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A New Night in Pigalle

Hot Dogs, Mai Tais, and the New Parisian Nightlife
  • night

    Neon Lights in Pigalle

  • le Carmen

    Le Carmen nightclub; photo on the right courtesy of Valentin Le Cron

  • Le Carmen

    The former residence of Bizet, now a room at the nightclub Le Carmen; photo courtesy of Le Carmen

  • Banke Hôtel

    Banke Hôtel

  • Dirty Dicks

    Kitschy tiki décor at Le Dirty Dick

  • Braisenville

    A dish at Braisenville and the restaurant’s interior

  • Hôtel de Nell

    Hôtel de Nell

  • Glass

    Glass, an intimate American-style bar

  • Le Pantruche

    Bistro Le Pantruche

  • La Chambre aux Confitures

    La Chambre aux Confitures; photo courtesy of Fred Toulet

  • Résidence Nell

    Résidence Nell

  • Causses

    The gourmet market Casses

CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

Western Europe, smack in the middle of France’s northern half, bisected by the River Seine.

WHY GO

Because any way you cut it, Paris is among the truly great cities. If you’ve got any appetite at all for fashion, food, art, wine, architecture, culture or intellectual history, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself drawn into its orbit.

HOW

From elsewhere in Europe, rail is by far the most humane option. From farther afield, Charles de Gaulle is among Europe’s busiest airports, directly connected to just about everywhere — it’s not hard to wrangle a Parisian stopover.

TABLET TIP

Once you’re in town: consider walking. It’s a more compact city than you might think. Though if you’re in a hurry, the Metro, with its distinctive visual style, eccentric manual latched doors and near-silent rubber-tired cars works well, while Vélib’, the public bike-sharing program, is another excellent above-ground option — just don’t bother with the taxis.

Paris, July, 2013

Pigalle, the most storied quartier in Paris’s ninth arrondissement, is once again having a moment. The latest revival is taking hold mostly below the still-seedy Boulevard de Clichy, attracting a new wave of young Parisians from both sides of the Seine — and, in the process, earning the area a spanking-new acronym of a name, SoPi, for South of Pigalle.

Today, the neighborhood is well worth a daytime stroll. For one, there’s the flagship boutique for the homegrown haute street-wear brand Pigalle. And foodies can pick up specialty jams in flavors like apricot-lavender or fig-cognac at La Chambre aux Confitures, before a healthy lunch at La Fabrique inside the locavore market Causses.

Still, in order to really experience Pigalle, one must roam at night. The revival of the city’s once notorious red-light district has come mostly in the form of hip new bars, clubs and other after-hours hangouts.

Ease into the neighborhood’s evening vibe with cocktails and people-watching at Le Mansart, or at the scene-y terrace of Hôtel Amour. Fitted with ’50s-inspired décor, Le Mansart is a rather typical-looking bar and restaurant, which is largely why its SoPi patrons, who are known to be more laid-back and bohemian than the Marais fashionistas, like to flock there. The proper order: le hot-dog, with a dry martini. The former is served in a Vienna roll and garnished with caramelized onion; the latter is, well, a dry martini. While you’re at it, get in on a game of foosball. It won’t be hard to find some competition.

If you’re planning to make it a mellower night, your best choices are the gastronomic bistro Le Pantruche, helmed by the young, Christian Constant–trained chef Franck Baranger; or Braisenville, where they serve tapas-style dishes, many of them coal-braised (hence the name), along with a good selection of wines. Both places are mellow-er but by no means sleepy. So, who knows, after emptying a bottle of wine, you might not want to head home.

By the time you finish dinner, two new bars, Glass and Le Dirty Dick, both over on rue Frochot, will likely already be packed. At Glass, the specialty is American beers and spirits (think Brooklyn Brewery IPA with a shot of Jim Beam) — as well as, yes, more of les ever-popular hot dogs. To eat a hot dog in Paris might sound misguided at first, but the city’s love-hate obsession with all things American makes visiting these places every bit as authentically French, in its own way, as lingering at a café. Across the street, the kitschy tiki bar Le Dirty Dick has been serving up extremely un-French tropical cocktails like the Mai Tai and the Scorpion since opening in February of this year.

Seeking something more obviously Parisian? Then look no further than Chez Moune and Le Carmen. The two main SoPi playgrounds draw the achingly cool crowds who make this neighborhood so attractive in the first place. Chez Moune is a former lesbian cabaret reincarnated into an ultra-popular electro club. Thanks to its no-cover admission, it tends to be swarmed by the young and ready-to-party, so consider yourself warned, and be prepared to join in the debauchery. At Le Carmen, by contrast, there’s an unmissable air of sophistication, fitting for this gorgeous mansion that once belonged to Georges Bizet. Not that it’s all ball gowns and tuxes, at least not usually. A recent visit saw the band MGMT turn in a DJ set, and during fashion week, Kenzo and Chloé have been known to make it their after-party spot. Don’t bother arriving before midnight; these clubs get going late, and don’t quiet down until dawn.

When you’re ready to call it a night, you’ll find some peace and quiet by going farther south. For those who are enchanted by Le Carmen’s romantic opulence, the Belle-Époque Banke Hôtel lets you bring the mood all the way back to bed. If the night’s sensory overload has got you feeling a bit too stimulated, the serenely simple Résidence Nell and Hotel de Nell make it easy to get some rest. All the better if you want to wake up afresh the next morning and start all over again. The neighborhood’s back for more, too.

Aiko Ishikawa

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CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

Western Europe, smack in the middle of France’s northern half, bisected by the River Seine.

WHY GO

Because any way you cut it, Paris is among the truly great cities. If you’ve got any appetite at all for fashion, food, art, wine, architecture, culture or intellectual history, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself drawn into its orbit.

HOW

From elsewhere in Europe, rail is by far the most humane option. From farther afield, Charles de Gaulle is among Europe’s busiest airports, directly connected to just about everywhere — it’s not hard to wrangle a Parisian stopover.

TABLET TIP

Once you’re in town: consider walking. It’s a more compact city than you might think. Though if you’re in a hurry, the Metro, with its distinctive visual style, eccentric manual latched doors and near-silent rubber-tired cars works well, while Vélib’, the public bike-sharing program, is another excellent above-ground option — just don’t bother with the taxis.

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