Saturday, April 27, 2013

New in New York: Another French Roll Rocks at Baguette Bar

By Mitch Broder

I can’t promise you a Houska House or a Pumpernickel Pub, but I can follow my report on Croissanteria with one on Baguette Bar.

And considering that the city is full of places like Popover Café, it could soon very well have a restaurant named for every bread and roll.

For now, Baguette Bar is the apparently the newest, undoubtedly the tiniest, and surely the most focused. It serves meat-and-vegetable sandwiches on toasted baguettes. If you don’t want your meat and vegetables on a toasted baguette, you’ll most likely have to take them in a pile.

The meats are pretty much limited to corned beef, pastrami, salami, and turkey. The vegetables include corn (the cereal) and avocado (the fruit). On a standard sandwich you get one meat, two vegetables, and one sauce. Ketchup Mayo is a sauce. Ketchup is still a sauce.

The bar is about to roll out its Signature Sandwiches, which are based on five of its most successful combinations.

The New Yorker is pastrami, lettuce, red onions, pickles, and honey mustard. The Pirojok is corned beef, roasted red peppers, jalapenos, and spicy honey mustard. Lettuce does not count as a vegetable. Pickles and onions do. Pirojok means pie, even though it’s a sandwich.

The categorization may be challenging, but the concept is simple. The appeal of the simplicity is nicely explained by a comment on Yelp: “Cool New place downtown and its open super late! Perfect for when you’re really drunk and need something to eat…”

Just weeks ago the Baguette Bar space was a storeroom for Pink Elephant, the glittery new club whose entrance is around the corner on West Eighth Street. The club’s owner set up his brother, Ben Nahmani, and Ben’s friend Zachi Ozery as baguette baristas.

The idea came from places that sell comparable food in Israel. The furnishings came from a nearby defunct delicatessen. The location is the MacDougal Street corner of the regenerating West Eighth Street, just across from the appealingly simple Sticky’s Finger Joint.

The sandwiches, besides being panini-style, are also kosher-style, which means that the corned beef and pastrami are better than what you get at the diner. And they’re toasted not once but twice, the second time with an olive-oil glaze that Zachi says makes for “a much more nice taste.”

“Now,” he says, “I want people to recognize this product, and we’ll be able to open more.”

I’ll let you know when they do.

I’ll also let you know about the Brioche Boîte and the Sourdough Saloon.

Belly up to Baguette Bar, 179 MacDougal Street, near West Eighth Street, in New York City.

Friday, April 5, 2013

New in New York: Two Buddies Are On a Roll at Croissanteria

By Mitch Broder

As long as you’re going to open a humble neighborhood bakery, you might as well make it a global destination for crescent rolls.

It’s unusual logic. But Selmo Ribeiro and David Simon wanted something unusual. And so far, their humble bakery and global destination are doing well.

Having determined that they wanted to launch some sort of restaurant, they went on to determine that Alphabet City could use a homey café. They then determined that — at least locally — the croissant was a short-changed pastry. With that determination, they launched Croissanteria.

It’s a plucky alternative to the nearby Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. It has tiled walls, ceiling fans, an antique mirror, and an antique bench. It’s comfortable. It has what any good bakery-café should have. With the addition of croissants that Parisians have said rival the ones in Paris.

They include almond croissants, chocolate croissants, and almond-and-chocolate croissants, not to mention apricot croissants, and just plain croissants. Those varieties come in full-size or mini, but you have to go full-size if you want the peanut-butter-and-jelly or Nutella-and-banana croissants.

Croissanteria makes gourmet sandwiches, and they all come on croissants. They include French Ham, Italian Tuna, and Smokey Turkey. The Prosciutto di Parma has “Buffalo Mozzarella, Sliced Prosciutto, Tomato, Basil, EVOO, & Cracked Pepper.” You wouldn’t think that all of that could fit in a croissant.

Selmo and David gave me a couple of croissants, though without Nutella, Buffalo Mozzarella, peanut butter, or EVOO. They were perfect — soft and fluffy, with a thin crispy crust and a buttery flavor. And without any of that pesky croissant greasiness.

These were croissants that virtually any neighborhood could use. And not at all what you’d expect from guys with backgrounds in hamburgers and smoked fish.

David worked for his father’s Catskill Artisan Smokehouse — known as Catsmo — which sells smoked salmon and caviar to places around the city. Selmo founded the Nah Nah Bah café and lounge, a burger joint on the beach in Lagos, Portugal.

The guys had met at Northeastern University, where they were roommates. “The one thing we really had in common,” Selmo says, “was that we liked going out to eat.” He adds: “We always spoke about opening something together having to do with food.”

David first went to Catsmo and Selmo went to Lagos. But they stayed in touch, and Selmo came to New York every year. They decided to open a bakery, but with a twist, Selmo says: “If you’re in New York, the more niche you go in what you offer, the better you can make it.”

They’re happy with their success as a global destination. But they seem happiest with their success as a humble neighborhood bakery. “We’ve gotten such a friendly reception from the neighbors and the neighborhood,” David says. “We focus on this, and try to make the place special.”

One day, Selmo says, they had to close for a plumbing repair. One of the regulars emailed him, in fear that they wouldn’t come back.

“I don’t know how he got my personal email,” he says. “But those are the small things that are just awesome. Really, really awesome.”

Get flaky at Croissanteria, 68 Avenue A, between Fourth and Fifth streets, in New York City.