Editor’s note: Danielle Husband wrote this piece from a firsthand perspective.
Walking over the cobblestones and into Cafe Poetes, I felt like I’d stepped into my own version of Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.”
A faint hint of an accent floated in the air as voices conversed about pleasant topics, and new arrivals picked out the perfect eclair and selected coffee or tea.
I ordered a large tea pot of Butterfly Earl Grey tea and waited for a chance to chat over a real cup of tea, served on actual fine china.
Cafe Poetes officially launched their soft opening on Friday, February 9.
Owner Karine Favre-Massartic says that she wanted to offer Houston an authentic taste of France, so she imported much of the furniture, decor and supplies from her home country.
Born and raised in Paris, Favre Massartic said she hopes to transport members of Houston’s French community back to their homeland, while also delighting the rest of the city with a chance to experience something different.
The cafe’s water cups show the attention to detail when building the cafe:
They’re the same cups used by French schoolhouses, complete with numbers on the bottom.
Favre-Massartic said she laid the cobblestone pavers outside the cafe herself so they would be installed in the traditional French manner.
“It took me a week,” she laughed.
Barista Charlotte Roberts beams as she talks about the little cafe, which she said reminds her of her time abroad:
“What I love most about being here is that I feel like I’m transported back to France,” Roberts said. “I feel like I’m in Paris where I studied abroad.”
When asked which item is her favorite, she confessed she loves everything she’s tried so far — but especially the salmon and artichoke eclair.
Inspired by classic French cafes. like the 19th century literary gem Cafe du Flore, which attracted writers and poets from all over the world, Cafe Poetes is a new experience for Houston.
“Paris has tons of cafes just like this one,” Roberts said further. “This could be on one of those streets in Paris.”
The cafe offers both indoor and outdoor seating — including a nook with a child-sized table and chairs.
Cafe Poetes offers free guest wifi, as well as a cozy place to sip on coffee while you read or engage in a conversation.
They even offer their own expansive library of books, complete with a sliding ladder reminiscent of the Parisian bookstore depicted in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
Although Favre-Massartic stressed the books are not for sale, the cafe encourages patrons to read them while they’re visiting.
If you don’t finish, just ask for an official cafe bookmark. You can write your name on the bookmark to hold your place until your next visit.
While local literary lovers may enjoy studying — or perhaps writing their latest draft — in the cafe, Favre-Massartic reportedly wants people to experience her cafe rather than use it as a workplace.
The motto of Cafe Poetes is to “Please people with simple elegance.”
“What is elegance?” she asked. “It’s something you remember that fills the air — something more.”
Cafe Poetes is open daily at 122 West Gray in Houston.
See y’all there!