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Oct 21, 2011 10:26 AM

In Nice for a month... need specific advice

Hello Hounds!

I am in Nice for a month, and while I have had good success finding Lebanese food and baguettes around my neighbourhood (around le Promenade des Arts), I have been struggling to find a few other things and was hoping the hounds could be of assistance. I'm not looking for anything fancy -- hole-in-the-wall spots are ideal, really.

Specifically, I would love if you could help me to find the following (some of these might be a stretch, I realise):

- A comfortable café where I can sit and do some work (similar to the laidback atmosphere you'd find at Starbucks, where they will not hassle you or give you dirty looks for occupying a table too long). Bonus if they have good coffee (believe it or not, I have yet to find good coffee in the mornings; much of it is pre-sweetened... ick!)

- Almond milk

- I've been in Europe for nearly a year and I have a serious hankering for a proper American burger; juicy, with all the fixins. Bonus if there are milkshakes on the menu. I've managed to locate a McDs and a Quality Burger, but these are not, of course, what I'm after...

- Vietnamese phó. I have found a couple of Vietnamese places and some pan-Asian ones, but none of them really serve phó. With the torrential downpours that happen here from time to time, phó is my comfort food of choice.

- Moroccan food. I tried one restaurant (don't recall the name) and wasn't impressed. I'm thinking there must be a large enough Moroccan population in Nice that I'd be able to find decent Moroccan. Anyone know of a place?

- Yogurt smoothies.

Any leads are welcome!

Thank you in advance!

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  1. Almond milk in any "bio" food store.
    Yogurt smoothies (Yop and other brands) in bio stores and in supermarkets.
    Moroccan food: The North African communities in Southern France are Algerian, Tunisian and Moroccan. You'll have to widen your expectations.
    Strictly Moroccan: a simple Internet search yields:
    La Table du Maroc, 3 rue Barralis
    Le Foundouk, 4 place Garibaldi
    Le Timgad, 2 rue Dalpozzo
    And a few around the Old Town, rue Benoît-Bunico and place Garibaldi.
    But I have to say that really good Moroccan restaurants in France are not easy to come by.

    I have no knowledge of anyone serving real pho south of Paris. If anyone else has some information, I'll be interested to read it.
    Here's a totally untested list here :
    Some of these restaurants seem to have Lao owners so expect good Lao dishes rather than good pho.

    But really, Niçoise food is so good and there are such great things to eat where you are now that I'd rather explore the local offering rather than searching for the familiar, which you're not likely to find such as you expect it.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Ptipois

      Thanks, Ptipois. I will most certainly be eating tonnes of local fare, but every once in a while, I get cravings for things and I just want to know where I can find places to satisfy those cravings. As to the yogurt smoothies, I don't actually like the ones in the supermarkets as they have a lot of sugar. I was hoping to find somewhere that made yogurt smoothies fresh, in the vein of Jugo Juice or other juice stands like that. Do you happen to know of anything like that around Nice?

      1. re: Juniper

        No, and nowhere in France either. I suppose one good solution would be to make your own smoothies from fresh fruit and yogurt you buy in a bio store.
        About a café where you can work: I'm sure there is at least a Starbucks in Nice. However this is not exactly the place for comfortable lounge cafés. Rather for large brasserie halls, terraces for late-afternoon apéro, and outside wooden benches for eating socca and drinking white wine. This is the South...

        Traces of the pre-1860 Genoese culture may remain in the form of large, high-ceilinged cafés but it's ages since I last went to Nice and I'm not sure they're still there. Nice has had a lot and also destroyed a lot. If you can't find a Starbucks clone, try something that appeals to you among the local variety and sit down with your laptop. Reorder something after 1 hour. I'm sure nobody will kick you out.

        1. re: Ptipois

          I would make my own smoothies but there's no blender in my apartment and I don't want to go out and buy one when I'm leaving in a month's time, especially if it's my breakfast only from time to time. At any rate, I guess I will have to do without them for my time here.

