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Eating around the Eiffel Tower

By Ann | April 2, 2014

cafe chairs

My apartment in Paris is right next to the Eiffel Tower, which sounds fancy, but in reality the neighborhood is more crowded with young families than fashionistas. I first got to know the area when I was working at the American Library in Paris and even though someone recently described it to me as stuffy/ snobby/ boring/ touristy/ impersonal (er, thanks a lot), I’m fond of my quartier—its haughty Haussmannian façades belie a village atmosphere, with eccentric shops (among them a milliner, an embroiderer, and more framers than I can count), and neighbors who drop by with jars of chestnut honey. It’s especially familial on Sunday mornings, when the stores around the Rue Cler open for a few hours, and everyone makes a mad dash to buy food for the week.

Nonetheless, I do share my neighborhood with Paris’s biggest tourist attraction. And where there are tourists, there are tourist traps—restaurants serving sloppy, bad, or even reheated factory-frozen food. Whenever I see poor unsuspecting visitors heading into one of these places, I want to throw myself between them and the bowls of desultory French onion soup—which I’m sure would not win many favors with the café owners who are, after all, my neighbors.

les deux abeilles

But I’m happy to say that my neighbors also include folks who serve honest, fresh, thoughtful fare, like Anne and Valeria Arella, the mother-daughter pair who own Les Deux Abeilles. Though their charming tea salon is “so British!” (as the French might exclaim), decked out in flowered wallpaper and family furniture, the food is like something you’d eat at Mémé’s house—a light cuisine of composed salads, pureed soups, or savory tarts (the French would call it sain, or healthy). On my last visit, I ate an omelette filled with mint leaves and fresh goat cheese, a plump, soft, eggy roll. There are other choices, too—broccoli quiche that could have descended from a cloud, a courgette-layered flan with tomato sauce that’s a house invention, and a gently warmed lentil salad that combines the nutty pulse with a tangy vinaigrette, to name a few.

les deux abeilles chocolate cake

les deux abeilles lemon meringue

les deux abeilles tea

My husband always jokes that 99% of Les Deux Abeilles’ clientele is women—which is actually true. But I’m not sure why men don’t flock here, too. Is it because the food is too sain? Do men not care about their waistlines? If that’s the case, there are certainly temptations here, like my favorite chocolate-almond cake, moist and crumbly, almost like a dense pudding, or the tarte au citron meringué, topped in swooping clouds of sugared egg whites. Crumbles often feature fruit from the owners’ country garden and for those who truly are en regime, they make a batch of compôte everyday, stewing apples, pears, orange peel, cinnamon—and not a grain of sugar. Still, you’d never think of it as diet food.

cafe de mars

tourte aux epinards 2

A few blocks away, on a quiet side street, is Café de Mars, a casual, little neighborhood place with plain tables and Thonet chairs. The chef here is an American—one overlooked for her flashier compatriots—which is lucky for me, because I prefer her simple, heartfelt food and I like being able to slip into a table here at the last minute. The menu mixes lots of different influences—Asian, Italian, Middle Eastern—the plates are clean and bright, and the prices reasonable.

rouget

coffee

Like many Paris restos, the lunch menu here is scrawled across a chalkboard, and it’s a formule of two or three courses (€16 or €20 respectively—dinner is a similar format, but I’m not sure of the prices). You select from two to three entrées (first courses), the same number of plats (main course), and desserts.

I started with a tourte aux épinardsa disk of puff pastry topped with spinach, tarragon, and everyone’s favorite adornment, a runny poached egg. My main course was an expertly sautéed filet of rascasse—all crisped skin and moist flesh—accompanied by chard and pleurotte mushrooms. My friend had a tidy salad of bok choy and miso-marinated daikon, followed by braised pork cheeks. Pas d’dessert, we just finished with coffee.

