Cafe Gitane (Nolita)

One of my coworkers recently recommended Cafe Gitane to me. “You’ve got to get the avocado toast. It’s what I get every time I go there,” she raved. So, this morning, we arrived at Cafe Gitane in Nolita, just north of Prince Street on Mott, around 9:30 am.

cafe gitane baked eggs sandwich

baked eggs sandwich

In preparation for our trip, I scoured the Internet for reviews and menus and general ideas about Cafe Gitane. It’s a French restaurant with Moroccan flavors infused in their dishes. Or, perhaps, it’s a Moroccan restaurant with remnants of French cooking. I can’t tell. And maybe the difference is small and insignificant.

I noticed that their website only lists the two locations (the other is in the Jane Hotel, way west, in the West Village), with no hint at their hours, their menu, or their policy on credit cards, which varies from location to location. Yelp provided some insight into their menu, and reviewers lauded the avocado toast as the “must-get” dish at Cafe Gitane.

So, with all this in mind, we trekked down to Nolita, ambled up to Cafe Gitane, and took a seat at one of about a dozen tables in the restaurant. A handful of tables line the simple exterior, providing prime people-watching positioning for patrons, while roughly six stools crowd around a clean counter inside. In the corner, a barista handles all the coffee–which is pretty expensive for a “cafe americano,” yet good–and two chefs man the counter, cooking and creating dishes as they chatter away the morning. When we walked in, The Smiths were playing over the speakers and, when we left, some remixed 50s tune filled my ears.

The breakfast menu is limited. A few eggs dishes dot the menu, with a waffle and some pastries rounding it out. An indifferent waitress took our order. I opted for the baguette filled with baked eggs and merguez sausage, covered with shaved parmesan and chipotle mayo. To accompany the sandwich, they offered a side salad with a fruity (possibly apple) vinaigrette that alienated me. The sandwich itself was good, but I wasn’t blown away. While the eggs and sausage provided a nice flavor, the chipotle mayo was unevenly dressed, and so was the parmesan. I enjoyed the baguette, however, which was crusty and flavorful.

cafe gitane avocado toast

avocado toast

MDP ordered the baked eggs with smoked salmon, potato, and cream, served to him in a quaint dish with three slices of baguette on the side. After allowing his dish to cool for several minutes, he chowed down and polished off the dish. It seemed like he greatly enjoyed his meal.

And, of course, we got the avocado toast, which is something I will definitely make (better) at home. For $7, you’re really not getting a lot with this dish. Smooth avocado is smeared across the upper crust of a piece of multigrain toast. Roasted red pepper flakes are shaken onto the top of the avocado, with some (too much, really) lemon juice and olive oil forming a sheen layer that drips onto the plate and possibly down your sleeve if you’re not careful. It was definitely good, but, as I said, I can make this myself.

I like Cafe Gitane, but, as I told MDP, I’m not over the moon about it. I might recommend trying their couscous for dinner. If you go, remember to bring loads of cash, since Cafe Gitane in Nolita is cash-only. (And they prohibit cell phones, for what it’s worth).

Cafe Gitane

242 Mott Street (by Prince Street)

Nolita, New York

Take the N/R to Prince, walk east to Mott. 

And, I’ll leave you with a bit of fun art from a sidewalk in SoHo. Whatever it means, it’s true.

loveis

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Sauce

I had heard about Sauce on one of the food blogs I read. My first thought about it was “If it’s truly an Italian restaurant, why isn’t it called ‘Gravy’?” Once I got to Sauce and tried their menu, I understood exactly why it wasn’t called Gravy. Sauce, in fact, isn’t very Italian at all.

sauce avocado salad

avocado salad

Located on Rivington and Allen, Sauce has a fairly hip location, and its interior clearly reaches for that certain, exclusive feeling. Dim rooms with tiny wooden tables and chairs situated too close together fill the joint. MDP asked, “Why’d they give us this table?” which was located just steps away from the restrooms and kitchen (which, reflecting upon the layout, probably shouldn’t be so close together). “I don’t know,” I replied. “But it’s better than that one.” I gestured to a lone table in the midst of several other tables that would have been impossible to maneuver behind.

If you look online at Sauce’s website, their menu is basically illegible. It’s impossible to know what description goes with what dish and so on. At the restaurant itself, the menu is much more clear. We were presented a thick list of specials–which seems odd to me. Why not put more on the regular menu instead of having so many specials each night? I digress–and selected the avocado salad off that menu for our appetizer. Initially, I had thought that we would get their garlic bread, sold by the piece (another oddity), but they fed us delicate slices of bread and vegetables soaked in olive oil when we sat down.

The avocado salad was a bowl filled with chopped iceberg lettuce with a can of corn kernels and slices of tomato dropped on top, and one half of an avocado carelessly placed on one side of the dish. I enjoyed the salad, although I wish they had included more avocado. A light, barely perceptible vinaigrette coated the salad mixings. I was so hungry at the time that I wolfed down my portion of the salad in no time.

sauce chicken parmigiana

chicken parmigiana

For my entree, I opted for the chicken parmigiana because, I figured, even non-Italian restaurants can get that right. MDP got the gnocchi alla sorrentina, which is just gnocchi with melted mozzarella on top.

My chicken parmigiana was fine. The chicken itself was tender and easy to cut through, but they put way too much of their eponymous sauce on the chicken and not enough mozzarella. The ratio was off. In addition, they offered me a side of homemade spaghetti, which was voluminous and dense, with ample amounts of their sauce on top–but no spoon to eat it with. Also, there wasn’t any parmesan cheese on the table for my dish. They just put some on top of the spaghetti at their own discretion. These hints clued me into the fact that Sauce is not entirely authentic.

MDP’s gnocchi came out in a very tiny dish. They were spinach gnocchi and he commented that they were just okay. He didn’t like the sauce either.

I wouldn’t recommend Sauce. As I said, any Italian restaurant that even hints at the stuff that you put on spaghetti should be called Gravy. That’s the Italian way.

You know I don’t like Italian restaurants (because I find I can make the dishes better at home), so take my review for what it’s worth. Maybe Sauce doesn’t want to be authentic, who knows. All I know is that I’m not going back there.

Sauce

78 Rivington Street

Lower East Side, NY

Take the F/M to Delancey/Essex, walk up to Rivington then left.