A ten-minute walk from Place d’Italie is the Butte Aux Cailles, an unassuming neighborhood nestled in the 13th arrondissement. Tiny ivy-twined townhouses line cobblestone roads, street art overtakes all available wall space (including most storefronts), and shoppers and tea-drinkers dip into small bistros and boutiques. Once happy hour begins, the otherwise quiet streets revive as bars along Rue de la Butte aux Cailles and Rue des Cinq Diamants welcome a bobo crowd, many still donning work attire but ready to relax and indulge until the hilltop closes around 2am.
Start the night at Chez Gladine’s, a cordial dive serving Basque specialties. The inside is rustic, with checkered tablecloths and chipped paint, but its sub-par appearance doesn’t deter many; be prepared to wait for a table and then be crammed between strangers. Wine starts at 2€70 a glass and the most expensive dish is 12€. Food presentation won’t be any prettier than the locale, but the quality hits the same heartiness and authenticity of a homemade meal, with portions so big they’re difficult to finish.
The bars range from sporty to fancy to grungy, with my favorite (and the cheapest) being the latter. The Le Merle Moqueur is so cozy that it feels like walking into an intimate party. Choose from low-priced beer or over twenty rums and vodkas spiced on-site, and then push to the crowded dance floor to join the others as they rock to an upbeat mix of French pop and ‘80’s hits.
Just around the corner, the equally stuffy and unkempt La Folie en Tete offers pints from 5€, so long as you can make it to the bar without hitting your head on the instruments and street signs that hang haphazardly from the ceiling. If you’re lucky you’ll snag a small table where you and your friends can shout at each over the most eclectic music choices ever, from varied live performance, to jazz, rock and even world music.
Want more ideas? Check out my original Inexpensive & Trendy post.