05 February 2009

A Humble Little Cafe

I want to own a humble little restaurant. A café, really, with only a few tables and a small menu. Unpretentious, with a daily special and a friendly waiter.

There was such a café in our town once, owned by a local foodie who grew up in the restaurant business. There were probably five tables inside, and a small terrace in back, overlooking the water. it changed hands a couple of times. One owner put two tables on the street and three more on the terrace.

One day my husband and I, waiting on a Friday afternoon for our friends at the bookstore, bought lemonades near closing time. We went out into the terrace, and much to our surprise, watched the owner as he locked the door. No matter, the tiny terrace was open on the water side and we simply made our way down to the path along the shore. We found this all very charming and a bit amusing.

(The photo above is not a café, but a table outside an antique store in St. Paul Village in the Marais. This seems to be common in the village, which I imagine to be its own little community.)

I want to own a place that makes customers feel they are treating themselves while spending very little money. It can be done.

In these bad times, we can't give up on the good ones. We need them. My community has seen many layoffs recently; some are temporary. Some may not be. The number now is likely to be in the hundreds. I don't know for sure.

What I do know is that we still need sustenance. And sometimes we don't feel like cooking. So we need an affordable treat. That is getting harder to find.

Our spirits need sustenance, too. That can mean many different things. It certainly can mean a good meal in a humble little café.

What do you think?

21 comments:

Alain said...

Mimi,
Your charming piece made me smile for two reasons: 1. For a very long time I had myself the sme kind of dream: Going back to a small village in my native area (the Cevennes) and open a very small cafe where I would serve "pastis", good regional wines, and only 1 "plat du jour" to local regulars and friends who would come to visit. In fact in some areas of the Languedoc you still find the kind of places that you would like to open some day with your husband. Let me know if you actually do it, I will make sure to stop by.
2. I opened the link to that photo of a cafe that was previously shown in your August 2007 piece on that same subject. What a surprise: When I was a student in Paris in 1963 I rented a room in that same building that you mention on the quai aux Fleurs where Heloise and Abelard lived. And I used to go very often to that little cafe Rue des Ursins to have a glass a wine and a sandwich and listen to some music.
And of course I know the antique shop Noix de Cajou in Saint-Paul that illustrate your post.
Nostalgia... Nostalgia.
Hope you have the same bright sun that we enjoy in Chicago up there in Wisconsin. It is actually melting our thick coat of snow very rapidly.
All the best,
Alain
French Virtual Cafe

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Bonjour, Alain!

I guess this post was just for you! I was so entranced with some of the little cafés we have stumbled upon in Montcuq, in St. Cirq, in Catus, in La Roque and in other villages across the Lot and Dordogne areas.

I think Village Saint-Paul may well be my favorite place to shop in all Paris. I keep going back there again and again.

I will visit your cafe, too, Alain.

And, oui, il fait froid ici mas nous avons le soleil!

CB said...

a delicious idea...thank you for sharing it.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Thank you for visiting, CB.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I'm ready to settle in at a table at your cafe. In tough times, in this country, sitting at a cafe and passing the time with friends or family is seen as being self-indulgent or worse -- lazy. But it is no such thing. It is a way of maintaining the fabric of life, slowing down and spending time relaxing, observing, sharing, conversing. I fear they are lost arts here. As is the art of running a small, affordable cafe.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

I know people who do it, but they are struggling.

One of them is in a lovely old house by the harbor. The other day I went in for a meeting in the back room and as I was paying for my coffee, I saw some baked goods. I bought a small loaf of cranberry-orange-zucchini-apple bread and I knew right away the kitchen was making use of leftovers.

I like that!

LTer4ever said...

Oh, Mimi, please do open your humble cafe! I would so come and visit. It sounds so wonderful already.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

LT4, I have opened it online.

I have been struggling with a way to do more real French recipes on FKIA. So I am splitting out the frugal recipes and putting them in another blog. More to come!

I know this is a dream - I have a full-time job that enables me to help pull us through hard times. I have no money to start a cafe and banks are not loaning money for restaurants. So mine will be online. You can visit any time!

Penny said...

Mimi,
What a wonderful idea. With your wealth of knowledge we will all be enriched!
Penny

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Thanks, Penny. Amazing how the Internet can fulfull dreams. ;)

Annette said...

Humble little cafe's like that are my favorite places. There is a cafe near us owned by an elderly Vietnamese couple that serves French-Canadian food. There are only about 10 tables and they do all the work - she cooks, and he serves. Something about eating there soothes my soul.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Annette, I would love to visit your cafe! We had a small cafe in an old downtown warehouse for three short months. It was run by an older couple, two artists. The food was out of this world. It is the site of three other restaurants, each one very successful, from about 1991 to 2007. This one was the best.

Eileen said...

Well said Mimi. I agree.

Violette Severin said...

Uhm. . . Are you serving dessert?

lady jicky said...

Some of the nicest meals I have had have been in the little cafes.
You must try "Les Bougresses" in rue Jarente in the Marais. I think you said you were off to Paris this year?
I had a wonderful goat cheese salad , my Mum had fish and we had creme brulee and red wine poached pear. Not expensive - one of those little gems.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Lady J., I know just where that cafe is too. It was just a few months ago that we walked right past it.

Next spring, alas, not this one.

How are you doing, Lady J? I thought about you the other day...

lady jicky said...

Doing OK Mimi. We have a puppy now , it was the best thing to do after loosing both our dogs within a week ,just after the New Year.
Still, I cannot complain. I live about a 25 min drive from the bushfires here in Victoria, Australia. Death count is 186 and 1000 houses destroyed. Unbelievable. Just shocking.
right now its about 11 at night and the wind has changed . I can really smell the smoke now - before it was blowing the opposite way.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Glad to hear that, Lady J.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Violette, will recipes suffice?

eleonora said...

Your blog is super. So are your photographies. They make me hungry. I have spent a nice moment when seeing them. Thanks a lot.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Merci, Eleonora! Vos photographies sont jolies!