From the outside, Bar Breton doesn’t look like the kind of place you want to check out. There are a million (maybe a trillion) diners ‘n dives in Manhattan, and this looks like just another one of them. The location, sandwiched between a drab section of perpetually noisy East 34th and an equally drab section of Lexington, isn’t going to inspire you to get our your walking shoes, either. But this place is a sleeper, in some ways. For one thing, this is authentic French food in a way that 90 percent of ‘French’ places in the city just don’t get. Owner-chef Cyril Renaud, a Breton (natch), once ran Fleur de Sel—which was only one of the city’s very best-kept upscale prix fixe secrets for years ‘til it closed down in 2009, a victim of a bad economic moment. At Bar Breton, Renaud’s menu makes it clear that he has gone back to his country roots. And it works.
What’s this, buckwheat crepes (technically known as galettes)? Absolutely. They use real ground buckwheat here, setting the place apart from pretenders. We haven’t had galettes like this in North America anywhere else except Quebec City. Order yours stuffed with ham and eggs, or perhaps some ground chorizo and onions. You can also order salt-cod croquettes (Bretagne strikes again) or a good chicken and bacon version. The $22 prix fixe deal includes a burger, eggs, or one of those fab crepes plus an alcoholic drink or OJ—don’t pass that up.
Are their glitches in the service here, such as cooling coffee, hot plates, and inconsistence service? Certainly; this isn’t perfection. You can’t even smoke (New York City health laws put the kibosh on that in the ‘90s), so it doesn’t completely feel like France. But in most other ways, this really does feel like a dive in Les Halles instead of that’s almost literally in the shadow of the Empire State Building.
Finally, it’s worth noting that this is one of the family-friendlier brunch spots in Midtown. Anyone with kids who has ever tried to drag a couple little ones out to lunch in the city and fought off throngs of fashion victims and tourists knows the drill. Your list of places that welcome kiddies with open arms in Manhattan is basically Bubby’s, Kitchenette…and, well, that’s about it. Bar Breton might be edging into their league now, because they do try to accommodate little ones with a smile. And that earns a big thumbs-up from us.
Brunch at Bar Breton
254 Fifth Ave, between 28th and 29th St
New York 10 001
Hours : Sa 10am-4pm / Su 9am-4pm