83, rue du Cherche Midi, in the 6th Arrondissement. 01 45 48 33 71.
Closed Sunday and Monday.
I have a favorite café. It is not really a café; it is a restaurant called Café Trama, and it is right across the street from the studio where I spend my days writing. It only opened a few months ago, and it immediately became what the French call my cantine. I’d go there for lunch often, joking with the staff and slowly but surely trying every dish on the menu. Then, one day I went and something had changed; the place was swamped. Reservations were required. Overnight, Café Trama had gone from being a neighborhood joint to one of the hottest new addresses for French restaurants in the city.
I blame it on the croque-monsieur that is made with two slices of white bread from the ateliers of the exceptional baker Poujauran, one thick slice of country ham and just the right amount of meltingly delicious cheese that judiciously holds itself back from overwhelming the star ingredient: truffles. That was not a typo. At Café Trama the lowly grilled-cheese sandwich has been elevated to perfection by the noble truffle.
The tartare with Thai seasonings is an entirely different celebration for your taste buds, and I still have fond memories of the party they enjoyed as I consumed Café Trama’s burger last Saturday. During my very first lunch, I asked the waiter to choose a glass of white to go with my meal. It was destiny, because not only is Paul Hayat a funny man and a fantastic waiter, but he is editor in chief of a well-respected wine review, Le Rouge & le Blanc, and he works in perfect harmony with the bartender, Fred, as their boss, Madame Marion Trama, oversees the room. The three form a smiling, relaxed team, which is perfect for the airy, 1950s decor.
Although the place has made it into the papers, the crowd remains mostly a bunch of locals, with friendly laughter and casual jokes being thrown across the dining room. The see-and-be-seen crowd has yet to make an appearance, with only the occasional hipsters or foodies showing up for market-fresh dishes like sautéed mushrooms, butternut squash soup and beef from the slaughterhouses of the rock-star butcher Desnoyer.
And then there are the desserts: displayed on the traditional zinc bar under glass bells, they look like they’ve just come out of Grandmère’s kitchen. Now more than ever, I can’t wait for lunch!
In a nutshell: Café Trama is the kind of place you look forward to going back to for both the food and the friendly service.
Price check: Mains, 18–22 euros; desserts, 8 euros.
If Café Trama sounds good, you might also like Christophe, a neighborhood spot in the 5th Arrondissement. Read the review.
8, rue Descartes, in the 5th Arrondissement. 01 43 26 72 49.
Fri–Tues, lunch and dinner.