What’s in the name? Located in the lively 11th arrondissement of Paris, just east of the city center, and not too far from the Bastille, Passager Cafe can be found on the corner of a small side street, Passage de la Bonne Graine, and the larger Avenue Ledru-Rollin.
French for passenger, Passager itself feels more like a passageway, with a back set of doors leading out of the cafe onto Passage Josset. Open since 2016, the cafe is already a neighborhood fixture, in large part due to its warm, relaxed atmosphere. One barista described the cafe as “informal and comfortable, where you can do what you wish.”
Passager was founded by the proprietor of Starvin’ Joe on the nearby Rue de Charonne, in partnership with well-known fashion blogger and stylist, Fanny B. Like many of the cafes in Paris, it’s cozy in size, but has massive windows facing Avenue Ledru-Rollin and Passage de la Bonne Graine that allow for an abundance of natural light to filter in. A long bench jutting out from Passager’s facade provides a fantastic perch for people-watching and basking in sunlight when the weather turns warm.
Currently, Passager’s menu features espresso and drip coffee made with beans from local roaster Lomi. Previously, their beans were sourced from Copenhagen’s April Coffee Roasters and Berlin’s Five Elephant.
The cafe’s food menu includes house-baked options like cake, granola, and scones with butter and jam. They also offer breakfast and lunch every day of the week, and a remarkably Instagrammable brunch menu that routinely garners out-the-door lines—especially on weekends and around holidays.
It includes avocado toast, golden-edged pancakes cooked to order on a flattop griddle in the back—which can be had either “sweet” with fruit and maple syrup or “sweet and salty” with crispy bacon—sunny-side up eggs, assorted bagel sandwiches, and chia pudding. Lunch is comprised of a changing soup of the day and tartines of various sorts.
Perhaps what is uniquely Parisian about a cafe such as Passager is that their drinks and baked goods use sugar with a light touch. For instance, Passager’s famous carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is flavorful and sturdy, despite being neither too sweet nor overly rich.
The mocha is judiciously sweetened, and avoids being cloying, as are the chai and matcha lattes, two of Passager’s most popular non-coffee options according to the staff.
With its exposed brick walls, rust-colored columns, concrete counters, and gracefully-worn but still colorful tiled floors juxtaposed with all the markers of a specialty cafe, Passager is reflective of Paris as a whole. Both old and new. Traditional and modern.
If you happen to find yourself in the 11th, perchance as a passager traveling between someplace here and someplace there, stop by Passager and soak in the local charm while you sip a cup of coffee. Listen to the pleasant din of spoken French, and look out the windows at the city passing by—just don’t forget to say bonjour when you enter, and merci, au revoir as you depart.
Michelle Hwang is a writer who splits her time between California, Paris, and Seoul. Read more Michelle Hwang for Sprudge.