Au petit fer à Cheval
Our first lunch in Paris, even through a jet-lagged haze, could not have been dreamier. From the tiny horse-shoe shaped bar to the tiny table in the corner where we could watch the rain drizzling onto the cobblestone street, it was très romantique!
Tiny tables, wicker chairs, and the coziest (read, tiny) interior make for the perfect place to duck in from the rain, or sit outside and people watch. Open for more than a century and located in the Marais neighborhood on a tiny but busy cobblestone street lined with shops and cafés, the only thing better than the ambiance was the food. Perfectly simple yet delicious, this is the place to go when you need a comforting bowl of soup l'oignon or a carafe of wine after a long day of window shopping!
Classic bistro fare such as beef tartare, ham beurre sandwiches on fresh baguette, and pork rillette. Most items are served with plenty of cornichons for a salty crunch, and the Soup l'oignon is cheesy, creamy, and soul-warming. We went twice for lunch, and barely made a dent in the menu. Every dish that passed looked incredible, and we knew we'd be back at least once more this trip!
Tips & Tricks
The French take their café culture very seriously, and you can't hesitate for a moment if you want to fit in. Walk right in, and tell the first person you see how many you are. If you prefer to sit at a certain table or inside vs. outside, make that clear by gesturing to a table (or better yet, saying it in French, which was almost impossible for me!). You will most likely pay a higher price to sit at a table vs. the bar, or even to sit outside vs. inside. These prices will be clearly marked on the menu as "bar" and "salle", so there's no confusion. You're paying a little more to have table service, which makes sense.
Furthermore, servers are typically not very attentive. Signal when you need something, but be prepared to sit back and relax. Don't plan a sit down meal if you have another date in 30 minutes!
The Local Factor
Au Petit fer à Cheval was recommended to us by Gregory, our AirBNB host, when we checked in. About 30 minutes later we walked in and grabbed a table, and who was sitting at the table next to ours? Gregory! Clearly he was giving us a good tip, and not just giving us a local tourist destination. It's always best to get recommendations from other locals!
Right in the heart of the Marais neighborhood, in the 4th arrondissement, on a quaint cobblestone street. Make sure to have your map on you, as the streets in this neighborhood can be extremely narrow and easy to miss!