One of the fun things about the Café de Mars, is that they post the week’s menu on their Facebook page—if I were going this week, for example, I’d order the watercress salad with beets and confit de canard, followed by the eggplant tian, and then balsamic ice cream with strawberries (yes, please!). They also post a lot of photos of the kitchen team; maybe it’s all a front, but they look like they’re having fun, which is the same feeling I get from the food. This isn’t one of those Parisian hotspot restaurants, and if you’re looking for an experimental, luxurious, life-changing dining experience, you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re in the neighborhood anyway (visiting, say, a large, iron, lattice-work structure?) it’s a delightful spot for lunch.

le petit cler 2

Finally, the Rue Cler can be a veritable minefield of bad food, but Le Petit Cler is one place where the food is truly correct. Run by the same folks who own the restaurant where Obama ate in Paris, this is just a café serving regular old café cuisine—salads, sandwiches, omelettes, the odd steak frites, nothing out of the ordinary. And yet, the food is prepared with such care, it’s lifted into the memorable. On my last visit, I satisfied my perpetual craving for a croque madame, which, unlike its male counterpart, is topped with an oeuf miroir, or sunny-side-up egg. The cheese was toasted to golden perfection, the Poilâne bread chewy and crunchy, the egg runny enough to soak its crumb, and the accompanying dab of mustard sharp enough to sting my nose. Just a simple toasted ham-and-cheese-sandwich, and yet extraordinarily satisfying.

rosbif

Even my friend Meg, who has lived in Paris for decades and has the discriminating palate to prove it, was pleased with her tartine topped with rare roast beef and shavings of Parmesan. I can also recommend the tartine with tuna and ratatouille, and I always say this but next time I swear I’m going to try the one with raw ham and flash-broiled St-Marcellin cheese.

baba au rhum

It’s unusual for a café, but desserts here are exceptionally good—plain, yet classic and delicious. Meg and I shared a tender baba au rhum, which featured a cakey (not brioche) base and enough liquor to make a pirate happy. But I’ve also loved the crème brûlée, as well as the nonfat fromage frais with raspberries which–though it admittedly does not sound very tempting—is utterly marvelous, lightly sweet, and whipped into a cloud. I’m not sure what they do to it, but in a way I’m kind of glad I don’t know because then I would cook (and eat) nothing else.

And you know the best part about eating near the Eiffel Tower? When it’s time to go home, you run into views like this:

tour eiffel by night

Les Deux Abeilles (no website)
189 rue de l’Université
75007 Paris
tel: 01 45 55 64 04
Service nonstop, 09h00-19h00, closed Sunday
Reservations recommended

Café de Mars
11 rue Augereau
75007 Paris
tel: 01 45 50 10 90
12h00-14h30, 20h00-23h00, closed Sunday
Reservations recommended

Le Petit Cler
29 rue Cler
75007 Paris
tel: 01 45 50 17 50
Service nonstop, 08h00-21h00, open seven days

Topics: Dining Out and About, Paris, Where to eat in France | 18 Comments »

18 Responses to “Eating around the Eiffel Tower”

  1. Katia Says:
    April 2nd, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    What a wonderful list, Ann! There is NO excuse to eat bad good around the Eiffel Tower with this gem of a post!
    I LOVE Les Deux Abeilles! Their broccoli quiche is how quiche should be done. Always. Not to mention their delicious gingery citronnade which is divinely refreshing on a hot summers day and even in the winter.

  2. La Torontise Says:
    April 2nd, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Ann, I love this area:-) know rue de l’Universite… so many nice memories there…
    But I have never been chez Les Deux Abeilles, so nw I know where to go the next time I’m in Paris.

    Have a great weekend!

  3. Christine Griffith Says:
    April 2nd, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    i really loved reading this latest blog, Ann, as we lived in Avenue de Villars within walking distance of all these cafes! Before leaving Paris for NZ a group of us went to Les Deux Abeilles for my farewell lunch and it was just as you described…..beautifully cooked and presented food to tempt the most fussy palate, served in such tranquil surroundings.
    I have dined several times at Le Petit Cler, also, and I recommend it to all my friends who ask me where to eat in Paris.
    Cafe de Mars is on my list of places to go to on our next visit to Paris!
    Such sweet memories of Paris…thank you!
    Christine

  4. Judy Says:
    April 2nd, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Thank you for this post, Ann! It’s going in my “next Paris trip” file. I wish I’d known about these places a couple of years ago when I was looking for a good place to eat in that area. Ended up at a really good crepe stand so my search wasn’t totally in vain, at least!

  5. Liza in Ann Arbor Says:
    April 3rd, 2014 at 2:01 am

    Fun list! I always stay near Rue Cler when I visit Paris. Last time I popped into Le Petit Cler for an after dinner drink and was charmed by the interior (remembering the space as a former tabac and cheap breakfast spot). Next time I will have to actually eat there.

  6. Robin | Melange Travel Says:
    April 3rd, 2014 at 2:08 am

    Great suggestions Ann and your photos look delicious! Les Deux Abeilles is going on my must try list for my next visit. I hope you don’t mind if I share a few of my faves too –

    While not right next to the tower, I like Les Ombres and Cafe Branly at the Branly Museum, which both have nice views of the ET.

