I live on the north side of Montmartre, just below the “cool” line where fashion boutiques and small-plate restaurants compete for pricey real estate. I like my neighborhood because it’s still affordable enough to have a rich mix of people, businesses, and especially, food. You can get an amazing pizza, a hearty os à moelle (bone marrow), a savory maafe (West African peanut soup), and now, at last, you can get a slice of homemade lemon cake and an early morning coffee at Café Pimpin.
Since opening in February, this corner cafe has already made itself an indispensable part of the neighborhood. “Mums have breakfast here after dropping off their kids at school,” says Marie Genet, co-founder and pastry chef. “That guy over there is a teacher and comes to correct papers in the afternoon.” Located a block away from the metro, across the street from town hall, and kitty-corner to the library, Café Pimpin is popular with locals (like me) who are happy to duck in for a steaming Lomi espresso or a cold-pressed juice on their way to work or other adventures.
Genet and her partner, Clémentine Touton, met in 2012 when Genet was an extra in the restaurant where Touton worked as the manager. The two hit it off professionally and personally, and soon they were musing over opening a restaurant together. “We’d talk about opening something over a glass of wine,” says Genet. “It was really just a dream we never thought we’d actually do.” But after getting a chef certificate, having a newborn son, and finding an empty storefront, Café Pimpin opened its doors with the motto “Good coffee and easy food.”
Café Pimpin opens early during the week—a unique and much-appreciated change for the neighborhood—and stays open late on Friday and Saturday night, when the menu switches from simple staples such as savory panini and colorful salads to aperitif-worthy tapas such as homemade hummus and Basque pâté. Saturday and Sunday brunch draws crowds to the sunny terrace, where long picnic tables make for laid-back meals. “Clementine has a four-year-old daughter and I have an eight-month-old, and we didn’t see ourselves spending every night working,” says Genet, explaining why the pair decided to open a coffee shop instead of a restaurant. Both women followed barista training with Barista Bartender Solutions and Lomi; their concise menu includes filter coffee, as well as espresso essentials, available sur place (to eat in) or for takeout.
The cafe’s white tiles, wood tables, and abundance of plants are a nod to a favorite spot Touton discovered in Sydney, and many of the luscious cakes and flaky scones are directly inspired by recipes approved by her English mother. As for the name Café Pimpin? No, it has nothing to do with the Jay-Z song, and it’s not an old-fashioned French word dug up for added charm. It’s the name of the hearty little goldfish swimming laps in a bowl on the main table. “We figured he’d die after a week, but we seem to have the healthiest goldfish on Earth,” says Genet, laughing. “He’s become sort of the third business partner. He isn’t just any old goldfish—he’s a tough one.”