Balthazar is always a scene. Like a one-martini-and-peep-toe-heel-away-from-Samantha-Jones scene. You’ll run into plenty of regulars, like the teacher posted up at the bar at 8pm downing a decaf cappuccino and a scoop of vanilla ice cream who told us Balthazar serves the city’s best whipped cream. (We can neither confirm nor deny at this time.) Next to the regulars sit Soho shoppers and Gen Z kids wearing camo bucket hats who heard about this restaurant from TikTok. It’s an undeniably weird mix for a traditional French brasserie that opened in 1997—but the frenetic energy is what makes Balthazar worth visiting for a night of paying too much money for escargot and French onion soup.
Breakfast and lunch here work nicely for a meeting or whenever you’d like to present someone with a nice salad and freshly-baked bread. But nighttime is when things get more fun. We always order the steak frites served with a whole-ass beurre blanc dipping sauce on the side (as does much of the crowd sitting in the dining room). Admittedly, you could plop this $43 New York strip or ribeye into an Outback Steakhouse and no one would have the slightest clue. It’s totally unremarkable. The crispy pinky-sized fries though, you’ll probably want an extra order of.
Despite the crowds, you can usually walk in and get a bar seat if you’re there a bit before 7pm or a bit after 9pm. That’s the ideal move. It means more eavesdropping and face time with the strangers who make Balthazar what it is.
If high prices and scene-y restaurants bother you, you’re going to hate everything about Balthazar (and Soho at large, for that matter). But if you’re in the area with tiny martini stars in your eyes, it’s one of those places you should probably check out.
Onion Soup Gratine
Unsexy, rich, and uncomplicated. Why not?
You either love escargot or you don't. (Maybe you had a pet snail growing up, and this plate repluses you.) Balthazar's escargot won't change your snail passions or lackthereof, but it's a very good, very garlicky version.
This steak isn't very fatty, and ultimately, the piece of meat doesn't feel buttery or bloody or deluxe. But it's well-cooked (pink in the middle, char marks on the outside), and the fries are perfect. We always get this dish even though we know it's overpriced. We're sorry if that's not helpful. We're just people, you know?
Even if your particular meal situation doesn't call for steak or mussels, get some frites for the table. We once sat next to someone at the bar who got nothing but fries and left. We love that person, whoever they are.
Yes, this fancy French bread basket costs 22 dollars. Try the monkey bread, and tell us that you regret your decision to order it. You won't be able to. (Although you should know this bread party is only available at breakfast.)
Brioche French Toast
Balthazar's breakfast of champions. Two slices of of applewood smoked bacon lounging on buttery, sugar-dusted French toast. You could always get the $12 green juice instead. But why on earth would you do that?