View Full Version : Parisian Cafés

07-13-2014, 07:51 AM
I have a few questions regarding cafés in Paris, specifically around the year 1988. I have a scene set at a café at night featuring my MC who's a 15 year old girl.

My first question is how are orders processed at these kinds of places? We don't have cafés where I live so I'm unsure of the procedure. Would you place your order at the counter or is it more like a formal restaurant where you have a waiter take your order?

Second, being the year 1988, I'm assuming smoking wouldn't be restricted?

Lastly, assuming my character does indeed look her age, she wouldn't be allowed to actually purchase alcohol but she would be able to drink it if someone else purchased it for her?

As always, thanks for your help!

07-13-2014, 05:30 PM
Every cafe that I've been to in Paris had waiters. You can sit by the bar if there is one, but probably not as a fifteen-year old.

I remember asking for a non-smoking table in the early 90s in one of the small places by Opera. All the regulars had a good lough including the waiters. However, most of the places would try to accommodate my requests. They'd either seat me close to the patrons who weren't smoking, or put me in the less crowded area if they had one. I noticed with years that people smoke less and less, even in France. Still a far cry from US though.

Los Pollos Hermanos
07-13-2014, 05:38 PM
I can't answer the specific questions, but you've just dredged up something from the memory vault...

My first, only and last ever visit to Paris was as a 14 year old in 1990. I was with my parents and a friend of a similar age. We stopped at some café on the Champs-Élysées, where the drinks were obscenely expensive and the waiters ruder than anyone I've ever encountered in England (yes, it's possible).

We ended up eating in McDonalds at the request of two traumatised teenagers! :D

07-13-2014, 06:03 PM
You can either sit at a table and wait for a waiter to come or go to the counter. But if you go to the counter and want to drink at a table, the waiter will have to bring you your drink (you can't take it there - more expensive if you sit at a table).
In a smaller café without terrace, it's possible you have to go to the counter, though.

Smoking wasn't restricted at all in 1988.
At 15 she could have purchased alcohol without problem. Especially if it was a beer, or a beer with some sirup in it (demi or demi-pêche for instance). It wasn't allowed to sell salcohol to someone younger than 16 but except if you looked 12, there was no control.
The most credible for your MC would be for her to simply ask for her glass.

PS I'm French, living in France.

07-14-2014, 03:49 AM
When my husband and I visited Paris in 2012, we stopped at a small cafe across from the Louvre and had a slice of the BEST Oreo cheesecake in the world, along with hot chocolate and coffee. We paid for it at the counter and took it to a table outside to eat. There was no waiter or service.

We also had lunch at a small restaurant/cafe, where we ate inside and had our orders taken by a waiter, at our table. (They were insufferably rude, by the way. The first waitress refused to serve us once she found out we were American, even though we weren't asking her to speak English. She disappeared and a different server showed up to take our order.)

So, really, it could go either way. I'm not sure about the alcohol, sorry.