Best Fondue & Lively Atmosphere in Montmartre

Though often full of tourists of all stripes, the Refuge de Fondues still draws its fair share of French, and it is the French who are, in fact, the folks who took me here in the first place.

It’s popular with most everyone who visits, as the Refuge is an awesome and funny place. You will surely strike up conversation with someone next to you as, quite frankly, it is so packed, you have no choice. The proprietors also do what they can to keep the conversation and good times rolling. (Such as asking 10 people to stand up and move down one seat to accomodate a few other visitors, all while happily passing hot oil and molten cheese briskly around the room.) 

It’s only about 18 Euros for the entire menu which includes a kir to start, lots of good little appetizers, beef or cheese fondue (which is very very good hence the popularity), followed by your choice of cheese or fruit salad for dessert (though you can have other desserts) AND (why this is a supremely funny place) a baby bottle—yes—baby bottle full of white or red wine. Even if you don’t drink, you will walk out laughing. I have brought everyone who has ever visited me in Paris– of all ages– and they have all loved it. (There’s something very special about watching your parents drink wine from a glass baby bottle, which cannot be explained in mere words.)

If you have to wait to get a table or even if you don’t, go to the bar right next door and have a pre-dinner drink (“apero”). The cute little bar is a pleasant Montmartre haunt, typical of the many small, convivial bars that you can find throughout the neighborhood.

Get your cheese on at the Refuge de Fondues in the 18th, 17 rue des Trois-Freres (between rue Yves le Tac and rue la Vieuville), Metro: Abbesses or Anvers. You must make a reservation: 01.42.55.22.65.

Pittsburgh’s Pub

Grab a cold one at Pittsburgh's
Grab a cold one at Pittsburgh's

There are days when you just want an icy cold beer, some TVs with sports on, along with a few pool tables, dart boards, pinball machines, and video games for good measure.  

Pittsburgh’s Pub will satisfy all these needs, and the jukebox isn’t too shabby either.

Named in honor of the owner’s hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (adulation which has finally paid off with the Steelers over the past few years), Pittsburgh’s is a good place to get a drink and sit at the bar peacefully solo or with pals.

When you’re sitting at the bar, you’ll generally have an interesting conversation or two with the area residents who frequent the establishment. The management’s also kind enough not to eject you from the premises if you and your friends happen to be wearing random hats when you call on Pittsburgh’s at midnight, a degree of openness which is always good to know about a place.

Sometimes, a brewski while shooting pool is all you need. Especially when wearing funny hats.  

Check Pittsburgh’s out for some day drinking or lates at 4207 Judah (at 47th Avenue).

fiona’s sweetshoppe

In case you haven’t noticed, candy for grown-ups is officially beyond trend. It is a fact of the grown-up landscape. 

Maybe it’s the punch of the face of the recession. Maybe it’s the mortgage you can’t pay for. Maybe it’s the realization that you may be sitting in a beige cube for the next 30 years (or longer, given what has happened to your 401K).

Whatever grim grown-up news you face, candy takes you away from that. Particularly a little nook like fiona’s sweetshoppe with old-fashioned, glass apothecary jars showcasing their sweet contents: chocolate-covered nuts, gummies, sour candies, licorice, and more delights from all over the world. The special focus is on candy from Britain, home of one of the world’s best candy bars, most notably the Cadbury Flake. (Findable at fiona’s.)

For some reason, the Brits are way ahead of us on mass market candy bars. Perhaps it’s their wise decision to provide flavorful chocolate instead of loading a bar with wax for shipping purposes. (This is readily apparent in all mainstream chocolate candies, but very very obvious if you have a malt ball taste-off between Whoppers & Malteasers. Malteasers win every time. Less or no wax taste. Also findable at fiona’s.)

If you happen to be downtown and in need of cheer, although I typically recommend visiting a bar to remedy your troubles, candy is a nice change of pace. (And, there’s no hangover!) Or, if you need to bring a hostess gift and want to forego the candle or soap you have tucked away in your closet, fiona’s is also a good stop, as every offering is beautifully wrapped.

 Swing by at 214 Sutter (right next to the entrance of Claude Lane), or check it all out online @ www.fionassweetshoppe.com

Some Awesome Thin Crust in the Outer Sunset

I’m not usually a thin crust pizza fan, but the Pizza Place on Noriega changed my mind. Great toppings, awesome sauce to cheese ratio, and a crispy yet not too cracker-like crust. (Full disclosure on sauce to cheese ratio comment: I prefer a fairly balanced sauce to cheese ratio, and dislike pizza that has too much cheese or too much sauce. Your preference for this ratio will drive your pizza preferences, whether you are a thin crust or a thick crust devotee.)

Good selection of beers on tap (including the ever refreshing PBR), and nice variety/quality, yet reasonable, wine list. Some great salads to start off with, particularly the wilted spinach with Zoe’s bacon. Amongst the pizza selections, the Dimitri’s pretty outstanding when you’re in a garlic/meat-tastic mood.

The folks who work here are super nice as well, even when it’s crowded, and it can be, because it’s really good. If you’re solo, the bar is a good place to get a beer and grab a slice.

Pizza Place on Noriega, online http://www.pizzaplacesf.com/ in person @ 3901 Noriega @ 46th Avenue.

Grand Hotel Leveque – Value Lodging in 7th

Grand Hotel Leveque, Paris
Cute Vintage Hotel Sign

Everyone always asks where you can stay in Paris without breaking the bank when you’d rather spend all your money shopping and drinking, and also plan to spend every night in club. If you want a reliable, simple place to lay your head when visiting Paris, the Grand Hotel Leveque right on rue Cler is just what you’re looking for.

Very clean and tidy, with helpful friendly staff, AND a location that’s second-to-none in Paris: right on rue Cler, one of Paris’ greatest market streets, just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower and Invalides.

Rates, even when it’s full-on tourist time in Paris, are amazingly reasonable. Have a look at: http://www.hotel-leveque.com/

A word of caution to American guests: even if you’re traveling alone, if you get a single at older hotels, you may have a twin bed and have to share a bathroom with people on your floor. So, if you plan to have company or if this bothers you, book an en suite double. True at the Grand Hotel and all other French hotels of a certain age. If this isn’t a problem, book the single, as these rooms are typically a great bargain.