The requirements for a an ideal Parisian café will vary depending on who you’re talking to…when you’re talking to me, however, these are my top must-haves for any café to be blog-worthy, or return-worthy:
1. Option to sit indoors or outdoors. This is pretty common, but you’d be surprised as to how awkward or cramped the outdoor seating can be here. Plus, sometimes, the inside is so tiny that you literally have to lift the table to get to the seat. No thanks. And of course, outdoor heaters are an instant plus.
2. Good street or city view. Cafés with a good corner location or a view of a bustling Parisian street is always good, especially when exploring a new café solo. Without a buddy to talk to, it’s at least necessary to have an entertaining view.
3. Interesting crowd. People watching is an art, and it’s easy, in Paris, to master it. My favorite cafés in Paris have stellar people watching because they draw really interesting crowds- hipsters, moms and babies, lovers, artists, students, models, businessmen, the unassuming tourist. But please, no Mephisto-wearing, matching backpack toting tourists groups. Love you, but not in my ideal café.
4. The menu essentials: The menu of said ideal cafe must have an assortment of the following food items: salad (changes daily, local/organic/market-fresh ingredients), some sort of eggs (homemade quiche and/or an omlette) and soup, all priced under 10 euros please, and perhaps some kind of sandwich…cheese plate, necessary, and all food items should come with a basket of bread (this is nearly 100% common anyways). If we’re talking a non-traditional, non-french bistro, then I’m a sucker for a Greek or Tapas-style assortment of munchies.
As for drinks, happy hours are always welcomed. But why doesn’t Paris have a guide to happy hours around town? Like www.austinontherocks.com but for Paris…hmmm…I’m calling dibs. Cheap, good glasses of wine are obviously abundant here in Paris, and necessary to make my ideal-cafe-list. I love that Stella is considered the good/cheap here, so having it on draft is (almost) essential. I’m a sucker for Illy espresso over this Cafe Richards stuff that’s everywhere here, but I’ll take whatever form of caffeine they’ll serve. It’s all better than most I’ve had in America- besides Intelligensia. Yum, I miss that stuff.
5. Friendly servers… Don’t scoff. ”It’s Paris…all the servers are rude.” FALSE. A sense of customer service does exist here, but it isn’t like the one we are used to in America. I seriously appreciate it when the servers take the time to a. speak French to me when I speak French to them, b. say more to me than just “are you eating?” and “what do you want?” No need to get into a full-on conversation, but maybe crack a grin, let me know you’re human…
6. Comfy chair option- In America, I feel like it’s totally common to have an assortment of comfy chairs and hard chairs to sit in. Here, though, they’re all the hard kind. And sometimes, a girl just wants to cozy up. One of my favorite cafés has both chair options…and trust me, you don’t know how much you really want a comfy chair until you can’t find one anywhere.
7. Wifi- Seems pretty obvious to you Americans…but WiFi is not as prevalent here as in the states. When you find it, and it’s free, and it works, you’ve struck gold.