Take a French bistro, place it in a skillet, and let it reduce for 24 hours. What you’ll wind up with is a more concentrated restaurant with a lot of personality and very little elbow room. In other words, something like Buvette.
This West Village restaurant has been around since 2011, and it’s a very small place filled with enough vintage knick-knacks to decorate every apartment in a two-block radius. It’s a little bit cramped and aggressively quaint - but that’s part of the charm, and the food will help distract you from the fact that any reasonable person could feel claustrophobic here.
Buvette’s dinner menu is about the size of a birthday card, and it’s divided into a few sections of small plates. The first two (Tartines and Legumes) are mostly just snacks or sides - like a pile of shaved carrots and a potato gratin with chunks of pork belly - and further down, you’ll find some slightly larger things. We especially like the mildly spicy merguez sausage, the rich coq au vin, and the lobster l’Americaine that’s essentially a miniature pot pie. But the very best time to eat here is actually the morning. Your brain might evaporate if you witness the crowds at weekend brunch, but you can (and should) stop by early on a weekday to eat a croque madame with prosciutto or a waffle sandwich that comes in a pool of butter and maple syrup. And don’t forget the steamed eggs. They’re worth being late to work for, and possibly even quitting over, depending on how much you like your job.
The only downside to all of these dishes is the fact that they tend to look like they were hit with a shrink ray - but at least thematically that makes sense. Everything at Buvette is tiny, from the tables and stools that feel like they were stolen from a kindergarten production of Les Miserables to the forks and knives that were almost definitely purchased at the American Girl store in Midtown. You’d think this would mean more room to stretch out and breathe, but it’s usually so packed in here that you’ll still worry about stabbing someone with your fork if you turn around too quickly.
Should you bring a group here? Or stop by with your aunt and uncle who just flew in from Tuscon? No. There isn’t much room, and it can get a little hectic. But if you need a spot for an exceptional breakfast or an impressive date, Buvette is a great choice. It’s walk-in only (and a wait is inevitable), so just put your name in, get a drink elsewhere, then come back and share a few plates with someone who appreciates small, charming, and excessively French things.
You should come here for breakfast, and when you do, you should order some steamed eggs. They come out perfectly fluffy with little pieces of toast underneath, and you can get them with either smoked salmon or prosciutto.
The first time we ordered this, we expected it to be about two to three times this size. Still, our initial disappointment helped build character, and we quickly realized that we wanted to spend several hours with this cheesy toast topped with sage and prosciutto.
Lobster a L’Americaine
Imagine a pot pie filled with lobster chowder. That’s essentially what this is, and it’s delicious. Add a glass of wine, and you have a scenario that’s hard to beat.
This is just a coiled-up piece of merguez sausage topped with sautéed peppers and onions. It’s a little bit spicy, and it’s a great dish to snack on while you try to think of interesting answers to your date’s questions.
Coq Au Vin
The coq au vin is rich and salty, with chicken that falls right off the bone. We like it - but it’s also about half the size of a normal entrée (like most things here), and we’d get the lobster or merguez before this.
You may not have woken up this morning craving cold beets, but these chilled root vegetables with horseradish creme fraiche belong in your order. They’re light and refreshing, and you should split a plate with whoever else is at your comically small table.
We enjoy cheese, bacon, and potatoes - and this gratin is an excellent combination of all of those things. Order it for the table, and get some on your plate before it’s gone.
This isn’t a ground-breaking piece of toast, but it’s a great option for vegetarians, and the cheese and olive tapenade help make everything a little more exciting.
Pistou De Noix Tartine
A simple tartine topped with chunky walnut pesto. We’d eat this any time of the day, and we’ll probably try to replicate it the next time we throw a party and want to be able to say, “Care for a tartine?”