It’s one thing to find Mexican food in Paris. It’s another to find good Mexican food.
The new trend these days is to eat at “really trendy” spots. These restaurants typically serve delicious food but are either located in an up-and-coming area or within the walls of an unassuming place. Case in point: Candelaria – the trendiest, Mexican joint around.
Glancing through the window, Candelaria doesn’t look like much: white walls, small space and limited seating. Note to self: don’t come with a group. Luckily, my friend Lucy was able to arrive early and snatch us two seats at the bar. The restaurant features one table up front, which is commonly used to seat several parties at once. But don’t let this minimal square footage discourage you; Candelaria’s chaotic atmosphere gives it charm. First, you’re given a front row seat to the kitchen (located behind the bar), where you can watch the chef assemble your plate at record speed. You also get to cozy up with fellow diners as everyone feasts on the same few (delicious) menu items and washes them down with cervezas.
The menu frequently changes but is broken down into entreés (or in French terms, appetizers), tacos and tostadas. Lucy and I both ordered the Puree Verde taco (3 euro) and Queso Fresco tostada (3.5 euro). Simple and cheap, both plates featured just the right amount of Mexican spice, especially when doused with a spoonful of the available (and hot) salsas on the counter. Everything tasted fresh and authentic, which makes the restaurant stand out from other Mexican eateries in Paris. Think sombreros, mariachi music and microwave-warmed food. You will not find this at Candelaria. Instead you’ll bite into tasty, inventive dishes with an Indie soundtrack playing in the background. Trendy, remember?
Just when I thought I had saved an extra penny and found Paris’ biggest bargain for quality food, I made my way to the back of the restaurant. During our meal, people mysteriously went in and out of the back door in herds. We both knew there was a bar attached to the place, but weren’t prepared for the sultry lit and swank éclat that we walked into.
Mixology reigns behind the bar at Candelaria. You won’t find your typical margarita, but instead infused tequila drinks full of unexpected flavors. At 12 euros per cocktail, the bar may not become your weekend watering hole, but instead a go-to for nights when you want to go out for “a drink” with friends or a date. Lucy and I ordered the two popular house cocktails, La Guêpe Verte (pimento-infused tequila, cucumber, coriander, agave, lime) and the Guapo (crema de mezcal, tequila, chipotle, red pepper, agave, lemon). I got my first taste of creative cocktails at Proof & Provision this summer in Atlanta, and these drinks provoked the same edgy feeling. Mixology is like fine cuisine, it strives to be unique, outside-of-the-box and bursting with flavor.The spiciness of my cocktail may have given me heartburn until the next morning, but I enjoyed drinking it. It was so unusual and different that I savored every last sip and knew I wanted to return.
Go eat with a friend, meet up with a group for drinks and enjoy every last drop of Candelaria’s trendiness. You’ll leave full, happy and with your mouth on fire from pimento-infused tequila.
Candelaria, 52 Rue de Saintonge, Paris (3rd)