Arts de la Table: French Restaurants in Brooklyn
Today’s article is a bit different from the usual as I will be writing about a different type of art than I have up until now on this blog. In France, we have a word for all matters related to eating and the culture surrounding food (well, are you surprised that we do?):arts de la table (literally, art of the table). This term defines the broad array of customs & traditions related to cooking and the pleasures of eating - sounds painful I know. But you get it by now, food is indeed very important when you’re French - yes, that cliche is true.
I cannot complain about the French restaurant scene in NYC. There are various ranges of bistros and restaurants available with their own take on the subject, and discovering one after the other is very fun. One of the main reasons why I love New York so much is that I am able to live in this exciting city and yet not have to give up delicious French-style food. Being able to buy real French baguettes (yes, there are “fake” ones out there) any day after work is truly a delightful ritual that brings me peace. It is quite amazing to be living out here in the U.S. and yet still be able to procure oneself some delicious fresh baked bread at French-founded establishments such as Maison Kayser or Epicerie Boulud. As I write this I realize that I sound like yet another bread-obsessed French person... but I can live with that.
With the heavy limitations put on indoor dining and all sorts of entertainment in New York City for almost six months now, the strain on restaurants and bars is like no other before. It is really sad to see so many establishments which normally make New York the great city that it is struggling or closing amidst the pandemic. I wanted to write this article to honor some of my favorite French places for dining, but sadly when I looked them up on Google, about half of them are now permanently closed. Thankfully, two of my favourite places in Brooklyn are still open and have adjusted their service to reopen to the public despite the pandemic. I am thrilled to be able to write about them and hopefully introduce you to one of your new favorite restaurants!
La Cigogne, Carroll Gardens - 215 Union St, Brooklyn
La Cigogne means “The Stork” in French, which is a symbol of the region of Alsace in the Northeast of France. This establishment, founded in 2014 and run by a Frenchman, offers specialties from the region and other French delicacies. I have gone there for dinner and can attest that it is the perfect spot for a date or meeting up with friends on a summer night. They also offer a great brunch. Here you can taste an original tarte flambée, which is probably the most popular Alsatian specialty in France. Picture a savory thin crust flatbread covered with a thin layer of crème fraiche, onions and bacon. You can add any toppings of your choice including munster, goat cheese, camembert or mushrooms and there is also a vegetarian version with artichokes & spinach to accommodate for a wide range of dietary preferences.
The menu at La Cigogne also includes other traditional dishes such as Spätzle, which is traditional fresh egg pasta or quiche lorraine and pork schnitzel. They do not skip on the French basics either, and serve a juicy steak frites as ell as offer an authentic pate de campagne and cheese board. The wine selection includes a couple of fruity Alsatian wines such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer, which I highly recommend trying if you haven’t before.
Not only is La Cigogne now open again, the outdoor patio space has now doubled in size to accommodate for safe dining outside. When indoor dining is allowed again, I recommend going there on cold winter day since there is a beautiful dining space with a large fire place (!) which can also be reserved for private events. I also give this restaurant extra points for their French style serving which means that you can keep a conversation going with your friend without being interrupted by the staff - just make sure to sign to the waiter if you need anything. Voilà!
Cafe Rue Dix, Crown Heights - 1451 Bedford Ave (at Park Place) Brooklyn
Cafe Rue Dix is not your traditional French establishment as it is a French & Senegalese food restaurant. Senegal was a French colony until 1960, so the mixed menu options offered by Cafe Rue Dix are similar to the dishes you would find in certain touristic areas of Dakar, the capital of Senegal. If you are not familiar with Senegalese food, Cafe Rue Dix is a great place to get started - you can always rely on their French staples in case of doubt. Their atmosphere is truly unique as well- think West African music, & decor - and walking in is a beautiful experience on its own.
Cafe Rue Dix offers beautiful and exotic cocktails inspired by traditional Senegalese flavors - I highly recommend that you try their hibiscus cocktail, or just the juice if you’re not in the mood for alcohol. Hibiscus juice is made directly from soaking giant purple hibiscus flowers into water. If you’ve ever been to West Africa, you know that it is absolutely delightful, and if you haven’t yet, here is your chance! You also have to try the Mafé, which is made of beef (often can be made with lamb as well) and vegetable stewed in peanut butter sauce for hours and eaten over rice (just try it, you will love it). You should also have a taste of Thiebou Jen which is Senegal’s national dish, a fish stew with veggies served over flavored rice.
For brunch, I highly recommend their steak sandwich. It sounds mundane, yet tastes amazing. Cafe Rue Dix serves French-approved bread and their cheese board is just what you need for a successful brunch. They also serve small beignets! Beignets are the smaller & fluffier French version of American doughnuts, and they can be hard to come by in NYC (that I know of) so I was really excited when I found those here. The menu also has many vegetarian options that will excite your taste buds with exotic flavors.
Cafe Rue Dix is currently open and offers outdoor seating, as well as takeout and delivery. Because I love their decor and music, I would recommend going there in person but either way, you must find a way to try it!
What are your favorite restaurants in NYC? Feel free to share below as I am always excited to find more spots offering tasty menu options!