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Dining in Montmartre, Canal St-Martin, Northeast Paris
Perched above central Paris, Montmartre is buzzing with a hip vibe, and cutting-edge cafés are springing up along the banks of the Canal St-Martin.
Idyllic as the portrayal of Montmartre might seem in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's film Amélie, it's surprisingly close to reality. One of the most desirable areas in Paris, Montmartre seamlessly blends the trendy and the traditional. Less picturesque is the neighborhood around Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est, but you can still find classic brasseries and tucked-away bistros, as well as the city's most authentic Indian restaurants. Head over to the up-and-coming Canal St-Martin to watch Parisian bobos, or bohemian bourgeois, in action. The area is home to fashion designers, artists, and media folk who make the most of the waterside cafés on sunny days. Restaurants are sparse in the undiscovered Buttes Chaumont area, but you won't have to worry about stumbling onto a tourist rip-off.
If you're catching the Eurostar at Gare du Nord, it's worth planning ahead to fit in one last feast. Across the street from the train station, Terminus Nord (23 rue de Dunkerque 01-42-85-05-15) is a classic Art Deco brasserie where you can treat yourself to a seafood platter, bouillabaisse, or sole meunière before indulging in another house specialty, crêpes Suzette (flambéed in Grand Marnier). Just a few blocks farther, try the acclaimed Chez Casimir (6 rue Belzunce 01-48-78-28-80), run by the Breton chef Thierry Breton.
More laid-back than the Seine with its vehicle-clogged quais, the Canal St-Martin attracts artsy young professionals who scorn the self-consciously elegant Rive Gauche. Its once-vibrant live music scene has been quelled somewhat in the last few years by the city's noise restrictions, but that hasn't made the cafés any less entertaining. At the scruffy, long-established La Patache (60 rue de Lancry 01-42-08-14-35), the owner provides scraps of paper at each table for note writing, in case customers feel too coy to speak to each other. Bohemian institution Chez Adel (10 rue de la Grange aux Belles 01-42-08-24-61) holds live concerts Tuesday to Saturday and avant-garde theater on Sunday. The café of choice on the water is Chez Prune (36 rue Beaurepaire, 10e 01-42-41-30-47), whose terrace is overrun with locals as soon as a ray of sunshine emerges.
The "New Montmartre"
At the Montmartre restaurant Guilo Guilo (8 rue Garreau 01-42-54-23-92), a handful of diners perch around the counter while a Japanese chef who made his name in Kyoto turns out plate after perfect plate of inventive food (a signature dish is his foie gras sushi). Guilo Guilo is typical of the "new Montmartre," which stands in stark contrast to the area's ancient cobbled streets. The district's hip young population occupies the area, perfectly representing 21st-century Paris: nostalgic yet forward-thinking. Café Burq (6 rue Burq 01-42-52-81-27) is a popular, slightly less ambitious Montmartre hangout. Owned by an architect and an actor, it buzzes with a fashionable crowd that comes for the 1970s decor but also for the satisfying bistro fare. On the other side of the Butte Montmartre, the friendly Café Arrosé (123 rue Caulaincourt 01-42-57-14-30) proves that even this once-sleepy part of Montmartre is coming to life.
To really know Paris is to know her great boulangeries, a tradition in free fall since the advent of that notorious cricket bat, the industrial baguette. Thankfully there's an ever-growing group of bakers carrying the flame, literally, as Véronique Mauclerc (83 rue de Crimée, Eastern Paris/Canal St-Martin 01-42-40-64-55 Botzaris; Patisserie Véronique Mauclerc: 11 rue Poncelet, 17e 01-42-27-81-83), one of the very best, makes her breads, classicviennoiserie (croissants, turnovers, pain au chocolat), and savory tarts on the premises in a traditional wood-fired oven using only organic flour and natural ferments for leavening. As if this weren't enough, her pastries are a triumph. The fine traditional Paris Brest—a slightly sweet, hazelnut cream-filledpâte à choux sprinkled with slivered almonds—sells out quickly, as do the excellent mini chocolate cakes and fruit strudels. Although out of the way, being two steps from the lovely Buttes Chaumont makes it picnic perfect.
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