    Nearby on rue Saint Dominique is Les Cocottes and Cafe Constant, both owned by Christian Constant, which are reliable options.

    And, when all else fails, there’s always a picnic on the Champs du Mars :)

  7. Lynde Says:
    April 3rd, 2014 at 2:13 am

    I was hoping you would mention Le Petit Cler because that is what you recommended to me last fall when I rented an apartment in the area for a few weeks. I wrote a desperate e-mail to you and you responded. I do not eat dairy so they made a special omelette for me and I went back nearly everyday. It is a wonderful little restaurant where everything I had was simply divine.

  8. Parisbreakfast Says:
    April 3rd, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Fabulous descriptions of food!
    Makes me want to hop on the Metro for rue Cler and it is lunch time…

  9. Kristen Says:
    April 3rd, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Thank you for this! A great list that I know I will be pulling up on my phone at some point in the near future. I can’t wait to try all these spots!

  10. French Basketeer Says:
    April 3rd, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    Yummy! I am hungry after looking at your photos and reading the descriptions! I usually dash through this market, but now I’m going to stop for a bite or some tea and cake!

  11. Kim Says:
    April 3rd, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    The last time I was in Paris and staying at the lovely Le Walt hotel just around the corner from Rue Cler, I had 2 delicious meals at Le Petit Cler!

  12. Ann Says:
    April 3rd, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    Katia — How could I have forgotten to mention the delicious ginger citronnade at Les Deux Abeilles?! You can order it cold — or hot! Yum.

    La Torontise — I love rue de l’Université, too. One of the longest streets in Paris. I hope you love Les Deux Abeilles!

    Christine — Café de Mars is a real American Library hangout. I think they might even offer a discount for Library members.

    Judy — Crêpes are always wonderful!

    Liza — Le Petit Cler is great for a drink, isn’t it? Wonderful people-watching on their terrasse.

  13. Ann Says:
    April 3rd, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Robin — Thank you! I’ll have to try Les Ombres or Café Branly. I like Café Constant, but have not had consistently good meals there. And though I always argue that Americans are unavoidably everywhere in Paris and that hearing English does not equate touristy restaurant, I have to admit Café Constant does feel quite Anglophone and touristy to me. I feel the same about Les Cocottes (all those people queuing to eat at 7pm…) but in all fairness, I’ve only eaten at the latter once and should try it again before sharing my opinion :)

  14. Ann Says:
    April 3rd, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Lynde — I’m glad they were so accommodating at Le Petit Cler!

    Paris Breakfasts — And if you approach from the other side (line 9, Pont de l’Alma) you can cross the Seine for an unparalleled view of La Dame de Fer :)

    Kristin — They’re good spots for dinner after events at the American Library :)

    French Basketeer — Yes! Les Deux Abeilles is great for goûter — their hot chocolate is sublime.

    Kim — How great! I also read that Brasserie Aux PTT on the rue Cler is also good — for you to try next time.

  15. Devra Long Says:
    April 4th, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    We love staying near the Rue Cler and always go to Brasserie aux PTT for coffee; we stand at the bar and pretend we’re locals. We have had the pleasure of having coffee with Stephane who has the oyster stand outside the Brasserie; very charming man!

  16. Jill Colonna Says:
    April 5th, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    What a lovely trip down memory lane. We lived on rue Bosquet, next to rue Cler for 5 yrs. Loved that place. Life before kids. Was around there recently and ate at Les Cocottes of Christian Constant. Didn’t expect to get a table so quick but we were lucky. Need to pop back there since Les 2 Abeilles sounds great. They weren’t around in our day. My kind of a place!

  17. Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.) Says:
    April 7th, 2014 at 11:38 am

    GREAT list Ann – I did a walking tour of some gourmet spots around the Eiffel Tower last summer and was surprised by a quartier that I didn’t know well at how “gourmand” it was!

  18. Tracie Ogier Says:
    May 5th, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Thanks Ann. Last time we visited Paris we were a little dubious with eating at Paris restaurants for fear of getting ‘tourist’ food.
    ps – a must watch when one gets the chance “Anthony Bourdain’s – Off The Beaten Track – the Lyon, France episode.
    Had Paul Bocuse featured and his food. Anthony said this was the hi lite of his life, and he meant every word. The food, oh the food! Heaven!

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