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Monday, March 06, 2006

Le Procope

The oldest restaurant in the city - and the original Paris café - Le Procope opened in 1686, under the watchful eye of its Italian proprietor, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli. Located in quaint and fashionable St. Germain des Prés in what was then the Rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain, the Procope soon became THE place to see and be seen in Paris societé. At that time, the Comédie-Française was located nearby (sadly, the original building was lost to fire in 1900), and Le Procope rapidly became a meeting place and post-performance hangout for actors and theatre-goers. Literary figures embraced the coffee shop as well, and for centuries, Le Procope played home to the great minds of politics, letters, and the arts, from Voltaire to Benjamin Franklin. Napoleon Bonaparte left his hat there as a pledge, Voltaire's desk still stands in a corner, Benjamin Franklin worked on the US Constitution in one of its salons, and the modern day encyclopedia was born there.

The sheer history of the place alone merits a meal there, but the food at Le Procope rates among the best in Paris. My dinners there are among the best I've ever had, and each its a treasured memory, for the food, the wine, and the elegantly aged surroundings. The downstairs dining room is my favorite, but many find the upstairs salons more sumptuous and beautiful. Regardless, there's not a bad seat in the house, and when you have finished your meal, restaurant employees are happy to let you wander thru and look around, so long as you are polite and stay out of the way. They all seem to be quite proud to be working at such a venerable Parisian landmark. And if you haven't the money to eat there (it can get pricey, especially if you deviate from the fixed-price menu), the restaurant opens its doors to tourists from 3 to 7 every day. But please remember that people are trying to work and eat, and behave accordingly. (I know that seems obvious, but you'd be amazed at some of the idiotic things tourists do!)

I recommend making reservations before you leave for your trip to Paris, to be assured a seat; Le Procope is still one of the most popular restaurants in Paris.

Le Procope is located in the Latin Quarter, at 13 rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, 75006 Paris, and is open from noon to 1am every day. If you travel by subway, disembark at Odeon from lines 10 or 4. Go north, across the Boulevard St. Germain, and veer just right, along the rue de l'Ancienne Comédie. Le Procope is on your right and can't be missed. If somehow you end up on cour du Commerce St. André, Le Procope will be on your left. Phone: +33-01-40-46-79-00

Bon appétit!

Images & text copyright 2006 - all rights reserved


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