French Roast Uptown is the place to go on the Upper West Side. I used to live on the same block, about 20 yards away from it.
It’s a mixture of a bistro, diner, and bar, having equal qualities from all of them. It’s set up like a charming if somewhat generic French bistro, open all night like a diner, and it has a good bar with a special every night. There’s an interesting cast of characters who hang out there at night: I met an opera singer, a photographer for Ralph Lauren, a writer for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and the retired owner of a music bar. You can go there and order a (superb) French onion soup at 2 AM, have a great conversation, and watch an attractive regular throw a tantrum any night of the year.
It’s always crowded. There are people there at literally any time of the day. I’d recommend going early in the morning or after 9 pm, because it’s hectic in there during the day. The best items on the menu are as follows:
Brunch: Tomato Avocado Salsa Omelette. It has gruyere in it. I know it sounds gross but it’s fantastic. The omelette is light, almost like a crepe, and the tomatoes are crisp and the avocado (mashed like guacamole) isn’t too goopy. The gruyere gives it even more flavor and blends well with the egg. It’s better than Chipotle, and it’s in omelette form.
Dinner: Pumpkin Ravioli (Fall and Winter): It’s filling and smooth with brown butter on top (it tasted warm and hearty and a bit sugary.) It’s cooked al dente, so you get the flavor without it being too soft.
Avocado and Goat Cheese Ravioli (Spring and Summer): It looks intimidating but it’s actually even better than the pumpkin ravioli. It’s cooked in brown butter. The asparagus and goat cheese are both inside the ravioli and out, sprinkled on top for both a garnish and flavor. The crisp asparagus slices add texture to the dish. It’s a mix of savory, crisp, and just enough sweet tang from the goat cheese. Ask for some of their rustic bread to soak up the brown butter.
French Onion Soup (Lunch and Overnight): The best French onion soup I’ve ever had. It’s in a vegetarian broth with slightly browned gruyere on top and a lot of onions. It’s meaty and filling and wonderful.
French Soda: An Italian soda. It’s seltzer, cream, and syrup. I ordered the almond soda. They give you a generous wallop of cream, so it’s almost like an egg cream.
They also make a mean Caesar salad for brunch, lunch, and dinner. The espresso ain’t bad either.
French Roast is generally consistent, but not always. I’ve been there a couple of times where it wasn’t what I was used to. The soup tends to be better earlier rather than later. The conversation, however, is always great.
There’s also a French Roast downtown. It has Wi-Fi, but is lacking in every other way.
My Rating: 8.5
Recommended Dish: French Onion Soup, Pumpkin/Avocado Goat Cheese ravioli, Tomato Avocado Salsa Omelette
Atmosphere: Dim light, bistro decorations, cozy, often crowded
Clientele: Upper West Side professionals, often who work in the arts. Grad students.
Price Range: $12-$30 per person
French Roast Uptown
Upper West Side
85th and Broadway
(2340 Broadway, New York, NY 10024)
French Roast Downtown
11th and Sixth Ave.
(78 W 11th St #1, New York, NY 10011)
Website: French Roast