April 15, 2010
There are a few places in Paris that make you feel like an insider the minute you step through the door. It’s an incredibly gratifying feeling, given that other elements of life here can feel downright impenetrable to those of us who aren’t born and bred (make that incredibly well-bred) Parisians. So when I “discovered” Le Baron Rouge and instantly felt like a regular, I knew I had hit the jackpot.
It turns out that quite a few people have hit the same jackpot, but as popular as this unassuming spot is, it maintains its low-key, local vibe. French still dominates among the staff and clientele, and the guys behind the bar are no-nonsense but still friendly (especially the one with the beard… you can’t miss him). There’s not a lot of hand-holding here, but there’s no judgment either (to me, that’s the perfect balance), and servers are happy to help you navigate the long and interesting wine list scrolled on chalkboards near the bar.
The intimate space holds a few comfy banquettes and a rustic zinc bar, where you can order a vast range of wines at ridiculously reasonable prices (about 2.50€ – 4€ each). You can also buy wine to take home from the giant wooden casks in the corner. For those of us that hail from the land of mass-produced Two Buck Chuck, the experience of buying wine straight from a barrel feels refreshingly legit.
But boiled down to its essence, Le Baron Rouge is a hangout, a neighborhood hub where locals (and aspiring locals) come to wind down after work or on weekend afternoons. The vibe is lively but relaxed, and it’s easy to lose track of time here while chatting with friends over plates of oysters and charcuterie (highly delicious and perfect for sharing).
During the warmer months, the weekend crowd spills onto the street near the Marché d’Aligre (a great place to shop for groceries pre- or post- wine). On Sunday afternoons, it’s all about the oysters. From late morning through about 4pm, friends convene, sipping rosé and sucking down bivalves to their hearts’ content. It gets crowded, but the small space seems to expand in order to accommodate all.
Le Baron Rouge has managed to strike an amazing equilibrium— it’s an institution without pretension, it’s a scene that doesn’t feel like one. And while I would gladly travel across town to get there, it never ceases to feel like the quintessential neighborhood wine bar.
Le Baron Rouge
1, rue Théophile-Roussel, 75012
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Written by Tory Hoen
After attending Brown University and spending two years in New York, Tory bought a one-way ticket to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a writer (and of drinking wine at lunch). During her time in the City of Light, she chronicled the euphoric highs and the laughable lows of ex-pat life on her blog, A Moveable Beast. Though she's now based in New York, she travels frequently to Montreal and Brazil, and she'll use just about any excuse to jet to Paris ("I ran out of fleur de sel"). A regular contributor to Hip Paris, Tory also writes for New York Magazine, Time Out New York, and she is a co-author of Gradspot.com's Guide To Life After College.
Website: Tory Hoen