‘In-the-know’ Parisians are already aware of Candelaria in the 3rd arrondissement, with it’s hidden cocktail bar out the back. They are quickly getting to know Café Chilango as another outstanding go-to for authentic Mexican
food in northeastern Paris.Small and noisy, Café Chilango has more of a canteen feel than some of its stuffier neighbors. You order your food at the counter, reading off the chalkboard menu behind the chef. You also collect your drinks directly from the counter, which just cuts out the middleman, really. Of all the places on this list, this is the best lunch option. It is also very good for dinner, but the combination of early afternoon sun and the coffee shop on-site (open 10am-5:30pm) make lunchtime a great time to visit. There is a vibrant energy in the place, even when there are relatively few customers. The exposed brick walls reflect the modern jazz coming through the stereo as well as the conversations of just about everyone inside — this is not the place to pen your novel. The vibrancy is reflected in the food, always bright in color and taste. The quesadilla (vegetarian or with meat), a folded tortilla stuffed with black beans and cheese and toasted, is crispy without being greasy. It is served with a spicy (but not deadly) homemade red salsa and a colorful salad of rocket, sprouts and radishes. The lunch menu also includes huevos rancheros
or a plate of four tacos (pork, fresh cheese, chicken or potato with green salsa). Everything is beautifully presented by the cheerful chef behind the counter, and quickly. Café Chilango takes on a whole new energy in the evenings. The music gets louder and the conversation gets more animated, usually brought on by a Negroni or a shot of tequila and plenty of Pacifico beer (from Mexico
). Tables become crowded with diners and drinkers huddled over an impressively chunky guacamole (with homemade tortilla chips), speaking in French, Spanish and English. Every so often the bartender declares that they’re making a round of tequila cocktails, and those who are game queue up along the small counter. This is the sort of place where a quick dinner can get out of hand in a hurry, which is probably why it was named one of the best bars in the 11th arrondissement by Time Out
(as evidenced by a certificate on the shelf behind the bar).