Just as there are many under-the-radar restaurants that pepper the 11th and 12th arrondisements—Bistrot Paul Bert, Le Square Trousseau, La Gazetta, to name a few—there are also some killer sweet spots straddling le Faubourg Saint Antoine.
Start your sweet explorations with the most notable on the list, Blé Sucre (7, rue Antoine Vollon), founded by ex-Bristol patissier Fabrice Le Bourdat. The patisserie is petit but it has a massive selection of viennoiseries, cakes, chocolates, breads and other douceurs that make the decision of what to try very painful. I ended up settling on the madeleine, which—moist and light; dense but crispy along the ridge; coated with a thin layer of sugar glacage—seemed like the right choice.
A couple blocks to the east, La Ruche à Miel (19, rue d'Aligre ), a North African patisserie/salon de thé offers a small selection of very small sweets. The Cigare, for example, flavored with almond and orange, is shaped like a cannoli, but can be put away in a mere three bites. Maybe that’s why the giant pâtes de dattes caught my eye. Heftier than an American Pop Tart, it was as savory as it was sweet, with a course and exotic texture that I found addictive.
Venture north into the 11th, where the scent of chocolate will greet you inside Pause Détente (98, avenue Ledru-Rollin). There's a whole case of bonbons in the back—milk and dark, ganache and praline, vanilla, cassis and mint—but to get there, you have to pass all kinds of other delights, including macarons, viennoiseries and beautiful, elaborate gateaux.
Finish with a tinier, but no less lovelier, piece of gateau at Cupcakes & Co (25, rue de la Forge Royale). With over 20 varieties, split amongst buttercream and cream cheese frostings, fruity and savory toppings, and several cake flavors—all made with natural and organic products—it’s next to impossible to choose just one treat. Coffee and hazelnut? Poppy seed with orange cream cheese frosting? Vanilla bourbon cake with glazed figs and pine nuts? An impossible choice, indeed, but one we could all be so lucky to have to make.