April 22, 2011
We are in love, here at the HiP Paris blog, with Candelaria. The tacos, the laid-back Brooklyn-like vibe, the secret back door… If you haven’t been yet, it’s high time you stopped by. Tory reports. -Geneviève
When I lived in Paris full-time, I experienced the occasional bout of FFF (French Food Fatigue). My friends and I re-energized our taste buds with falafel, ramen and freakishly cheap dumplings in Belleville, but we all agreed that Paris needed a low-key Mexican spot.
Enter Candelaria, perhaps the buzziest opening of the spring. Less than two months old, this tucked-away spot in the haut Marais packs a double punch. The front section of the restaurant is a sparsely-decorated taco stand, which leads to a sultry cocktail den that you could easily overlook if you weren’t paying attention.
So pay attention! Tacos up front, booze in the back. I highly recommend sticking around for both, as I did when I visited.
The taqueria dining experience is decidedly casual. Grab a seat at the counter if you want to observe the action in the tiny kitchen, or if you’re with a group, you can try to claim the restaurant’s only table. Regardless, prepare to battle the crowds: when it comes to seating, demand far outweighs supply at this point.
But if you time it right (they’re open from noon-11pm, Tuesday-Sunday), you will not be disappointed. First of all, chef Luis Rendon is a Mexico City transplant, and he takes a simple but precise approach to his native cuisine. The concise menu includes reasonably priced meat and vegetarian classics like rajas con queso (sauteed peppers with melted cheese), tacos de carnitas (roasted pork), tostadas with stewed chicken or crumbly queso fresco (it’s the real deal). Items on the menu range from 2-5 Euros, and pair perfectly with the Mexican bottled beer available for 4-5 Euros.
Once you fill up on Mexican edibles, the real fun begins. Slipping into the hidden bar at the back of the restaurant feels like entering an alternate universe that’s part surfer hangout, part urban oasis, and part classic Parisian cave. The white walls of the taqueria suddenly give way to a modern, candle-lit space, where the original stone walls have been updated with modern wooden finishes and colorful mosaics.
We barely knew where to begin with the extensive and enticing cocktail menu. Larger groups might be tempted by the punch for 4-6 people (cachaca, sloe gin, lemon, grapefruit and champagne) for 48 Euros. But we decided to try out an array of drinks (at 12 Euros each):
- The Santa Margarita: Tequila, agave, hibiscus, vanilla, lime
- Pisco Disco: Pisco, aperol, house-made orgeat, lime, bitters
- Love by the Moon: Green tea-infused vodka, house-made citrus syrup, lime and house-made grenadine
Owner Adam Tsou swung by to chat and personally recommended the Pisco Disco, which comes adorned with edible glitter. Born in Connecticut and a graduate of New York University, Adam opened Candelaria along with his wife, Carina Tsou, and their partner Josh Fontaine (also a Connecticut-born NYU grad). All three met in Paris, where they worked at local watering holes such as Experimental Cocktail Club and The Moose.
It seems they combined the best of those environments, creating a sexy (but pretension-free) space that offers up some of the best cocktails in Paris. Many of the ingredients used to flavor and sweeten the drinks are made in-house, demonstrating the bartenders’ commitment to doing things right. And while Paris hasn’t always been a cocktail-y town, joints like Candelaria are swiftly putting it on the global mixology map.
I guess you can have your cocktail and drink it too. And while you’re at it, stay for tacos.
52, rue de Saintonge, 75003
Métro: Filles du Calvaire
Open: Restaurant: Sun – Wed, 12.30pm – 11pm, Thur – Sat, 12.30pm – 00, Bar: every day, 7pm – 02am
Further reading on this go-to spot:
- Trail of Crumbs on Candelaria
- The Paris Blog also reports on Candelaria.
- Still more on Candelaria on Food Buzz
- David Lebovitz on great Mexican spots in Paris
Written by Tory Hoen for the HiP Paris Blog. All images by Julien Hausherr. Julien Hausherr is a photographer based in Paris, specializing in architecture, still-life and reporting. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.
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
Tags: Adam Tsou, Candelaria, Candelaria Paris, Carina Tsou, cocktails, Cocktails Paris, Dining, Josh Fontaine, Julien Hausherr, Mexican food, Mexican Food Paris, tacos, tory hoen
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