106, rue des Rosiers, Saint-Ouen. 01 49 51 70 00.
Mon–Fri, noon–3 p.m. and 7–11 p.m.; Sat–Sun, 9 a.m.–11 p.m.
On Sundays, a lot of chic, trendy Parisians head out to the Saint-Ouen flea market for a little bit of culture and shopping rolled into one. It’s just a few blocks from the Porte de Clignancourt terminus on Line 4 of the metro, and a visit here invariably turns into a day trip, and lunch often becomes an issue. Until recently there were only a few viable options for Paris restaurants: the incredibly fun Chez Louisette, with live accordion music and very average food; La Chope des Puces, with live gypsy music and forgettable meals; or le Bistrot Paul Bert, with excellent meals but a crowded space and rushed service.
Going to the market, I often feel like Goldilocks—this one is too loud, this one is too rushed—so I am still looking for the place that is just right. Until then, I have a new spot to add to our list of regulars that we love despite their imperfections: Ma Cocotte. A cocotte is a cooking dish, but it is also a term for “my sweetheart,” and this place really is adorable. Designed by Philippe Starck, it would be hard to imagine a better decor for a meal at the flea market: old mismatched floor tiles, a garage door–style glass wall that opens when the sun shines, contemporary art and found treasures are artfully thrown together in a way that makes you wish this was your living room.
Unlike the other options on my list, Ma Cocotte is the one place serving fun, modern cuisine, which these days, means international fusion. The starters remain surprisingly true to the blue, white and red flag of France, with leeks in vinaigrette, local mushrooms and foie gras. But for the mains, the inspiration flies abroad. British fish-and-chips are listed below Italian conchiglioni in arrabbiata sauce, and there is an American cheeseburger.
There are also some French favorites, like the farm-raised roast chicken, a large steak or shepherd’s pie. The food is delicious, and I was thrilled with my plate of mushy peas that accompanied my perfectly crisp deep-fried fish.
Desserts include a decadent pavlova and a frozen yogurt that made me nostalgic for California, but the real treat for me was the sublime lemonade, with mint and orange flower essence.
Gorgeous decor, good food—what made this place just slightly too large for this fairy tale? The problem for me was the ’tude. Frankly, I could have lived without the snarky service and invasive neighbors. I’m tired of waiters who seem to think they are way cooler than I’ll ever be. And I am not a big fan of screaming children. Parisians rarely take their kids out for restaurant meals, so I seldom run into the under-seven set when dining out. But Sunday afternoons, all bets are off, and this is a particularly popular place with people who seem to think their kids are so adorable that you won’t mind them running over and stealing a fry from your plate. But I’d tolerate it all for that lemonade and a very special service offered: beepers. Ma Cocotte is very popular and will not take reservations on Sundays. What it will do, however, is take down your name when you show up, then give you a beeper, so you are free to go off and explore the flea market, looking for treasures that are just right.
In a nutshell: an übertrendy place with übertrendy decor, food, service and diners.
Price check: starters, €10–21; mains, €18–34.
If you like the sound of Ma Cocotte, you’ll love Le Schmuck. Read the review.
1, rue de Condé, in the 6th Arrondissement.
01 43 54 18 21. Open daily, noon–2 a.m.