Tartine is one of those revered West Village brunch spots with a line of hungry New Yorkers a mile long, rain or shine. It is cherished and raved about, so beloved it could be considered a hotspot despite its simple and shabby look. Located on a picturesque corner off W. 4th, this tiny pastry shop and restaurant is consistently packed to the gills with locals, regulars, curious passers-by, foodies, hipsters, celebrities, and the like.
Stuffed into a cramped and tiny shoebox of a room are about 16 wooden, metal, and marble tables with chairs askew and blocking every possible passage, a pastry case displaying to-die-for pastries, tarts, and croissants, and an array of nautical-inspired tackle box paraphernalia cum decor. The look is shabby chic with mis-matching furniture, paper napkins, diner-like flatware and dishware, bright green flapping kitchen doors, kitschy christmas lights, and cheap wood-paneled walls. Ultra-casual, convivial, and friendly, Tartine manages to attract the celebrity set and local literati without an ounce of pretension.
The food is simple French and Belgian fare. Don’t expect culinary fireworks or delicate presentations here; Europe’s comfort food comes flying out of the kitchen with lots of seasoning, no frippery, and hulking portions. The $15 prix-fixe brunch, Tartine’s most celebrated meal, includes bottomless coffee and OJ and a main course. Options range from a divine croque monsieur to apple pancakes to brioche french toast to eggs benedict, omelettes, and a house gravlax plate. While these are all homey classics, the kitchen transforms them into immensely flavorful and satisfying dishes absolutely worth waiting in the rain for.
After shivering in cold drizzle for 20 minutes, my friend Sarah, my boyfriend John and I all finally tucked into hearty dishes, all served with well-seasoned roasted potatoes in an addictive hollandaise sauce and washed down with fresh-squeezed OJ and a great cup ‘o joe. Ravenously hungry after a long night, I opted for easily the most decadent option, the French Toast. Served on a gigantic plate, this tasty treat of perfectly done brioche with lots of butter, potatoes, and slabs of juicy bacon is absolutely the best french toast I’ve had for brunch yet. Sarah opted for her childhood ‘greedy pleasure,’ the croque monsieur. Probably the best croque monsieur in Manhattan, Tartine’s rendition dazzles with perfectly buttered bread, thick and gooey cheese and juicy ham (no dryness here!). John went for the Grilled Chicken sandwich, a complex combination of grilled chicken, guacamole, portabello mushrooms, arugula, tomato, mozzarella, and chipotle mayo on focaccia bread. Zesty and savory, he lapped this up with much satisfaction.
Don’t be fooled by the ‘hole-in-the-wall” laidback vibe of this sea shack equivalent. The rabid fans patiently waiting in an orderly line outside speak volumes to the talent in the kitchen. Tartine epitomizes the concept of a ‘neighborhood joint’ – the food is simple and very tasty; the service is friendly; the vibe is as casual as can be; the young hipster clientele is chatty and easy-going. Perfect for a filling brunch with friends or a cozy dinner in the ‘hood, Tartine proves that good things can come in small packages.
Note: if you’re one to be bothered by close quarters, at times awkward seating positions, or neighboring conversations, try Tartine in the off hours to avoid the crowds!