French Flavors Land in Newtown with Papillon Cafe

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Daydreaming of a trip to Paris?

Lucky for you, there’s no need to board a plane — just head over to Papillon Cafe in Newtown, which opened in the beginning of December on Sycamore Street.

It marks the fourth French cafe for owner Rabbi Michel Abitbol, who greets guests — including phone callers — with a friendly and enthusiastic “Bonjour!”


He went to culinary school in Paris after moving from his native Southern Morocco. He eventually made his way to New York and now lives in Huntingdon Valley. Since 2001, he’s opened three cafes in Los Angeles and Miami.

Thinkstock/Igor Sinkov

The cafe, which is kosher and organic, features an array of French-inspired treats. You’ll find nourriture classique like croissants and crepes as well as paninis and salads.

Another standout on the menu is the homemade coffee, which Abitbol chooses from Latin American countries.

The cafe’s name, French for “butterfly,” symbolizes Abitbol’s outlook on the endeavor — both of the restaurant and life.

“Butterflies have different colors and also butterflies have very short lives,” Abitbol explained. “Every minute or second a butterfly has to enjoy life because she has a very short life. I bring the image where we have to enjoy every moment in life.”

His goal for the cafe — the Newtown one as well as his others — is for it to become its own hub where you can find, of course, good food as well as a chance to take classes, hear from guest speakers or buy books.

But providing good food is key.

He also plans to hold Shabbat dinners at the cafe twice a month, with themes like French Shabbat or Sephardic Shabbat.

Being in the restaurant business may seem like a drastic change coming from a background in science and academia. He taught classes in New York and finished his degree at Stony Brook University in biochemistry, later working in New York as a chemist.

However, the science and cooking aren’t too far off, he noted.

“It’s the same creativity, same experimentation,” he said. “All my products are almost new all the time. I’m creating new products every week.”

(This week’s new product was a quiche Lorraine.)

Abitbol, who attends Congregation Mikveh Israel, found the Newtown spot through connections he had with local farmers when he ran a catering business in Center City.

He aims to use local, fresh products and ingredients in the cafe as well as “ancient” methods to bake goodies each day.

“Every day we have great bread and fresh croissants,” he promised.

The cafe offers catering as well, he added, for schools, nursing homes, events and the like. (Just give him a ring if you’re interested.)

He’s enjoyed meeting new guests and being able to give them a nice kosher meal. His official certification is still pending from Keystone K and KCL of Lakewood but everything is kosher, he noted.

The cafe had its soft opening Dec. 2 but be on the lookout

for a grand opening celebration in January.

So for those looking for a kosher spot and a new place to relax and enjoy a croissant (or three, we won’t judge), bon appetit

[email protected]; 215-832-0740

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