          1. re: Juniper

            Not sure if you'll be leaving Nice for the States or other parts of Europe, but if the latter, why not pick up an immersion blender (the Auchan website lists a Bosch model for €23 - "pied mixeur") to make your smoothies at home. It's small enough to take with you when you leave Nice, so you don't have to discard it. In England (if that's where you'd be) you would need a simple adapter. Even if you'll be returning to the States, it's not much of an investment to have what you want.

    2. Nice is a city with its own outstanding culinary traditions and specialties.
      The biggest problem is to find a hound - or anybody - who will have looked for smoothies and hamburger and mikshakes in Nice and have gained such expertise to advise you. :-)
      On the other hand, I have noticed that Nice - and the Med coast in general - has a large Vietnamese population. I don't know a pho place in Nice but have had quite good nem just off the street.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Parigi

        As I said, I will most certainly take full advantage of the local fare on offer. However, as I've been away from North America for nearly a year, I am really craving some items from home. Given that Nice is such a touristy place, I would think there must be restaurants that serve burgers and such in order to satisfy the American tourists. I think you are correct, though, Parigi, that there likely aren't too many who can offer the advice I'm after. I think I will have to do this research on my own. Thanks, though.

        1. re: Juniper


          You won't find a Starbucks in Nice. I live here and have even emailed Starbucks in the US to ask them to locate here.

          There is a restaurant that sells Pho near the central Library but I haven't tried it and can't remember the street. I have a Vietnamese friend who assures me there is not a single decent S.E. Asian or Chinese restaurant in all of Nice. The nearest is probably in Toulon. I had an ok buffet there last week. There are a few places near the Ikea.

          You were given the right advice about smoothies. I am a smoothie addict and have found the best way to get my fix was to buy an immersion blender (30 Euros for 650 Watts at Monoprix), use Monoprix's own branded Faiselle (yogurt type product but more tart than most yoghurts you will buy here) and then buy my frozen fruit from Intermarche on Gambetta (surgeles: Melange Fruits Rouges).

          These smoothies cost less to make than they do in the US. You will more than offset the cost of the hand blender by making your own at home. You might consider donating the blender when you leave. There are lots of homeless here and organizations that help them out.

          If anyone knows of a good place for lunch on Christmas Day please let me know. Most restaurants in Nice are mediocre at best. Flaveur is good, though. Chantelcler doesn't seem to be offering good value for its Christmas lunch considering it is charging 140 Euros pp for 3 courses without wine.

      2. Thanks, everyone, for your recommendations -- I can't believe my time in Nice is almost up! Time just goes by so quickly.

        I ended up foregoing my smoothies and just stuck with müsli and yogurt with fresh fruit. Just as good, and probably actually healthier since there is cereals and grains there.

        As to finding a place to work, I found Emilie's Cookies on rue du Préfecture (there's another one at rue Alberti, which is much smaller and more restricted hours of operation), which was perfect. There is wifi and it's comfy. Downside is that their baked goods are SOOOO sweet. But that's fine since my purpose there was not to eat, necessarily.

        For Asian food, there really is nothing that is even close to being good. However, there is Phnom Penh, just at the mouth of Rue du Préfecture, which is fine for cheap and cheerful pan-Asian junk food cravings. The food is pre-prepared and warmed up for you to eat there or take away. Of all the Asian food counters of its kind, this one is the most comfortable and the one with the most "ambience" if you can believe it. The restaurant clearly used to be an Italian or Greek restaurant -- the underground seating area is decorated like a wine cellar, save for the kitschy pagoda that's been placed in the middle. Some of the tile work still bears Mediterranean scenes of amphorae, Ionic columns and seaside. There are self-serve stations for water and spicy condiments. The place has plenty of options and is run by a friendly Cambodian family.

        For baguettes, I discovered La Fougasserie (5, rue Poissonnerie) in Vielle Ville, as well as Pierre Bordonnat (21, rue Gubernatis) in the newer part of the city. Both have excellent crust and a moist, chewy interior, with the baguette from La Fougasserie being somewhat saltier than Pierre Bordonnat's. Both, however, are among the best I have found in Nice.

