French ∙ SoHo

For all of us Francophobes out there, welcome to Balthazar, a taste of Paris without the stinky Seine, language barriers and hydrocephalic mimes. Modeled to look like an aged brasserie (which is French for bra), this airy space is filled with vintage mirrors, red leather booths and worn, wood accents galore. Filled with a mixture of SOHO beautiful people, tourists who made their reservations a month before leaving Grand Rapids for NYC and the occasional slumming celeb, Balthazar is all about people watching and loud surroundings. Now, there are French menus full of unpronounceable nibblets (most of which contain at least 46% goose liver) and there are French menus that sound like American menus, but have higher prices. This joint is certainly one of the latter. We’ve been here for both brunch and dinner, and weren’t overly impressed with the food either time, but if you’re a fan of light salads and the like (and judging by the number of nicotine fueled waifs in the place, there are a lot of fans out there) then this is the place to come for a semi-reasonable lunch in a cool place. Dinner involved the typical French brasserie stuff, including steak frite, goat cheese-type salads, bouillabaisse and soft-shelled crab. Overall, the service and the food aren’t stellar, but if I was a tourist and didn’t want to blow two million on The Gramercy Tavern, I’d come here and get a real taste of NYC for only 1 mill. [MF]

80 Spring St. (bet. Broadway & Crosby St.)