Mr. Rogers had it right when he asked his viewers to come to his neighborhood; me too, but in my case I’m talking about restaurants.
My friend Atar and I were chatting about how the opening of the Table d’Eugene nearby where we both live had really elevated the gastronomic tone of the nabe. Oh, we’ve had our moments of joy and hope over the past few decades, but this appears to be “the real thing.”
I recall that when we first visited Atar and Elan’s place a quarter century ago, there was precious little around; there was a tatty, smoke-filled, local dive called Chez Paula which apparently still exists, where one could get tough but tasty steak/frites. There was the l’Entracte de Sonia & Carlos and the Poulbot Gourmet (now the Bistrot Poulbot which is not bad at all), two creaky old Montmartre bistros, the not so creaky Le Maquis, Le Pirogue, an African place that was cheap, cheap, cheap and a one-man band place, Chez Tony, that served up the best Southwestern chow within walking distance.
In those days Wally the Saharien was here too (at a location that is now O.J.) and while his couscous was as dry as the resto’s namesake desert, his mechoui was OK. And, of course there was our only starred place, Beauvilliers, that Colette loved for the huge flower display and the fabled brasserie, the Nord-Sud, named for Metro #12, which runs pretty much North-South. But it wasn’t a really hot quarter.
Then some good things happened. A really fine place, the Chants de Piano closed to be replaced by a series of Italian restaurants, the best and the last called Per Bacco, run by a wonderful Italian couple who after having two kids moved back to the Motherland.
Atar dared me to take a French friend to Les Negotiants, saying it should be a food scholarship for a starving Montmartois, and it was genuine that’s for sure. And we four would occasionally go to the not-so-bad Cottage Marcadet until another one-man band chef-waiter stopped pouring our wine, which he kept a dozen feet away, to discourage alcoholism.
There was also a wonderful place, again run by a couple, with RAF plates, called La Buissonerie, Nicolas Vagnon’s short-lived Table de Lucullus, and the funkiest place I’ve even been in – La Casserole which has survived despite of or I guess because of its outrageous decor.
And l’Histoire de…. had several lives, not all of them pleasant until it became the quite OK Oxilis.
But when I looked at where my friends in the city lived, I was green with envy.
In the last few years though, a bit farther away and a longer walk, things started to pick up with the renovations of Amelie’s Café des Deux Moulins, Diapaison, Le Winch and Le Café qui Parle. And the Cottage Marcadet has upscaled and become pretentious while Paris Boheme, which taught me about salmon unilaterale, fell onto hard times.
Somewhat more recently, some more funky places opened, Les Sauterelles, 2 Pieces Cuisine, ex-Le Bulldog and Le Truc, all of which had redeeming value but none of which one would think of if you lived 10 blocks away.
And yes, we saw La Famille and Le Moulin de la Galette go through several transformations, l’Oriental move down the hill to its detriment and Sale & Pepe rated in Figaro’s top 10 Paris pizza places.
But now with the Table d’Eugene we have a truly fine place, serving genuine French food at reasonable prices that one can get a reservation at without waiting months, unlike say Guilo-Guilo, which is the inverse. I wish it good luck and just hope it doesn’t succeed so well it moves downtown.
Written with a little help from my friends Atar and Elan.
Where can you go in the Jules Joffrin neighborhood?
La Table d'Eugène
18, rue Eugène Sue, 18th (Metro: Jules Joffrin, Chateau Rouge)
T: 01 42 55 61 64
Closed Sundays and Mondays
Lunch menu 10.5-12.5, dinner menu 21-27, a la carte 25-30 €