The words “cuisine factory” are written on the façade of Café Tolo, odd since it is a small place doing something close to home cooking. At lunchtime, though, this is not so far from the mark. Almost everyone orders the formula (at €12 for two courses or €15 for three, why wouldn’t they?) and the lentil salads were coming off the line in a way that would make Henry Ford smile. I quite liked that salad, doused with vinaigrette and covered with pink slips of a terrine of pig’s head. (This might sound more appetizing in French, I realize.)
If you prefer your charcuterie unadulterated, Café Tolo offers plates of Basque meats. It is, ostensibly, a Basque restaurant, run by a hardworking woman with no small amount of pride. Stuffed piquillos, chipirons with their ink, piperade, and the effervescent white wine of the region make appearances on the menu.
I’ve never ordered off the menu, though. Like just about everyone else, I get the €12 euro lunch deal. In colder months I had a salad with fried gèsiers — gizzards — followed by a satisfying ham and endive gratin. In late spring I had a bright gazpacho and faux paella. Yesterday I had that lentil salad and breaded merlu (hake to us, not unlike cod) with rice and a lemony buerre blanc. Colorful comfort food.
It’s a playful room, colorful with deliberately mismatched chairs, wooden tables, a gym mat serving as the backrest along the banquette. It’s like an elementary school class room, or perhaps the cafeteria, if you can imagine a grade school kitchen with hams hanging among garlands of peppers.
This is not a destination restaurant, but it’s a fine choice if you’re hungry in the neighborhood. I only have to cross the street once to get to Café Tolo. For me, it’s worth the trip.
Café Tolo 3 rue Eugene Varlin, Paris 75010, 01 42 05 22 51