Café Les Deux Gares
A little café in Paris...with a lot of good food!
You’ll have to forgive me here. I’m not much of a restaurant reviewer. I love you all, but when I go out to eat, I’m there for the food and wine…and the company, of course. I’ve also been deep into finishing our apartment renovation, packing things up for our move (a challenging day that began with me turning on my computer and my fairly new MacBook showing the ‘black screen of death,’ aka: my hard drive crashed and everything has been erased), while recovering from a blistering heat wave in Paris where temperatures brûléed the city, hitting 104ºF (40ºC). So this post has pics I took with my phone and I didn’t take copious notes to fill in all the details of each dish, but I did eat well and wanted to share the place with you, courtesy of an ancient computer I dug out from one of the formidable piles of miscellaneous boxes that I’m eager to tackle. (Not.)
I know people say to avoid restaurants with a good view, which means bad food. But in the case of Café Les Deux Gares, I found the view quite nice. (And the food very good!) True, behind the low wall in front of the restaurant are the train tracks of the Gare de l’Est, where trains take Parisians to the east of France. But sipping a glass of rosé on a warm summer night high up above the tracks, which you can’t see from the restaurant terrace, almost feels like you’re at the beach. So you’ll see some rooftops…and a whole lotta sky, which is a rarity in Paris. And while the areas around the Gare de l’Est and the Gare du Nord—aka the deux gares—used to be places you’d be hesitant to recommend to those unfamiliar with the city, for those who don’t mind going “off the beaten path,” you’ll be rewarded with a lovely evening out, as we were.
I met up with my friend Peter, who loves to eat and was happy to join me on the charming terrace of the restaurant. No one was eating inside, but I suspect in the winter, since the chairs, tables, and walls all scream “old Parisian bistro,” it’ll be a popular spot for cozy, cold-weather dining. The host, and server, were friendly and engaging, checking in on tables without being over-intrusive, in that discreet French way where they leave you alone to enjoy your food and drinks…and if you want something, you ask.
This can sometimes make visitors feel like service is bad in France, but I like being left alone while dining with my friends. If I need something, I’ll ask a waiter.
However, my criteria for sharing a bonne adresse is not just a rundown of what we ate, but my focus is if I like a place and think you’ll like it too. That’s what I prefer to share.
We started with a slab of rillettes, a block of in-house-made seasoned ground pork that tasted like it might have been flavored with goose fat, that went remarkably well with the rosé I had, before moving on to first courses.
Chef Jonathan Schweizer isn’t reinventing French cuisine but is taking it in his own direction.
The classic moulés (sans frites) were cooked in white wine, with the intriguing addition of lovage (livèche), a celery leaf/parsley-like herb, which the internet tells me is related to carrots as well. That earthy flavor of carrot greens infused in the broth made this a wonderful, if copious, starter.
(Just a note on prices: the first courses run in the €12-18 range, with these mussels clocking in at €18, and main courses in the mid-to-upper €20s. The natural wine list is gently priced, and wine is available by the glass and 50cl carafes, which is about three-quarters of a bottle.)
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