Just a few blocks from a certain cabaret, the decadent neighborhood of Pigalle has become the epicenter of Parisian nightlife.
If you want to know where the youth are raging in love-and-lust-obsessed Paris, look for the sex shops. They will lead you to Pigalle, the once sleazy (okay, still a little sleazy) former red-light district at the southern foot of the streets leading into Montmartre. New Yorkers will tell you it’s Paris’s answer to Williamsburg, but that’s selling the area short. Unlike the gut-renovated warehouses of industrial Brooklyn, Pigalle is old as merde, and better for it.
Pigalle’s best bars and restaurants are all clustered around a single intersection, packed so tight it’s almost impossible to avoid a raucous night stumbling from one place to the next. Your starting point: the corner of Rue Victor Masse and Rue Frochot. If it’s daytime, head east down the block to the outpost of Maison Kitsune to stock up on whatever shade of blue the locals are wearing this season. If it’s evening, follow the noise.
Wander over to Buvette, the Parisian pied-a-terre of a beloved French restaurant in downtown Manhattan. (You’ll know it by the group of sidewalk smokers yelling at one another outside.) Order widely—the plates are small, meant to be passed around, fought over, ordered again. The menu changes all the time, but diners might happen upon decadent prosciutto-piled croques, buttery rabbit pâté, and rich, earthy coq au yin.
Post-dinner, stroll up the street to quench your thirst, stopping first at the boutique Grand Pigalle Rita A few cocktail-industry vets opened the place last year, and you can see their handiwork in the glowing lobby bar—it’s the neighborhood’s classiest joint and home to one of the NinthArrondissement’s best wine lists. When you’ve had your fill of class, devolve up the block at Dirty Dick, a dark den of fruity, complicated drinks. Yes, each takes upwards of ten minutes for the bartender to construct. Yes, he may be called onto light a drink on fire. Yes, it’s worth it. Especially if you get the Monkey Seed Monkey Screwed, which has a healthy pour of whiskey but tastes like liquid banana.
Your night will probably end here, sometime after the second orthird banana thing. Otherwise, your liver will surrender across the street at Glass, an unfussy cocktail mecca disguised as a dive bar, which patrons treat like a dance club. You’ve covered a grand total of a block and a half tonight and yet will be ready to crash. So stagger around the corner to artist Andre Saraiva’s Hotel Amour, the porny hotel and restaurant that jump-started the neighborhood’s revival, complete with phallic iconography and buck-naked Ryan McGinley prints spread throughout the rooms in homage to Pigalle’s former life.
Sometimes Paris can feel like a hidden city, its best haunts scattered across town and down tiny alleys. But Pigalle—the site of all those sex shops and burlesque clubs—has no use for coyness. It’s a hood sans pretense. You’ll go there cold and find a party. Throw your guidebook in the Seine.