New York's First Japanese Speakeasy Restaurant is a Hidden Gem
The gang behind Le Perchoir have opened a series of almost painfully trendy hangouts for good looking Parisians over the last few years. Specializing in rooftops and other overlooked locations they have a knack for making a lot out of a little. This place, the original one, is the most charming of the bunch. On the ninth floor of an industrial building just off the infamous rue Oberkampf, with a view over both landmarks like the Sacre-Coeur and over 60’s apartment blocks, this slightly offbeat venue features several bars, rustic wood tables and benches and barrel fire pits to keep you warm even if you’re there in February. There’s a restaurant downstairs as well as a bar menu on the roof if you feel like having a burger with your pint.
On a quiet and rather mundane street off the main chunk of the Marais neighborhood lies Sherry But. Balancing perfectly on the verge of both refined cocktail bar and laid back bobo bar it’s decorated in chic retro style with leather and velvet sofas, high bar stools and homey little details like shelves with books and candles. The light is dim and flattering, so this is the perfect place to bring a date that you want to impress with your worldliness. Order two Soul Mates (vodka; dry vermouth, apple and lemon) and tell your special company that story about when you went hiking in the foothills of Mount Tibidabo…
If you can manage to grab one of the scrappy plastic chairs outside this neighborhood hangout, stick your butt to it because they don’t come easy. Aux Folies is not a fancy place -- the beer is cheap and the crowd is a bit raucous -- but it is a favorite among locals of the neighborhood, students, struggling artists and old men drinking black coffee at 11 PM. Drinks are ordered while sitting at your table but expected to be paid as they are served, rather than racking up a bar tab, so bring cash, preferably in small values. As the evening progresses, don’t be surprised to see the barmen get up on the bar to dance, Coyote Ugly style.
Even though Soléra just recently opened, word around the hood is that this niche bar, focusing on “the foodrink experience” is a bit of a game changer. Nestled between dive bars frequented by students, tourist traps and charming but dull neighborhood brasseries where a mature crowd with deep pockets dine, this venture is a breath of fresh air to the quartier. Cocktail pairing is the concept and tapas and small dishes are served with a recommendation of cocktails that should give your experience that extra oomph! Prices are surprisingly affordable and generous happy hours (until 10:30 PM) make this the perfect place to bring your friends for an after work.
Behind a clandestine, frankly quite boring looking door in Pigalle lays one of Paris nightlife’s best kept secrets. Previously a sauna catering to a libertarian crowd, a few years ago this space was transformed into an epicurean music venue with an interesting bar. Decorated like the apartment of a really cool old lady that likes art deco and red lamps, the ambience is intimate and frivolous. Everything about this bar is a reminder to not take life (or yourself) so seriously, so bring your most decadent friends for a night of fun and mischief, lean back with a glass of bubbly and enjoy the music of the evening -- either it’s some avant-garde electro or Celine Dion.
In the middle of a lively and fashionable street with plenty of things going on is Pause Café, with its terrace, perfect for relaxing and watching the world go by and chic people of the quartier live their lives. Once featured in Cedric Klapisch’s 90’s classic Chacun cherche son chat, it has held a near cult status for the locals of the neighborhood for decades, and it takes its status seriously. The food is simple but made with love, and the drink menu extensive. In the evenings (and all day on weekends), it quickly fills up with hipsters, young and old -- so come early. It’s the perfect spot for a brunch or drinks with friends, or for sitting down alone with a book to have a drink. Obviously, the book is just your alibi for some good old people watching. While in the neighborhood, check out the band of chichi shops that have opened along Rue de Charonne in recent years -- with a bit of a buzz the prices might not alarm you as much.
As the opening of the Gare de Lyon ushered in the 20th century, this beautiful Belle Epoque style restaurant, located inside the train station, provided pastime for well-to-do passengers heading South towards Lyon and the Mediterranean. One hundred years later, the amazing space was brought back to its former glory through arduous restoration efforts. The clientele nowadays is a bit different -- businessmen, German tourists, elderly French ladies dining alone -- but the place still has charm and an air of a bygone era, with its ornate luggage racks, painted ceilings and gilt stucco. Get a piece of classic Paris by visiting the less formal restaurant bar, which entertains a more relaxed patronage, and have the cocktail named after Luc Besson’s ‘Nikita;’ the champagne based cocktail gets its sting from vodka, grenadine, lime and Angostura -- a real killer!
The original Rosa Bonheur, perched on the top of the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, has been a watering hole for hipsters, the gay scene and families with toddlers that are better dressed than most adults for as long as anyone can remember. Two years ago the team behind the popular guinguette brought their concept to the very heart of Paris -- specifically, to a boat floating on the Seine, just next to the iconic Pont Alexandre III (that is the really flamboyant one with huge gold statues). Hip but laid back, Rosa Bonheur sur Seine, just like its big sister, doesn’t try too hard. Opt for a pint of blonde, a simple lager to match the mellow ambience of the place. Oh, and for this one -- don’t bring your kids, because, you know, it’s a boat.
A tongue in cheek homage to the unholy saint of all things kitsch, Andy Warhol, this bar is decorated to the brim with conspicuous nods to his art. Have a seat on a stool mimicking his famous cans and admire the retro packaging neatly displayed on shelves on the wall while enjoying a ‘Kiss with Passion’ -- and by that I mean the drink with that name; vanilla vodka, passion fruit and champagne, decidedly getting busy in your glass. The crowd is young, pretty and cheerful but to fit in all you need is relaxed, slightly messy hair and a sweater from A.P.C.
