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80 Spring St. New York


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Some mornings, there is no more restorative act than having breakfast at Balthazar. Just walking into the bustle and flow of that big Soho eating room is a mood-changer. The power of owner Keith McNally’s theatrical vision—great gilt-framed mirrors tilted to reflect the human swirl, tables of dark wood well-worn by life’s dramas (think La Bohème’s Café Momus)—makes this not so much an American version of a French brasserie as a glad and glittery place that’s seen it all. Or at least everything since 1997. It’s this obvious stagecraft that makes Balthazar doubly endearing.

And of course those vast bowls of creamy café au lait, the soft-boiled egg in its shell with crispy toast “soldiers” for dunking, and the breads from the restaurant’s own exemplary bakery, next door: each gives one courage to face the day. But there’s more. Onion soup gratinée at 4 p.m., or at midnight, or for weekend brunch. Classics like choucroute and bouillabaisse, steak frites and duck shepherd’s pie, towering Parisian plateaus of shellfish. Here’s a place that can be what you need it to be, almost any time of day.

Written by Dorothy Kalins

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