What do you do when you have an abundance of French restaurants in your neighborhood and a shortage of time in which to try them out? You start eating, toute de suite. First stop: Bar Tabac.
I ate at Bar Tabac on the same day I arrived in New York City, and it was restaurant love at first sight. Located on the corner of Smith and Dean Streets, Tabac is smack dab in the middle of a lively shopping/dining center in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood. What struck me first about this restaurant is its authentic Frenchness. From the simple outdoor seating, to the Francophone clientele, to the wood and brick interior, to the charming French accents of the staff, to the fact that they don’t accept Visa or MasterCard, everything will make you feel like you’ve just discovered Paris’ best kept local dining secret. Except that you're in Brooklyn.
Bar Tabac's food is typical French bistro fare (steak frites) with some American influences thrown in (Late Night Giant Bar Tabac Burger...I'm not joking). The first dish I ordered was their "goat cheese on croutons" salad, with a glass of Chenin Blanc to accompany. The salad portion was definitely French, but so was the freshness and taste, so I couldn’t complain. I went back to Bar Tabac a few days later to try their brunch, and this time I ate a truly memorable croque monsieur with a side of fries and salade verte. The bread on the croque was crispy, buttery perfection, and they didn’t skimp on the cheese. It wasn't diet food, but it went great with the French Open final they were showing on the flat screen.
The best part about Bar Tabac is its welcoming, low-key atmosphere. The servers are friendly and the clientele is down-to-Earth. No Parisian snobbery here, just good food and an easy place to relax, either with a friend, or with your fresh-off-the-presses Sunday edition of the New York Times. Did I mention they have $3.95 mimosas?