Nico de Soto’s name is synonymous with cocktail culture. At Mace, his small but mighty cocktail bar in New York City’s East Village, the internationally accented drinks are a direct reflection of de Soto’s decorated passport. A native Frenchman, avid traveler, and global bar veteran, de Soto is a cotton tee-clad impresario. His smart, creative palate has been putting his projects and protégés on the map since his first shift in 2005.
Danico, his newest bar in conjunction with collaborators Julien Ross and Alexandre Giesbert, is a thriving addition to Paris’s Second Arrondissement. De Soto keeps his finger on the pulse of the city, which is why we tapped him for our second Bartography installment. Here are the best places to drink, eat, and sleep in Paris, according to Nico de Soto.
“Mabel in the Second Arrondissement has excellent drinks and an insane grilled cheese,” de Soto says, calling founder Joseph Akhavan “a genius.”
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Akhavan opened Mabel in the back of a grilled cheese shop in 2015 with his partner, Samantha. He is a rum drinker and the back bar’s extensive collection shows it. If anything, it’s an exercise in finding out what doesn’t pair well with grilled cheese, so if you’re up for a challenge, then this is your spot. Location.
“Dirty Dick, a tiki bar near Pigalle, has a great atmosphere,” de Soto says. Come with a group and order a scorpion bowl to share. This being Paris, there’s also a smoking room — perfect for those with a penchant for nostalgia and bad habits. Location.
“CopperBay has a lot of creative drinks, and a basement with sand and video games,” de Soto says. Plus, “the owners are very nice.” It’s a great place for a quiet drink and a bite. Don’t miss the rillettes, particularly the pastis, hake, and fennel seed combo, a CopperBay exclusive. The drink menu changes seasonally. Location.
De Soto’s other bar recommendations are numerous, though he says he never orders the same thing twice.
Among his favorites are “Le Syndicat and its sister bar, La Commune Punch Club,” he says, plus “Little Red Door, Sherry Butt, Candelaria, Café Moderne, and Fréquence, a new bar with a lot of vinyls. All are great to visit while drinking your way around Paris.”
“Septime is one of my favorite restaurants in Paris,” de Soto says. The lunch consists of four courses, and the dinner a seven-course tasting menu. Both feature a wine-pairing option, which de Soto strongly recommends. Septime is only open on weekdays, so plan accordingly. Location.
Since opening in 1986, Arpège has garnered countless awards and stars for its world-class dishes, meticulous design, and attention to detail. The restaurant has its own organic gardens maintained by six gardeners, which makes sense as to why vegetables are often the star of the show here. Location.
“They change the menu all the time, so it’s hard to say what to order,” de Soto says of this chic stop. It’s been in his Paris rotation for some time, and the tasting menus are world-renowned. Toutain’s signature dish is an egg served in its shell — if that happens to be on offer during your visit, be sure to try it. Location.
“Be sure to go with the cocktail pairing,” de Soto says of this “very cool” neo-bistro. The cozy, wood-wrapped bar is easy to call home for a few hours; there’s a full tasting menu with five-, six-, or seven- course tiers, each of which includes cocktail-pairing as well as à la carte options.
“The guys from ECC also recently opened the Hotel des Grands Boulevards with a cocktail bar, a restaurant, and a rooftop,” he says. Irresistibly whimsical, Grands Boulevards is Wes Anderson meets French pastoral, an out-of-the-box hospitality experience. It’s quite possibly your best bet for consistent Instagram opportunities during your Paris stay. Location.