Visible almost as soon as you exit the Belleville metro, this neon-lit cafe is a microcosm of the diverse, constantly-in-flux neighbourhood it’s located in.
A little rough around the edges, it is always packed to bursting on weekend nights with a crowd that is mostly made up of bohemian residents drawn by the area’s lower rent and lively vibe, their (young) children at all hours of the night, and often a handful of foreign “authenticity-seekers.”.
Needless to say, the people-watching experience is a bit different from what you’d normally see if parked at a more central Parisian cafe with hordes of chic, thin, black-clad Parisians.
Instead, the sidewalk drama unfolds in multiple languages (there are large local North African and Chinese populations) and in ever-new shapes and forms.
On a recent Saturday night, revelers lit a peanut-fueled blaze on one of the tables — a stunt that would get you arrested immediately in New York, but met with nothing more than bemused looks from the clientele and, eventually, some disciplinary action from the waiter.
Staff are efficient and alert, recovering dropped wallets and filling orders with equal alacrity.
8 Rue de Belleville, 20th
Hours: 7/7 7am-2am
Métro: Belleville (2, 11)