L’Arbre à Cannelle – Paris bistros still alive

The origins of the word “bistro” is still under debate. Linguists and historians inform us that the term originated during the Russian occupation of Paris in 1815 where starving Russian soldiers would yell “Bystra” (“Hurry”) to their French counterparts. Consequently, this term was adopted for small eateries where one could sit down for a quick meal and/or drink. Larousse Gastronomique, however, thinks differently. The world’s culinary encyclopedia states that the word did not appear in the French language until 1884, almost 70 years after the Russian army left. I concur with another school of thought that claims that it stems from the abbreviation of the word “bistrouille”, a French slang word for a mixture of coffee and cheap alcohol served in these places. 

Whatever the origins, one thing is very clear: it is a very particular type of culinary experience. A traditional bistro, is intimate, affordable with small tables next to a street. Some are family owned, or some just feature recipes from mothers, grand-mothers and aunts. A proper bistro’s atmosphere is familiar and light-hearted, a place for quick and informal chats and easy laughter with good friends. In Paris, there are still hundreds of bistros where one can sit at the chairs and tables that give bistro sets their name and enjoy a baguette and a glass of wine.

 A large debate on bistros has recently resurfaced. Is the typical Parisian bistro dead? Well, it depends on how you would define “bistro”. If you are looking for no wine choices since the owner’s cousin makes Beaujolais, a dependable pot-au-feu on Wednesdays and the neighborhood customers sitting alongside you, then I’d say to you good luck. But if you’re in the mood for a small, cozy restaurant, keeping the traditional setting and serving both affordable and tasty food, then you’re in luck.  

The food in bistros is never absurd, sometimes a deconstructed version of a classical dish. Prices are affordable with a 3-course meal costing less than 30 euros. Though some tables are tightly aligned with each other and you can hear every detail of your neighbor’s life, that’s the whole package the bistro offers. Either you like it or you don’t – but this is Paris and I believe one of the pillars of Parisian restaurants to which many have evolved.

If you ever find yourself under the commercial passageway that is Le Passage des Panoramas in the 2nd arrondissement, L’Arbre à Cannelle is a traditional bistro you can count on. 

Entrance of Passage des Panoramas

At number 57, the restaurant takes over an old chocolate factory established in the 19th century. 

We can admire the original 19th century painted ceilings, the wooden columns and the original window panes that line the restaurant. 

The inside 

Assiette of duck breast, foie gras and gizzards…What a beautiful plate! Actually wanted to order 2 of these but the waitress looked at me almost in disgust as she shouted…”Mais c’est Enorme!” (“But that’s huge”!)…I opted just for one dish…





Grilled Entrecote with salad and mashed potatoes – Saignant of course, beautifully grilled with a nice smoky flavor. 

Hot Sausage with Pistacchios and Ancienne mustard

Dry wine from Saumur to accompany the meal

With all the restaurants I have visited and tried, I still feel I can always count on your traditional Parisian bistro which will always serve the comfort food you like. Though for a while, I have ignored their existence, I came to realize that they really bring out the essence of French cuisine. Though they lie in the shadow of the rising neo-bistros and Michelin star restaurants, they are still running, still alive and evolving each time.

L’Arbre à Cannelle

57, Passage des Panoramas, 75002
Tel. 01 45 08 55 87
Metro: Grands Boulevards (Ligne 9)


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