La rue Montorgueil is a street, a neighborhood, and a village all packed into one short, uber-charming stretch of cobblestone. Straddling the border between the 1st and 2nd arrondissements of Paris and tucked just behind the beautiful and imposing Eglise Saint-Eustache, rue Montorgueil is perhaps my favorite street in Paris.
Because of its abundance of small, specialized shops, rue Montorgueil brings to mind the old nursery rhyme with the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. In this case, forget the candlestick maker and throw in a few cheese stores, wine merchants, chocolate shops, and fresh fish, fruit, and vegetable markets, and you can start to picture the atmosphere on rue Montorgeuil.
Whatever your food or drink needs, you’ll likely find what you’re looking for here. This pedestrian paradise is lined on both sides not only with shops to help you cook from home, but also with a multitude of cafés, brasseries, and restaurants spilling out onto the sidewalk (including heated terraces in winter).
The constantly bustling rue Montorgueil is full of character, and is about as close as one can get to the “Old Paris,” when locals dined in neighborhood brasseries and fresh products were bought from the nearest vendor, not from the frozen section of a supermarket.
Rue Montorgueil is not entirely unknown to tourists, but you won’t hear much English spoken there as you walk down the street. Most of the patrons perched at sidewalk cafes with a demi or a glass of wine are locals. They may be Parisian, but they get as much enjoyment as you or I from immersing themselves in a warm and lively atmosphere where you can have a drink and simultaneously watch the world go by just a few feet away.
The fishmonger on the street calling out his best deals of the day and showing off his freshest catches, the fromager recommending a certain kind of cheese to a curious client, or the butcher explaining to a customer exactly how to cook a coq au vin; these are all images that seem suited for a Toulouse-Lautrec painting or perhaps the latest Woody Allen film. Rest assured, though, that on rue Montorgueil, you can become part of this ever-so-charming world merely by strolling down the street.
When friends visit from out of town, I take them to rue Montorgueil and we amble aimlessly from shop to shop, stand to stand, market to market. We soak up the atmosphere and slowly but surely buy each course of a filling French meal, right down to the wine, cheese, and chocolate. There is something satisfying about making each purchase in a specialized shop, and even more satisfying about doing all of it in a span of about 100 yards.
In addition, you’ll likely notice that in a nod to modernity, old-school French establishments aren’t the only ones to have set up shop here. Several diverse establishments such as sushi or Chinese restaurants easily co-exist alongside their French counterparts and add some variety to rue Montorgueil. Even Toulouse-Lautrec enjoyed the occasional California roll from time to time.
So next time you are in the center of Paris, day or night (or Sunday morning, a rarity in France), carve out an hour to wander through this quartier and take in all of the sights, sounds and smells that it has to offer.
For eating, drinking, or cooking needs, try the following:
Café du Centre
At the geographical heart of Montorgueil, you can relax and have a drink (or choose food from a classic brasserie menu) as you look out across the cobbestones to the asthaetically pleasing Palais du Fruit, where thousands of fruits are stacked neatly in every color of the rainbow. This is perhaps the best spot for partaking in the timeless art of people-watching.
57 Rue Montorgueil
Stop at this Italian-owned pizza joint if you’re looking for a quick slice or a mouth-watering panini. It may not be French, but it’s good quality, friendly service, and is perfect for a quick snack or meal.
34-36 Rue Montorgueil
You can’t miss this fromagerie because of the cow on the roof. Whether cheese afficionado or novice, stop in La Fermette to see (and smell) every kind of French cheese imaginable. Don’t be shy about asking for a recommendation, and you’ll be sure to walk away with the lingering essence of camembert still in your nostrils.
86 Rue Montorgueil
Vegetarians beware… In this classically French butcher, you can find different kinds of meat in all shapes and sizes, including hanging from the ceiling. The butchers working there seem to know almost all their customers personally, and are perfectly willing to dish out advice on preparing any meal you can name.
62 Rue Montorgueil
Experimental Cocktail Club
To experience more of Montorgueil’s night life, try this small and hidden bar down a quiet side street off rue Montorgueil. It is essentially a private club, and maintains a VIP lounge kind of feeling by limiting the flow of people, complete with a bouncer at the door. The cocktails are delicious, and indeed experimental, meaning they are made with ingredients you have most likely never tasted in a drink. Be prepared to savor the flavor, however, as each one costs around 12 euros.
37 Rue Saint-Sauveur