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Monday, March 28, 2011

Taco Cocktail Adventures: Candelaria

52 rue de Saintonge
75003 Paris
03 42 74 41 28

I like a challenge. I like the satisfaction of a new and unusual discovery. In Paris, the wine is free-flowing and there are more palate pleasing French bistros than I can manage. And, while I'm a serious fan of both, some of my favorite consumables are a bit more elusive here: cocktails and Mexican food.

As if they intuited my unfulfilled cravings, enter duo Carina Soto Velasquez (previously of Experimental Cocktail Club) and Josh Fontaine (previously of Curio Parlor) and their new venture, Candalaria - Paris' first taqeuria/cocktail bar combo! I'd been impatiently waiting for this opening for awhile and just to guild the lily on my first visit, I had the pleasure of sharing the table with some of Paris' finest and funnest of residents and writers, Heather, David, Zeva, Meg, Phyllis, Lisa and Barbra.

We were lucky enough to score the only available table in this authentically bright and buzzing taqueria. The rest of the tiny taco joint was busting with hungry locals lined along the counter and partaking in spicy snacks. The friendly staff manage to maintain their cool through the mayhem to cook and serve a selection of tacos, tostados and Mexican beer. In short: Candelaria is delivering fun, festive and freakin' good food.

After appeasing our appetites, we squeezed through the throngs to the unmarked door at the back: the door of juxtaposition. Here patrons pass from the fast and festive dining area into a nocturnal cocktail hideaway for sophisticated lounge lovers. At first glance of the menu (at 11 to 12 Euros/cocktail), you already know that there is serious cocktail intent behind it with special creations featured from the likes of Toby Cecchini and Joaquin Simo of the NYC's Death & Co.

Being familiar with both Josh and Carina's work behind the bar, I skipped my usual martini to experience something that they hadn't mixed for me previously. Carina graciously indulged us with a requested round of tall and tasty margaritas (even though they are not on the menu or normally available in the taqueria.) My second sampling was La Gueppe Verte (pepper infused tequila, cucumber, coriander, agave, lavender and lime.) I loved it. The balance of the pepper heat and cucumber refreshment was spot on. If it hadn't been so busy, I may have showed less restraint and stayed on to try some of their other ten promising cocktails on offer. But we'd already had a full evening of food, beers and spirits, so I called it a night but was already planning a return for some serious cocktail exploration at the bar.

Josh, Carina and their crew have more than met my challenge of finding super Mexican nosh and superlative cocktails. So, now maybe I'll find some other unusual nibbles to hunt for in Paris. But, in the meantime, I'll definitely be indulging my taco and tipple cravings at Candelaria.

For more pictures and another take on our evening, you can check out Heather Stimmler-Hall's post over at Secrets of Paris.

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Blogger Nikki Bayley said...

Hmm, a Mexican place that doesn't have margaritas on the menu? That *does* seem strange... certainly sounds like a good place to get my quesadilla on!

March 28, 2011 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger Forest said...

I know...i think that's what we all had in mind on arrival and why we looked so margarita-desperate when we asked for them and she nicely made them for us. Actually, I'm sure they can make anything 'off menu' because they've got some good bar talent, but the front taco part is definitely very beer and food casual.

March 28, 2011 at 12:10 PM  
Anonymous paris (im)perfect said...

I love Mexican food so much and have always felt its absence in Paris. Sounds like there's a great place to go now - if you can get in the door!

March 28, 2011 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger Forest said...

Sion - it's definitely worth a visit! The taco part is open for lunch, so I'm thinking that might be a good option for now while it's still getting the honeymoon buzz. But if you want to check it out sometime, I'm always game! :)

March 28, 2011 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Lost In Cheeseland said...

Went for a birthday party at the end of their first week and it looked like all the people "in the know" had already scoped it out and found their favorite drink :) It was bursting with unpretentious cool and I can't wait to have the tacos! I'm sure the team recognized you immediately!

March 29, 2011 at 12:58 AM  
Blogger Omid said...

This is one of the few places I've been to in Paris that didn't want to make me punch a hole through the wall. That's high praise on my behalf. ;)

Also, the front room SHOULDN'T have Margaritas. It's a taqueria, not El Torito.

March 29, 2011 at 2:20 AM  
OpenID notjustanothermilla.com said...

This looks like so much fun!

March 29, 2011 at 2:38 AM  
Blogger Shannon said...

If I hadn't gorged myself on mexican food recently I'd stop working right now and go check it out! sounds great, thanks for the tips!!

March 29, 2011 at 4:48 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

A friend just suggested going to this place in an email today! Clearly it is meant that I am to eat there. Can't wait, despite the lack of margaritas. Thanks for the post.

By the way, I've also heard a Mexican place called "Rice & Beans" in the 2nd has great food.I can't speak for their cocktails, though...

March 29, 2011 at 5:29 AM  
Blogger Forest said...

Barbara: Definite sigh! I've heard pretty good things about Rice & Beans, but haven't had a chance to try it yet. I don't *have* to have both cocktails and mexican in the same place...it's just nice to get it! :)

March 29, 2011 at 5:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was there the weekend before the 'official' opening and they had a margarita on the cocktail menu which was delicious (and satisfyingly long which was a relief after being served a series of short and iceless ones at prescription last summer) but agree that La Gueppe Vert was a whole different and delicious thing.

March 30, 2011 at 12:52 AM  
Blogger Forest said...

yes, sometimes I like a big satisfying margarita - but must admit to making them without ice at home for myself from time to time. Did you try anything else off the menu? those two are the only ones i've had so far i'm curious about the rest of the fare!

March 30, 2011 at 1:17 AM  
Anonymous Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

La Gueppe Verte sounds amazing! Something I'd be very keen to try. If only I lived in Paris!

April 1, 2011 at 4:36 AM  
Anonymous Kasia Dietz said...

I've been once so far and LOVE the roughness of the taqueria (and authenticity of the tacos) juxtaposed with the sophistication of the bar (and the cocktails).

It's a well needed and welcome addition to the Marais! Glad you give it an A+!

April 9, 2011 at 6:21 AM  
Anonymous columbine said...

unfortunately i have to disagree with all the praise about Candelaria. Having Mexican family and having been to Mexico a few times, i was thorougly disappointed with the quality of the tacos and the strangeness of the guacamole. even by Paris standards i have had better (for example, the little one rue Dante).
were i in the food business, i would open a Mexican place as i don't understand why there is such a shortage of good Mexican places outside Mexico given the number of Mexican food lovers. The best i know so far is in London.

As for the bar, i will come back to try :- )

April 24, 2011 at 11:55 PM  
Blogger Forest said...


I'm really glad you weighed in on this one. I really like candelaria, but don't like everyone getting on board with a place just because it has buzz and do appreciate an educated opposing opinion. So, I will give the Dante place a try for the mexican. But, I think you will like the cocktails. Go early in the evening and sit up at the bar. IMO, they are doing the best service in paris at the moment. But, will be curious to hear your thoughts on it!

May 8, 2011 at 2:06 PM  
Anonymous columbine said...

i will. and let me know about the place rue Dante, i hope it's still good (by the way they are not alcohol licenced), i have not been there since i've moved to the Bastille area as i am trying to find the good places there :-)

May 10, 2011 at 4:35 AM  

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