I remember in Sex and the City when they visited a restaurant called Balthazar. I presume it had just opened back then and it is still going strong. It is hugely popular and rammed pretty much all the time. It’s downtown on Spring Street, which is prime SoHo and a great shopping area.
And yes, it was rammed when we went too. It was hard to even get in the door there were so many people packed into the tiny waiting area. Once we’d worked out who was doing what and whether we were queue jumping (you don’t want a pissed off New Yorker yelling at you because you jumped the ‘line’) we were told we had to wait. We made our way carefully to the bar – in danger of running into a waiter bearing plates or stumbling into the lap of some poor sod who got the worst table in the place right next to the door.
It’s kind of a French brasserie in side and all Christmassy looking at the moment. I expect if you did a straw poll you’d actually find very few actual New Yorkers in there. I saw lots of shopping bags, ladies in groups looking very excited and a slightly out of place group of young lads in school ties, or something like that. So glad we went without E and J, there were no kids in there under 10.
I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary to have a lady in the toilets hand you a paper towel when the dispenser is right next to you and New Yorkers are clean freaks so this kind of goes against the grain of the ‘don’t touch anything’ mentality. But I did like the fact that in the spirit of its French vibe, they had a fancy ‘Toilettes’ sign high up on the wall but had to have an explanatory ‘restrooms’ in modern type below it, just in case.
The food is good, they specialise in steak and chips, which is always a winner. It’s not cheap, so probably more of a treat kind of place. Even if eating that in the middle of the afternoon seemed a bit decadent, it’s a bit like time isn’t relevant, you can’t see outside, it could be any time of day.
Just think about the operation behind this place with hundreds of diners there from pretty much 6am to midnight seven days a week. The New York Times did a great behind the scenes piece on them which is well worth reading. Makes you appreciate that steak just that bit more.
It reminds me of the Wolseley in London, which is on Piccadilly and based in an old car showroom. They don’t have such an obvious Parisian brasserie thing going on, but it’s always rammed in there too and for good comfort food at odd times of day, it’s well worth trying.
And no, I have no clue why it’s so popular.