IN LOVING BUT LIGHTHEARTED TRIBUTE TO THEIR HIGH SCHOOL CAFETERIA, LIFELONG PALS SOUGHT TO COMBINE THE INTIMACY OF A FRENCH BRASSERIE WITH A LIGHTER, AIRIER BRAND OF MODERNISM
BY EVAN MONROE
Charles Fayet and Cedric Cadin, lifelong friends, grew up in the suburbs of Paris. In high school, they developed a nickname for its institutional eating space: “la cafette” they called it, and the phrase stuck in their mutual parlance. The pair long discussed, often amid jokes, the possibility of opening their own restaurant one day, and both followed secondary school with higher education that platformed them for careers in the hospitality industry. Charles wound up going to New York and became a veteran of Bagatelle on Manhattan’s Little West 12th Street, while Cedric remained in the City of Lights, working at Hotel Paris. The former wound up falling in love with a new neighborhood, Williamsburg, and its “spirit, residents, and roots.” After considerable planning, he and his friend decided to bring their La Cafette concept to the ultra hip nabe last year one that was intended to combine the intimacy of a brasserie with light and airy modern design.
Even with their respective culinary and hospitality experience, the partners grasped that even a small footprint endeavor required seasoned heads in the kitchen, so they enlisted founding co chefs Sylvain Aubry (Bagatelle, Brasserie Canterbury Bruxelles) and Jean Marie Perrot (Bagatelle, Charlot Southampton) to form a closely knit team that infuses the restaurant with warm and seemingly effortless charm—while knowing all too well that “effortlessness” is a quality in desperately short supply in any service business.
La Cafette’s open kitchen and rotisserie window facing the dining room both accentuate light from expansive windows and contribute to a sense of intimacy. Still, it looks bigger than its 29 seats (plus outdoor café tables in warmer seasons) would suggest, a tribute to designer Taylor Gluk, who also incorporated exposed brick, bright palm printed wallpaper, distressed gold columns, and weathered mirrored tables. The bar is highlighted by lush greens and cheeky pink neon signage that reads “I am pom pette… it’s chouette” its French words translating to “I’m tipsy” and “it’s cool.”
The menu, executed by Aubry and Perrot, is built around what they term “real food” like humanely raised proteins and sustainably sourced produce to produce “simple yet elegant takes on classic French dishes.” Highlights for spring include entrées like La Mixte (a heaping platter of French cheese and charcuterie), Steak Tartare au Couteau (housemade finely chopped steak tartare with shallots, cornichons, chives, and mustard), Escargots au Beurre Aillé (snails in garlic butter), the Rotisserie du Jour (humanely raised rotisserie chicken with La Cafette’s famous juicy potatoes), and Jarret d’Agneau (lamb shank with creamy polenta and rosemary jus). There are also fish selections like Saint Jacques Escalopes (pan seared scallops with turnips, sunchokes, and chestnut cream) and desserts like Profiteroles au Nutella and Moelleux au Chocolat (chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream).
Brunch is available on weekends, and features classics like Oeufs Bénédicte (poached eggs, spinach, bacon, and hollandaise on an English muffin) and Pain Perdu (French toast with caramelized bananas and salted caramel), as well as lighter fare like Bowl de Chia (chia bowl with berries, flax seeds, and agave syrup) and Tartine de Saumon Fumé (smoked salmon tartine with chives cream and avocado).
Regulars cherish the burger, which is available at both dinner and brunch crafted with seven ounces of house made beef blend and served on a brioche bun with Camembert and Monterey Jack cheeses, lettuce, tomato, and a house made seeded mustard mayonnaise. Incroyable.
The beverage program, helmed by Guillaume Marconnet (STK Midtown), focuses appropriately enough on French wines and spirits. Cocktail highlights include the French Mojito (calvados, lime juice, brown and white sugar, ginger beer, angostura bitters, and a sprig of fresh mint), Cafette Pear (vodka, St. Germain, lime, pear syrup, angostura bitters, and cucumber), and Grandpa’s Garden (gin, dry vermouth, lime, cucumber, mint, and angostura bitters). There’s also a locally famed happy hour, which includes $6 glasses of house wine, $4 beers, and discounted light bites from 5 to 8 p.m. on weeknights.
103 Havemeyer St Brooklyn, NY 1121