A neighborhood café should have a few things, at minimum: good coffee, WiFi, and passable pastries. A good neighborhood café has space to spread out, and probably a decent chicken sandwich. Add a truly killer breakfast sandwich, fancy avocado toast, big windows, and even some highly tasty salads? You've got yourself a great neighborhood café.
Gotan, located in a big corner space outside the Franklin Street stop in Tribeca, is a great neighborhood café. In the style of places like Two Hands or Little Collins, Gotan is kind of a Coffee Shop Plus, serving fresh, simple breakfast and lunch food until the early evening. It's not a place for boozy brunch and stacks of pancakes, but it is the kind of place that makes you actually want to go out for a weekday breakfast.
It isn't the tourists-on-Instagram haven that some of its peers are, but Gotan definitely cares about aesthetics. For example, the staff all wear bowties (somehow it's not pretentious), and the oatmeal is decorated like a fancy açai bowl. You order at the counter, but a waiter brings your food to your seat, on a real plate. They're small touches, but they mean a lot.
Looks aside, the main reason we're highlighting Gotan in a sea of neighborhood cafés is for its food, which is very, very good across the board - and original. The cheesy scrambled eggs on a biscuit is one of the best breakfast sandwiches around, and dishes like the eggplant flatbread, which is more like a dip, are unusual and highly satisfying. Some of the dishes have some Middle Eastern influence, but overall the menu is basically "modern cafe."
Gotan is more of a neighborhood hang than a destination, but if you've spent any time living, working, or visiting expensive children's clothing stores around this area, you know it's a godsend. There are plenty of great sit-down restaurants nearby, but a big space to spread out with your laptop, a cup of coffee, and a light lunch, all for about $15 a person, that's something good. Something great, even.
We never knew a breakfast sandwich so simple could be so absurdly good. Gooey, cheesy scrambled eggs exploding out of a buttered biscuit, with a little tomato jam, this is the thing we keep coming back for. While it sounds similar, skip the not-nearly-as-good Herb Omelette Sandwich right below on the menu.
Up next at bat: avocado toast. You've seen it before, you'll see it again, and this one is nicely-done with thick bread, plenty of avocado, and chunks of feta.
Isn't she lovely? This one will look good on your Instagram, but we'd like it more without the mushy pear and excess flax seeds. More berries, please.
Why haven't more establishments experimented with the artisanal peanut butter and jelly? To take it out of soggy lunch bag status, Gotan's is topped with crunchy things that are allegedly "banana chips."
At lunchtime, you'll want to delve into the salad section. We like this one with tuna that's fresh (i.e. not smelly), plus egg and avocado.
This "flatbread" lives in the sandwich section, but it's more of a Middle Eastern salad/dip. There's eggplant, hardboiled egg, tahini, and some accompanying sauces, all of which you scoop up with the "flatbread," which is really more of a pita bread. Nomenclature aside, if you like all of those ingredients, this is a must-order.
Bringing things full circle, we can say that Gotan has a good chicken sandwich. The chicken is hot and juicy (almost too hot sometimes), the spicy aioli sauce is plentiful, and the sourdough bread is chewy.