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Eating in Paris Guidelines

Hidden Tearooms in Paris, France

A Budget Travelers Paradise for Foodies

By Karen Burns

Budget travelers know about the basic inexpensive meals in Paris: a picnic assembled from farmers’ markets, a croque monsieur or sandwich at a café, a crepe from a street stand, the sandwiches and quiches that some bakeries put out around lunchtime. But sooner or later you need a hot meal.

Almost all of the more than 140 tearooms in Paris serve hot lunches—simple and healthy and often vegetarian—for a reasonable price. Selection may be limited to two hot dishes, a quiche, and a few salads, but the food is genuine home cooking prepared and served by the tearoom owner herself (tearooms in Paris are almost always owned by women), and lunchtime often extends throughout the afternoon.

Some of the greatest tearooms are tucked away on side streets or in neighborhoods where tourists seldom venture. It may mean a longish Metro ride and a bit of a walk, but you will be rewarded with a truly all-French environment.

Tearooms in France
Cozy Chez Charléne rarely sees tourists

Thé des Brumes is a 1-room establishment on a quiet stretch of the rue Saint-Jacques in the far south 5th arrondissement (see below for addresses).The kitchen offers two different hot dishes every day, as well as three salads, two quiches (usually called “tartes salées” in French), scrambled eggs, and five “assiettes”—a combination of something hot and a salad. Prices range from $4 for a cheese and salad plate to $8 for the “Campagne Anglaise.” Meals change every day but center on pasta, curried chicken, smoked salmon, quiche, and large salads. Desserts range from lemon, apple, or chocolate tart to the owner’s specialty, cheesecake, which is served every Wednesday. For another few dollars, you can have dessert. The moelleux au chocolat (chocolate truffle cake) is something to consider. All food is made on the premises by owners Didier and Laurence Parguel, a young couple just starting out. Laurence speaks slow and clear French and is charmingly patient.

L’Infinithé is even farther off the beaten track in the 15th arrondissement across from a small park. Lunch is served from noon to 3 and is offered as a “formula”: a hot dish, dessert, and a pot of tea for $12. The owner, Sandrine Letestu, runs the place all by herself. She gave up a career as a designer of children’s clothes to realize this dream. Another passion is vocal blues and jazz—Billie Holiday, Diana Krall, and Shirley Horn are among her favorites and provide the tearoom ambience.

Chez Charlène, way up in the 18th arrondissement, north of Montmartre, is an exceptionally cozy tearoom that rarely sees tourists, according to owner Annie Calais. Done in English-style blues and creams, the atmosphere is friendly and casual. The owner’s elderly parents help out with lunch. The tearoom’s lunch specialty is a “tartine,” an open-faced sandwich often served on special bread—at Chez Charlène the tartines are made with pain Poilane, a chewy country-style loaf that has become popular in Paris in recent years. Toppings may be goat cheese, ham, smoked salmon, tomatoes and mozzarella, or a choice of three kinds of pâté. The sandwiches are big enough to cover a dinner plate and The tearoom’s lunch specialty is a “tartine,” an open-faced sandwich often served on special bread—at Chez Charlène the tartines are made with pain Poilane, a chewy country-style loaf that has become popular in Paris in recent years. Toppings may be goat cheese, ham, smoked salmon, tomatoes and mozzarella, or a choice of three kinds of pâté. The sandwiches are big enough to cover a dinner plate and come with a salad; prices range from $4 to $8. There is always a plat chaud du jour (“hot plate of the day”) or a generous slice of quiche served with salad. Desserts are particularly reasonable, averaging $3.50

For More Info

Thé des Brumes, 340, rue Saint Jacques, 75005 Paris; 01-43-26-35-07. Metro: Port-Royal. Open every day except Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

L’Infinithé, 8, rue Desnouettes, 75015 Paris; 01-40-43-14-23. Metro: Convention. Open Monday-Thursday from noon-6 p.m., Friday from noon-4 p.m and the first Sunday of each month for brunch (call for reservations).

Chez Charlène, 161, rue Ordener, 75018 Paris; 01-42-55-69-33.

Guy Moquet or Larmarck Caulaincourt. Open Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

KAREN BURNS writes from Kirkland, WA.