Behind a rather non-descript door, with no sign, on the edges of Le Marais, in the no man’s land right before the chic neighborhood gives way to the vast open space of Place de la Bastille, lays a cosy cave, painted red and filled with boxes of wine and comfortable furniture. The owner, a rather eccentric man in his late fifties with a great big beard and an even greater love for wine, is friendly and funny and knows where to find just the right wine from you in the assortment of boxes and bottles in a surprisingly well-organized mayhem taking up most space in the bar. Prices are modest and this is the perfect place to share secrets with friends over a bottle of Chilean red wine. Bonus fact: bubar is slang for bearded.
Built as the private residence of Napoleon’s slightly garish nephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte, in the end of the 19th century, this lavish building now not only contains one of the most luxurious hotels in the city. Since September, it is also the home of the super trendy hotel bar, Le Bar Botaniste, which pays tribute to its original occupant’s interest in Botany. The bar is the epitome of elegance, right down to the smooth, soft leather chairs and (somewhat) authentic absinthe fountains, and the menu consists of elaborate cocktails made from rare botanical spirits infused with herbs and spices. This bar requires quite deep pockets (a cocktail comes to a grand total of 27€) but not nearly as deep as a stay at the hotel would. Try the ‘Vanilla Sky’, a polished interpretation of the classic Manhattan, with cherry, vanilla, cinnamon and vermouth added to a rye whiskey base. Dress casually chic for the occasion and bring a fancy date or your parents here to enjoy the sense of life as royalty.
With its, at this point, iconic stuffed cow above a piano, Piano Vache has been a haunt for students and jazz aficionados alike since the 60’s. The walls are covered in old posters, photos, and scribbled messages from previous visitors and the tables and chairs are chipped but the drinks are cheap and the entrance is free. Come on Monday to see the live band jamming and bring a friend or two.
Just off the world’s arguably most famous avenue, in a street lined with Haussmanian buildings and modest looking restaurants, there is a portal to another world. Welcome to Blaine Bar -- that is, if you know the password (hint: you might want to politely ask them ahead of arriving). Once you are in, you will be greeted by the portrait of John Blaine, the US senator known for ending prohibition in America. Lights are dim and the walls are covered with an eclectic mix of art. Bring your most adventurous friends for some live music and a tropical flavored Byzantin, a Sailor Jerry rum based cocktail flavored with passion fruit, pineapple and fresh mint.
For the holiday season, follow in the footsteps of such legends as Zola and Baudelaire, later Picasso and the Fitzgeralds and, yet more recently, Sartre and Beckett and head to La Closerie de Lilas at the bottom of the Luxembourg gardens. A place where some unforgettable literature was conceived, this establishment is still very much with its time, and hosts a yearly ceremony for the Prix de la Closerie de Lilas, a literary award exclusively recognizing the contribution of female authors. With its tiled art nouveau floors (the same that were there in the good old days) and oxblood leather chairs, this classic brasserie, opened way back in 1847, will transport you to another era. Although you might not be there to write the next great novel, it is perfect for curling up with a vin chaud after doing some christmas shopping in the nearby Saint-Germain de Près.
Set up in the renovated space of what to used to be the quite legendary 1979 club, this newly opened venue has some pretty big shoes to fill. Word on the street is they are doing quite well, though. The crowd is young and beautiful and the restaurant offers some beautiful dishes, but in the sweaty, dimly lit and slightly equivoque basement is where the party is. Deco bordering on the vulgar but managing to stay on the right side and funky music make this a place to spend the entire evening, from aperitif to crawling out of the night club and sending for an Uber. Dress code is chic, urban and expensive looking. You can’t go wrong if you go with black.
The brainchild of the people behind clandestine coup Moonshiner, Le Bluebird is the new omphalos on the bar scene of this groovy quartier. If Mad Men was about twenty-somethings in California, this is where they would go for after work cocktails. Smooth curves and bold colors, the deco resembles what the future must have looked like in the 60’s. It would be tempting to dress up in your shortest psychedelic print dress and orange block heels but if you want to fit in, the crowd here wears cashmere knits and Isabel Marant booties. The bar opened just this fall, so there is still a chance you will be the first in your circle to visit this new spot. Go for the Belleville Sling, inspired by the Singapore Sling, obviously.
The So-Pi area, the knot of streets just below the metro station, is très cool. There is a jungle of bars such as Lulu White, Dirty Dick, Le Bonnie and Clyde and the ever crowded dive Le Sans Souci. All just a skip and a hop apart from each other, which makes this an optimal spot for bar hopping. Make sure not to miss Glass, run by the team behind success stories Candelaria and Le Marie Celeste. The floor of the bar is lit from below and the wooden benches are a bit uncomfortable, but nevermind, because unless you were waiting outside for them to open, you won’t have a seat. The cocktails are innovative and if you feel like a snack, they have some really tasty hot dogs in buns with all the trimmings.
This super chic design boutique hotel only has a few rooms, each individually and exquisitely decorated, and the bar and restaurant has been decked out with the same restraint and a keen eye for tasteful details without skimping on the personal touches that gives the hotel a home-y atmosphere. Relax with a glass of chilled Chablis in one of the Danish designer chair in the lounge, take in the photo art by well known names such as Emma Ledoyen, Antoine Legrand and Jean André or just choose a book from one of the bookshelves. There is an old jukebox and a fumoir (that is a fancy French word for a smoking room) in the basement, and oh, the restaurant also has all day breakfast on Sundays.
Adding a bit of Brooklyn to the Folie-Méricuort neighborhood, this vast space, situated on a wide avenue, is decorated like a Williamsburg apartment - with chipped paint, leather Chesterfield sofas, artsy books and Heinz ketchup bottles. Try the Ginger Ti’ Punch, a piquant variation of the cocktail du jour. The ‘ti’ is short for petit as in little, and the potent cocktail is made from cane juice rum, cane syrup and lime - here with the added punch of tangy ginger.