        Also, Pierre Bordonnat makes a killer croissant. Flaky, buttery, good stretchiness, and not doughy at all.

        If/when you have had enough of rich foods and need a detox, there's a salad bar on rue Gubernatis, just north of Av. Félix Faure, on the east side of the street. You can create your own salad with a list they give you and you just check off what you want in your salad. They bring it to you along with some good multigrain bread. Not gourmet fare, but a good, light meal alternative.

        Managed to also get to Keisuke Matsushima. One word: WOW. This is exactly what I expected of an accomplished Japanese chef. The flavours are all so delicately balanced, with nothing being "hit you in the face" intense or overpowering. Everything was incredibly fresh and well executed. And the lunch menu is a steal at 25EUR.

        Also checked out l'Aphrodite. The experience was very good -- the service was much warmer than at Keisuke Matsushima (the head waiter is especially sweet) and the food was quite inventive. I would say that the chef is a bit heavy handed on the salt, however. The other flavours aside from the salt were intense as well, so it wasn't that the food was just salty and nothing more.

        That said, I much preferred the delicate nature of the food at Keisuke Matsushima, but chacun son goût -- it's an entirely personal and subjective preference. I think you get great experiences at both places and one can enjoy them for different reasons.

        As to a good cocktail bar, I had a great time at Le Hussard (1/3 rue Saint François de Paule) in Vielle Ville. Try to get the bald guy as your bartender. He is really good at creating custom, on-the-spot cocktails if you tell him your preferences. They know how to add just the right touches to make a good cocktail into a great cocktail. A bit on the pricey side, but you get what you pay for.

        For excellent homemade Lebanese food, I found a small shop, whose name I can't recall, on rue Pastorelli, just west of rue Tonduti de l'Escarène. They have the full array of sambousek, fatayir, kibbeh, shakshuka, babaghanouj, sujouk, and so on. I enjoy those mezes and their köfte, falafel, and chicken shish sandwiches. Don't bother with the beef shwarma or the baklava.

        Also ate at Le Tire Bouchon and La Villa. Nothing revolutionary at the first, though the food was executed competently. La Villa was just bad -- the duck in fig sauce was ridiculously sweet. Service at both places were neglectful, but to be expected in a touristy area.

        Went to Le Gambetta for the seafood planche. That was quite good; everything was really fresh. The best deal is to go with a large-ish group and to get the large platter and split the cost amongst you. The rest of the menu is just "meh", but the ambience there is great as it's all lively locals.

        Also did some regional traveling. In Aix-en-Provence, if you want a good place to work, Italy Street Coffee Shop (67, rue d'Italie) is good for that.

        In Avignon, I came across a very cute bistro called Chez Lulu (6, place de Chataignes). It's straight out of East Village NYC with retro/mod shabby chic decor. They have very reasonably priced menu for what you get. Again, not gourmet fare, but good value in a friendly and warm atmosphere.

        Anyway, that's all that comes to mind right now. I'm sure I'll remember more... and I still have another 3 days left to discover more!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Juniper

          You MUST visit this little place in Nice before you come home.

          Beyrouth Nights (not recognized by chowhound pull down menu)

          12 Rue de la Buffa about two blocks from the Promenade de la Anglais. I had hummus, sambousek fromage and mamoul and some other pastry of which I had never heard.

          I have never been to Lebanon but I eat a ton of Lebanese food in Brooklyn and Manhattan. This is the BEST I have ever encountered in my life. Not fancy. Just delicious. I wanted to lick the plate.

        2. Also, I am sure that you have already tried gelato from Fenocchio and socca from Rene Socca or anywhere else in Old Nice.

          Fenocchio's olive ice cream is unbeatable.

          1 Reply
          1. re: t19103

            That;s where I first had Lavender Caramel ice Cream, "eons" ago!

            Also, before y ou go be sure to stop at Confiserie Auer in the Old Town for some of their fabulous confitures (Jam in English).

          2. Pics from Beyrouth Nights attached. Sorry for the blur.