The best of French in New York: Mon Petit Café
In a swarm of Upper East Side luxury shopping and adorable bistros, this authentically French café is a perfect stop for lunch à la française.
A French Affair Meant to Be
Mon Petit Café and I have a bit of a history, albeit a very strange one. When I moved to NYC at the ripe age of 19 (many years ago) I was desperate for a job that actually paid money and they were desperate for a hostess, any hostess, who spoke French and could handle such difficult tasks as ‘seat customers at their tables.’
I got the job offer call while sitting in my eight bunk-bed hostel room (insert French exasperated face here) just moments after being offered an internship more in line with what I was interested in doing. So I turned them down, and was quietly a bit disappointed to not be venturing into what seemed like their perfect little French haven of a restaurant.
Upon moving back to NYC years later, I was again looking for work and by coincidence found myself walking by the café only to see a notice for an available waitress position. The competition this time, however, was much more stiff and a rather lovely native French girl got the job while I found myself more office-related work downtown. But it seemed fate had brought me back to this little café as if on purpose, to simply remind me it was there, perfectly picturesque and blissfully authentic in all its Frenchness.
Because of this strange connection to the café, I kept coming back to it; a lunch here, a dinner there, and it grew on me. Much like the little bistros you stumble upon in Paris and enjoy much more than anticipated, getting to know the staff and returning because it is simply better than you had ever expected it to be. Its French simplicity becomes seductive and now it’s just natural to go in for a bite when you’re in the neighborhood craving quintessential French flavors.
Perfect Midi Meal
I’ve found lunch is the best time to go. The café is buzzing with New Yorkers treating themselves to a leisurely French lunch. The quality of the food feels like quite the treat for a midday meal. The classics are always available: croque monsieur, quiche Lorraine, moules frites, or sole meunière. Meanwhile, the daily specials are often delicious and a bit more dynamic if you’re not in the mood for something so classically French.
The staff are all French and speak the language as if they were working in a café in Paris, Lyon, or a small town in Provence. They weave around the tightly packed tables, seemingly effortless in their ability to make a Francophile like myself feel perfectly at home. The clientele at this café is certainly a bit upper east side (with less Gossip Girl flair) for this Brooklyn girl, but the French atmosphere is really all that matters, and sometimes it’s really all a girl needs.