Le Grainne Cafe

17 Sep


Picture this: A quaint French cafe in the middle of Chelsea. Cozy tables arranged outside below large umbrellas. Servers with French accents. Larger than life cups of cafe au lait, fresh French bread, creme brulee. And a giant hole in the street being filled with tar.

Which thing doesn’t belong?

If you guessed creme brulee, you’d be wrong. If you guessed the tar, you’d be right. The WBC was treated to all the sights, sounds, and smells that road construction can offer. We watched as the giant hole was dug, we watched as it was filled with tar. We watched as the NYPD showed up to request to see the permit for said road work. We watched as the crew began to dig another hole further down the street, we watched as one crew member almost got run over by the backhoe, and we watched as the smartest crew member realized that the back door to the dumptruck wasn’t locked. We watched as tar dust wafted over to our table.

Dining outside was not our best move. Were we still able to judge the food? Did we even get to eat before we passed out from tar fumes? Let’s see how it all unfolded.

Le Granne Cafe
183 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10011-4906
(212) 627-9689 ‎ (Map)

Attendees: :jump_to_Reid:, :jump_to_Shelley:, :jump_to_Sylvia:, :jump_to_Andrew:


The Case: Le Grainne Cafe v. The Westchester Breakfast Club

The Venue: 9th Avenue and 21st Street, in Chelsea.

 The Facts: Le Grainne Cafe certainly captures the essence of French dining, in that the service was slow and the bill was wrong. As for the food, it was hit and miss. The French onion soup I had was possibly the best I’ve ever eaten. The cheese was crispy on the top but still gooey underneath, the crouton was firm enough to hold together but soft enough to cut with my spoon, and the broth really had a savory onion flavor, rather than tasting like brown saline solution. The crepe citron, on the other hand, was frankly pretty lousy. The crepe itself had nothing to recommend it; it was just a bland disc of nothing. The citron tasted artificial and not at all sour or lemony. It was just a sticky syrup, adding sweetness to an already sucre-d dessert item.

 The Verdict: If you have a couple of hours to sit and eat soup, it’s totally worth it. Provided, of course, you aren’t enveloped by a toxic cloud of vaporized tar.



When the WBC decided to have another Manhattan brunch, I suggested we pick someplace on the upper west or east side, for the purely selfish reason that it would be quicker for me to get there by car than someplace further downtown. The rest of the WBC ignored me and instead chose Le Grainne Cafe in Chelsea. As a result, I arrived late. Not 5 minutes late, not 10 minutes late, but a full 25 minutes late. As I scurried over to the cafe and spied the team at a couple of tables outside the cafe, I felt bad. Either I had held them up or else they would already be eating and I would have to scramble to order something and hope to catch up to them.

It turns out neither scenario was the case.

The rest of the WBC had ordered already, so when our waitress appeared I quickly ordered a fresh-squeezed lemonade and an omelette with Swiss cheese, bacon, and peppers. Ordering my meal about 15 minutes after my companions made no difference. After what seemed like a really long wait, Reid’s soup finally appeared. Yes, it took about 40 minutes for soup to arrive. At some point after that, the rest of the group’s meals arrived. And guess whose meal came out first? That’s right, yours truly, the one who ordered last, after everyone else had ordered.

Le Grainne gets points for presentation (although the presentation wasn’t so spectacular as to warrant the very long wait time). The omelette was very hearty-looking, thick and fluffy and well-filled with all the ingredients. There was a long sprig of some sort of herb stuck into the omelette, which was interesting looking if completely unnecessary for eating. The sides of cubed potatoes and salad were well positioned next to the omelette. It was a tasty looking plate indeed. And it wasn’t just tasty looking, it was tasty tasting too. The omelette was well cooked, with a generous distribution of cheese, bacon, and peppers (red peppers at that, which are my favorite). One item to note: when they say fresh-squeezed lemonade, they really mean it. There was no sugar added at all, providing a nicely tart beverage experience.

Jeff and I both wanted creme brulee but also didn’t want to be at Le Grainne for another hour, so when our waitress appeared mid-meal to refill our water glasses, we put in our dessert order right then and there. That worked out well, because it was still a bit of a wait once we finished our meals for dessert to arrive. The creme brulee was as expected, a well-browned sugar top and a smooth, vanilla creme underneath.

Now, overall I’d say that the food was good, but unfortunately my dining experience was marred by the road construction taking place a couple of steps from where we were eating, giving everything we ate unpleasant tar-flavored undertones.

The price was what you’d expect for brunch in Manhattan, with my omelette coming in at about $10. Not too bad. If you want a leisurely (and I mean very leisurely) dining experience downtown, Le Grainne Cafe is a nice choice. But if you see bulldozers anywhere in the vicinity, you’ll want to take a table inside rather than outside. Unless you like tar dust with your pain au chocolat.



I know brunch is supposed to be a laid back, take your time kind of affair, but when you are bathed in tar fumes from the road work next to you, a 2 hour brunch isn’t as enjoyable. Not that it’s Le Grainne’s fault that there was streetwork right outside the cafe, but since they knew they had patrons out there, it would have been nice to hurry it up a bit so we don’t die as early from whatever cancer will result from us breathing these fumes. The people at the table behind us sat down after us, and ate and left before we even got our meals!

The cafe is French, and they had crepes, but apparently ran out of pain au chocolat. I had a crepe with turkey breast, ratatouille, and goat cheese (which had a French name, but I am too lazy to look it up). The crepe came with a mesclan salad. I orderd a cafe au lait to wash it all down. For dessert, since they were out of pain au chocolat, I had a butter sugar crepe with ice cream.

If you order a cafe au lait, the default size is large. It was nice and creamy from the steamed milk, while still retaining the coffee flavor. I rarely drink it in a cafe, so I rarely get it in the bowl form. I like drinking it out of a bowl. The crepe was good. The goat cheese was nice and tangy (or, as I like to say, goaty), and the ratatouille was excellent and well seasoned. The turkey breast was cut into perfectly sized pieces to fit into the crepe. The crepe itself was good, soft, but still held together with each cut.

My dessert crepe wasn’t anything super special, although I really did like Andrew’s nutella and banana crepe. The ice cream was vanilla bean and that was good, and it and the crepe made a nice combination.

The czar says: I like Le Grainne. Would I return? Maybe, if I was in the mood for a savory crepe and had time to kill. I just hope they aren’t doing street work anymore. I feel like there’s still some asphalt in my lungs.


:a_Andrew: (an interpretative review)

The romantic character that is France
was not lost this day at Le Grainne cafe.
Slow service, acrid air, the quaint romance.
With savory and sweet crepes on the way,
nearby construction faced our derision.
Voracious appetite for French pancake.
Time ticks off as our drinks sit misprision*.
Patience rewarded, no complaints to make
except of course, wanting sidewalk seating–
assailed by smell of decayed ancient beasts.
Consideration for our next meeting:
seating be significant as our feasts.
perfect for the displaced francophile,
no hurry you will be here a while.

*yes, the editorial board of the WBC already questioned the use of the word “misprision”, but the board is letting it stand at Andrew’s request


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