The Paris Café has been a fixture on historic South Street since 1873. Known as one of the oldest pubs in New York City, the restaurant is right across the road from the East River. It has a view of the stately Brooklyn Bridge from the outdoor seating that wraps around the restaurant. South Street, known as, “The Street of Ships,” earned the nickname because of the port’s vibrant sea trade in the early 19th century.
The interior has undergone various renovations, such as the flat screen tv’s that are located all around the famed bar, but the pressed tin ceiling and the exposed brick walls are original. The dark blue leather banquettes, low lighting and black and white photographs that hang on the walls are reminiscent of times past. The atmosphere makes for a cozy setting for cocktails, lunch or dinner.
The pub has been synonymous with stiff drinks and good food. Chef Scott Hawley pays homage to the former fish market that resided just steps away on Front Street. The menu brims with fresh seafood entrees and everything Hawley serves is homemade (from the condiments to the desserts). The Paris Café serves American fare in an iconic setting.
Location: The Paris Café is located at the Seaport – 119 South Street, New York, NY.
Menu: The Café is open for brunch on the weekends with favorites like eggs Benedict and brioche French toast. Lunch starters feature the “Paris” mixed seafood chowder with cod, clams, mussels, and vegetables in a creamy seafood broth. Along with soups and salads, the menu showcases lobster mac and cheese, Shepherd’s pie, and a selection of burgers. There are also a variety of sandwiches and fish entrees like fish and chips or seafood stew.
Dinner selections include lunch favorites and entrees like slow braised lamb shank, New York Strip Steak, Ahi tuna, and chef specials. The desserts are simple but decadent. There is a choice of dark chocolate brownies or banana bread pudding with caramel sauce and whipped cream. If you prefer pie you can choose between warm blueberry or apple.
Thoughts: The Paris is uncomplicated and straightforward. It is comfortable and casual, but it also feels elegant. You could arrive in jeans and a t-shirt, but if you dressed up you wouldn’t look out of place. When you choose off the menu, you can eat a salad, sandwich or a hearty American favorite like chicken pot pie.
I went for lunch on a bright, sunny, fall day. The window seat afforded me views of the bridge and the East River which is just a stone’s throw from the café. It was such a relaxed experience. The waiter was in no rush to take my order and was happy to allow plenty of time to review the list of extensive choices. He was attentive and eager to recite the additional specials, frequently returning to refill drinks or check on my progress with the menu.
One of the specials, a creamy cauliflower soup topped with croutons and scallions sounded so enticing that I had to give it a try. I also chose the garden salad with a trio of lettuces, vegetables, and sunflower seeds topped with a French vinaigrette. Soup, salad and a sandwich sounded like the perfect lunch that day. I selected a grilled chicken served on a crunchy ciabatta roll with a side of crisp French fries.
The soup was savory and felt like comfort food at its finest. It was creamy but light with crunchy croutons that soaked up the contents of the cup. Each bite was so tasty with a hint of scallions and a drizzle of olive oil. The salad was cool and fresh. The dressing was light, peppery, and the addition of the sunflower seeds added the perfect textural element. The sandwich (while simple) was hearty. The grilled chicken was juicy, well-seasoned, and topped with thin slices of avocado, lettuce, and tomato.
While I found it delicious, the sandwich portion was generous and too big to finish at one sitting. I had to stop eating the fries because they were that good. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the food, two good reasons why the Paris Cafe has stood the test of time.
Price Range: Starters like soups and snacks are $10-15. Burgers, sandwiches, and wraps are around $15. Heartier entrees including seafood choices are $20 -30. Desserts are $9.
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