Wednesday, April 1, 2015


It's easy to miss, tucked away on a quiet street off the the busy Beaumarchais Boulevard. Maybe like me, you walk by it once or twice, trying not to let whoever is inside that sleek black hole-in-the-wall see you gawking for a few seconds too long before you spot the Fragments sign.  And it is just that, a tiny fragment in the midst of bright colorful Bastille quarter mosaic. But one step in the door and you notice this is no ordinary cafe. The interior is full of soft light and strong wooden beams. Just a handful of 2-seater tables serves as the seating area. Yummy treats tempt in little piles of delight from the bar. The ambience is special, but I can't pinpoint why. Not yet. Time to linger awhile and figure it out.

I usually order a cafe crème as my base for testing out the different cups from different houses, but being in an artisanal espresso shop, I decide to take the plunge and go Purist. Bleh. Far too strong for me. I always want to believe I have acquired a taste for straight espresso, but that day is still ahead of me. Sigh. I would love to go back with someone who has a keen... tongue?...for these sorts of things? How come people can have a keen eye and a keen ear, but a keen tongue just sounds disgusting. Let's go with a keen taste for espresso.

I put in my order sûr place, and, forgetting I'm in Paris, embarrassingly wait to pay at the counter while the drink is being made. Some old habits die hard. I snatch one of the few ultra-trendy English magazines by the entrance and settle at a table in the center of the room for appropriate people watching. But honestly, I could sit anywhere and be right in the center here. But the size of this cafe, while small, isn't cramped, like some other hipster coffee shops in the Upper Marais area that I will talk about. Fragments is cozy and intimate without feeling like you're playing footsie with the stranger beside you (check that Paris blunder off the list). Most of the customers appear to be English-speaking, but they speak in hushed tones, so I know I'm not surrounded by tourists.

The absolute sell of this place for me is not its ideal location, nor its chalked up bio menu, not even its immaculately mustached customers. It is the moment the record player crackles out 1940s jazz into the coco bean infused air. Now that, my friends, is how you get a girl to fall in love with your cafe.

I chat easily in French with the owner Youseff--in my dreams. In reality, he patiently suffers through my butchering of the past tense to assure me that when he came to Paris from Casablanca, he couldn't speak any French either, and that I was going to be just fine. And also, that his is the only cafe where I would find such good jazz, he says with a wink. Fragments is his dream baby, incorporating bits of inspiration from his global travels into a coffee scene where the beans hold the spotlight. As evidenced by his attentive focus as he makes each cup for each customer. Finally I make my exit with a promise that I would revenir bientôt. And I will, but next time I'll stick with my cáfe creme, and beg for more jazz on that record player, please.

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