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A Lucky Lady at Cafe Lino

January 1, 2010

To all the Americans who still think Parisians are rude: instead of smacking you repeatedly across the face with rubber gloves, I will recommend you get away from the über-touristy parts of town and go to places like Cafe Lino.

Located at 81 Boulevard de Charonne, in the 11eme arrondissement right across the street from where Andrew and I are staying, this darling cafe is one of the things I will miss about Paris.

After my shower at 6 PM (ha), we went there to hear some live music in honor of New Year’s Day.  I got as dolled up as I could considering my tiny suitcase wardrobe, wearing all black: a shirtdress (corduroy, was I on drugs when I bought it?), patterned tights, and to avoid messing with my hair, a sparkly cap that I’ve had forever but had never worn before…

Me and my Josephine Baker hat

And, as “regulars,” we made quite the entrance, as we were greeted warmly by our server, Marianne, and the bartender.  A table near the window facing Boulevard du Charonne was available and we pounced on it, grateful for the view of the bar, the people and cars rushing by outside, and the live entertainment.  Marianne rushed over, kissed Andrew and me on the cheeks, asked us how we celebrated New Year’s and took our drink orders.  Mojito for him, the “usual” red wine pour moi.

The musician was a one-man band, playing mostly American pop music–from the Beatles to Prince–with a bouncy, bluesy twist.

Eric Larsen

When Marianne came back to take our orders, she said my hat was “very Josephine Baker,” awwww.  With extreme patience, she listened as I explained my dining do’s and don’ts and reluctantly gave her my vegan cheat sheet (which is often effective but makes me feel like an a-hole).  But, turns out her boyfriend, the chef, is vegetarian!

My Vegan "Cheat Sheet" in French!

Voilà!  I got a HUGE, gorgeous salad and pan-fried potatoes.  I’ve gotten quite used to settling for salads in Parisian cafes but this was, in comparison to the others, a masterpiece…

Salad at Cafe Lino


Music filled the air and people–guests and staff–on the other side of the cafe danced (even though there’s certainly no “dance floor”), while I was in food heaven, laughing and chatting with Andy in the candlelight.

Although we have been going to Cafe Lino regularly, that’s not why they’re nice to us “foreigners.”  They’re welcoming to everyone–a British couple sat at the bar near us, for example, and from what I could gather it was their first time there.  The bartender was just as open and full of curiosity with them as he has been with us.  

Speaking of the handsome bartender…every time we go there, we make a game of trying to figure out Marianne’s relationship to him.  Their body language (as you can see below) perplexed us.  At first we thought they were married, but then she said her boyfriend is a chef there.  Brother and sister, then?  She mentioned later that they’re “just friends.”  Eh, this is France so who am I to say anything?  But they have good chemistry and their playfulness certainly adds to the ambiance, if nothing else.

The body language between Andy and me was also very cozy, as we drank more and scooted our chairs closer together.  After he’d had two mojitos and I’d had two glasses of wine and a glass of Amaretto “for dessert,” the cafe was winding down and my baby and I were ready for some alone time.

As we stood up to leave, we got more kisses and hugs goodbye from our hosts.  A older gentleman at the bar spoke turned around to speak to us in charmingly broken English, asking us where we were from, telling us that we were always welcome here (in the bar? In Paris?).  Marianne came over to translate, and she said the man said I was beautiful and that Andrew was very lucky.

Andy laughed, shook the man’s hand and said, “Thank you!  I know!”  And I just stood there and beamed.

Uh, can we come here every night?  :)

We left, went upstairs, made popcorn and watched a movie… a perfect end to a perfect evening. 

Then I got ready to get up early to take a COOKING CLASS!!  

Next post will be about my day in La Cucina di Terresa…

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