make usually monthly appearances with a mile high of mashed potatoes, cauliflower mash, or polenta.

    Then again, I've always believed we were somewhere south of typical when it comes to our adoration for the kitchen and french cooking.

    It looks like I should be doing some cooking blog posts!

  2. Alana, yes do post about cooking! And let us know where to find your posts! Ken, I've never seen cafes through your eyes... very interesting. For me, they have always been a place to rest my feet and watch the world go by.


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