When Reda Ouahidy opened downtown’s Café de Paris seven-odd years ago, he decided to create the kind of place where he’d like to go: Somewhere to sit and have “a proper cup” of coffee, as he describes it (that is, not in paper and not to-go). But mostly a lunchtime retreat that connects him with the people in his city. “I like to go places where people behind the counter treat you like a person,” Ouahidy says. And Café de Paris delivers on that idea, with Ouahidy himself behind the counter most days, greeting each customer personally whenever he can. As a result, his tiny storefront restaurant alongside Piatt Park has carved out a stable place in the fickle downtown lunch scene, and is most days filled with loyal regulars ordering continental comfort food.
A Moroccan-born Francophile, Ouahidy’s culinary style is characterized by French classics (croque monsieur/madame, salade niçoise, pain au chocolat), but it also isn’t unlike the daily food of his own upbringing, with different iterations of bread, cheese, and meat making up most of the menu. Our favorite is the Royal de Paris sandwich, with creamy melted Brie, turkey, ham, and rich sweet peppers on a crusty French baguette. No matter what you order, don’t forget to finish up with a café au lait—the best in the city by this writer’s estimate—served in a proper cup.
Café de Paris, 17 Garfield Pl., downtown, (513) 651-1919