French Roast is the type of place that every neighborhood should be lucky enough to have. It is inexpensive but still has waiter service, has a large enough menu to entertain everyone but it is focused enough to cook everything well, and has servers who know who to keep a whole family happy as well as leave you alone if you just want to sit with your latte and work.
The place is uber crammed on a sunday brunch, but for lunch or dinner on a weekday, it is just perfect. Busy but not crowded, with enough staff to make sure that you aren’t waiting for too long without a menu or a coffee.
A special that day, this salad mimics one of my favorites. Bitter endive, creamy and sharp blue cheese, and a bright vinaigrette. The tangles of stiff frisee and velvety hearts of palm vary the textures in this salad. Though it could have used a few walnuts, the salad was substantial for an appetizer.
This other daily special was a highlight of the meal. Extremely pumpkiny and thick enough to coat the back of my spoon. It was none to sweet, picking out the buttery and earthy notes of the gourd instead of the sweet ones that are so often exploited. There are spicy backnotes of onions and thyme, followed by the rich, grounded taste of the bisque. Hot and creamy without being at all greasy, this is the perfect soup for any rainy day.
Just what you might expect from this establishment. Since it isn’t a Mediterranean restaurant, the food is a little one note, but since it’s a good restaurant, it’s a damn good note. Lemony humus, sweet and spicy eggplant, and some very garlicky babaganoush. This is not a must have on the menu, but it is a great option as a group appetizer or as a very nice light lunch with the warm pita that accompanies it.
French Roast is a gem on the often overpriced UWS. It is fairly priced, casual without being divey, and the food is genuinely delicious. Come here for lunch with a friend or alone and prepare to leave well sated.