Buvette Gastrothèque: West Village
Strolling through the Village on a sunny spring day, we happened to pass by a neighborhood eatery, Buvette, which caused us to turn around and take a second look as it reminded us of a small European cafe. The outside street-seating was mostly full and buzzing with life on a Wednesday afternoon so when we found a table big enough for our party of four to squeeze around we were quite happy.
gas • tro • theque
Noun: an eating and drinking establishment dedicated to the serious enjoyment of food and wine.
Buvette Gastrothèque was started by Chef Jody Williams in 2011 to combine the elegance of an old-world cafe with the casual nature of a neighborhood eatery. Williams dubbed the restaurant a“gastrothèque” a word she invented to describe both its informality and its delightfulness- part restaurant, part bar, part café. In French, “buvette” translates to “snack” or “refreshment” bar and are often found at football stadiums or even on a train, but Buvette Gastrothèque is not your typical French buvette.
While I wasn’t impressed with the wine list and the corresponding high prices, I was excited by the long list of creative cocktails and was happy to see one of our favorites on the list- the French 75 (Soixante Quinze). Deviating from the most common recipe, Buvette, used Cognac instead of Gin, which was mixed with fresh lemon juice and champagne and served in a small, chilled wine glass. The resulting cocktail was a refreshing start to our light outdoor lunch.
Buvette has a small, but adequate food menu serving up a lot of the typical French favorites including escargot, Croque monsieur, steak tartare, coq au vin, and a selection of fromages and charcuterie or cafe gourmand and Tarte Tatin for dessert. Expect anything you order for lunch to be “snack” like and served in smaller portions on small plates, but we found the portions adequate for our family. Our favorites were the: Les Oeufs Vapeurs- Chevre (steamed organic eggs, goat cheese & sun-dried cherry tomatoes on toast), the Croque Forestier (roasted mushrooms, gruyere & sun-dried tomatoes) and the Waffle sandwich, with bacon, a fried egg, and Gruyere.
After living in France for nearly 10 years, but back in the USA for the past 11 months, it would be an understatement to say that I have missed village life in France and the corresponding restaurant scene that has been shut down due to Covid. Sitting outside at the French-inspired Buvette was the closest I have come to replicating the charm and flavors of a French cafe. Some might say that Buvette is reminiscent of Parisian cafes, but the food at Buvette is better than most French cafes I have been to, and I didn’t have to wait an hour to get the bill.
In addition to the location we visited in NYC, the restaurant is now open in London, Paris, Tokyo, and soon Mexico City. The owner, Jody Williams, has also written a cook book: Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food, which shows the home cook how to create casual, polished meals without spending a lot of money or time.
The best of French Bistro cooking–simple yet sophisticated tastes–by the owner and chef of the celebrated New York restaurant.
She has a certain aesthetic that is a combination of Italian and French bistro cooking in that she uses sophisticated taste combinations, but prepared in simple ways to make unforgettable dishes. A comfortable and interesting table will make your meals a pleasure and Williams offers suggestions for using varied plates (from your shelves or the flea market) and helps you think creatively about serving food, like scooping ice cream into a tea cup, or serving chocolate mousse in a silver tablespoon.