When I first moved to the 11th arrondissement, rue Oberkampf hadn't yet shaken off the vestiges of its grungy, working-class past and was lined mostly with dive bars, ethnic take-away joints and merchants (fishmongers, cheese-mongers, florists, etc.). Once a new bakery set up shop, the older one on the block underwent renovations to compete. From there, a chocolate shop settled in, then a couple of independent boutiques and wine shops. The area's ascent from up-and-coming to wholly established and eminently cool was a rapid one.
But my favorite transformation occurred at Aux Deux Amis, a dive bar that used to be a magnet for retired old men who camped out at the bar starting at 9 a.m. for a morning of drinking. Cigarette butts coated the tiled floor until the end of the day when the owner swept them into the trash. It has since been taken over by a young crew who maintained the throwback decor but evolved the concept into a natural wine bar with fresh small plates.
My favorite time to go is around 6 p.m. for an apéro with a plate of whatever cheese they have on hand. Snag a spot out on the terrace if you can.