The Tastes of Paris: Rue Mouffetard and Beyond

In the summer of 2006, I found myself staying at the Citadines in Paris’ Place d’Italie, teaching a month-long summer language and culture course for UCLA undergraduates.  I immediately fell in love with the energy of Place d’Italie, with its tall Haussmann style buildings, delicious corner bakeries, and hoards of teens and twenty-somethings sitting on the steps of Italie 2, the local centre-commerciel (shopping center), flinging Moroccan scarves around their necks and blowing smoke out their noses between fits of laughter.

tea breakHaving spent long periods of time in Paris before, I no longer felt the need to cram in as many different sight-seeing activities as I could per day, nor did I feel the pressure of actively seeking out all Paris “had to offer.” Instead, I wandered, and let Paris come to me. For my first few afternoons off, this meant meeting friends for coffee or cocktails at O’Jules (a neighborhood bar/brasserie), lingering in specialty shops along Avenue d’Italie, or giving my credit card a workout at Présence Africaine, a bookshop near the Sorbonne specializing in rare Francophone African and Caribbean manuscripts.

spices for saleOn my third afternoon, I bounced my way across Place d’Italie (still riding my wave of “I’m in Paris again!” euphoria), down Avenue des Gobelins, through Place Monge, and up a small side street I had not yet explored.  As I turned the corner, I was drawn in by the sight of milky white cheese rounds, the smell of fresh baguette, and the sound of a woman’s voice as she held out a peach wedge “Une pêche, mademoiselle?” What was this paradise I had stumbled into? I glanced up at a street sign that read Rue Mouffetard.  “Of course,” I thought to myself. Embarrassingly, I had never before been to this foodie’s paradise during any of my previous trips (to the horror of many of my francophile friends in the States). “Well, better late than never,” I thought, and dove in.

Patisserie Sign. FranceSituated in the fifth (cinquième) arrondissement of Paris (M: Place Monge), Rue Mouffetard is home to many restaurants, shops, and cafés, and a regular open-air market. This remnant of an old Roman road runs on a gentle slope from the Place de la Contrescarpe to Place St. Médard. Houses from the 12th century line the narrow street that is open to traffic, but functions primarily as a pedestrian walkway. After the open-air market closes at the end of the day, Rue Mouffetard’s top-notch restaurants open, offering a variety of ethnic foods and traditionally French cuisine.

Candied fruit at the marketDuring this first visit to Rue Mouffetard, I indulged in a fresh, sugary Nutella crêpe (what else?) followed by a perfect café crème from Oroyana.  Before returning to my hotel, I stocked up on a round of chèvre (goat cheese) from Alain Boulay — Fromagerie Mouffetard, a fresh baguette from Le Boulanger de Monge, and, yes, some pêches from the stall vendor on the corner.  And you can bet I went back…many times.

On subsequent visits, I had a wonderful lunch consisting of a savory Croque Madame, green salad and kir from La Contrescarpe restaurant (near Place de la Contrescarpe at the top of Mouffetard’s hill and around the corner) and tasty tabouleh and sweet mint tea at Colbeh, followed by smooth, flavorful gelato in the shape of a flower atop a huge sugar cone at Gelato d’Alberti. In my five visits to Rue Mouffetard that summer, I barely scratched the surface of what this lively quartier has to offer. I’m hungry for more.

O’Jules
2, rue Bobillot

Oroyana
36, rue Mouffetard

Gelati d’Alberto
45, rue Mouffetard

Colbeh
22, rue Mouffetard

La Contrescarpe
57 , rue Lacépède

Alain Boulay — Fromagerie Mouffetard
131, rue Mouffetard

Le Boulanger de Monge 
48 Rue Clef, 75005 Paris

Librairie Présence Africain
25 bis, rue des écoles