Tuesday, July 25, 2017

French Roast Downtown

VANISHING

Today is the last day for French Roast in Greenwich Village. Located on 11th Street and 6th Avenue since I don't know when, the bistro will close its doors tonight. (H/T New York Foodscape.)



Employees were unable to say why the place is closing, but we can guess. The uptown location will remain open.

*Update: Many people in the comments are remembering a Blimpie here--yes, there was. Here's that story.

37 comments:

Donnie Moder said...

When I moved to NY 21 years ago to GV, I thought this was the most Greenwich Villagey place on earth. So coffee house bohemian euro alt.

John K said...

Say it ain't so, Jeremiah. French Roast was a great, affordable staple restaurant to meet friends, catch up with visitors, even have a working meeting, for coffee, lunch, brunch, you name it. And even some of the high end restaurants, like Blue Water Grill and moderately priced ones, like Republic, are being ousted from Union Square! The hypergentrifying machine just keeps roaring along. Will there be anything left in zombie suburban-mall-ified Manhattan but chains and high-end boutiques and eating spots in a few years?

Dan said...

This makes me sad. When I spent a college summer here in 1995, for a variety of reasons, stopping at French Roast after a day of exploring the new city, stuck in my head over the years.

John K. Friedman said...

French Roast opened about '93 or '94. Before that, it was the location of Joe Jr.'s Greenwich Village outpost.

Vinyl said...

Hubby and I met there for our first date! We made googlie-eyes in the back room, and fell in love. Aaw!!

BP said...

I think it opened in spring 1992. I moved a block away that January and there used to be a colorful diner there that had closed months before. French Roast was a tremendous improvement. Many fond memories.

Peter Martin said...

I remember going to French Roast a year or so after it opened. We were there at around 1:30am and the restaurant was about 20% filled and every table had old dishes on them that hadn't been cleared. I asked waiter where we should sit and he said wherever you want. I said every table had dishes on them and he said we clear them when people sit down. Its as if the waiters were running the restaurant with their own system. It was pretty funny as I never saw that before. Food was good though.

R Filmprod said...

Everyone here is mistaken. French Roast opened way before the mid-90s. Must have been in the 1980s. And it was not a diner or Joe Jr.'s (Joe Jr.'s was on 12th street, same corner.) It was a nasty sandwich shop called "BLIMPIE'S" a precursor to SUBWAY.

Ellen Lubin-Sherman said...

We recently moved back to NYC after a too long time in New Jersey. We discovered French Roast last year and it was perfect. It was everything we love about New York. It's just so sad. When I hear Joe's Pizzeria on Carmine Street is closing we're moving to Utah.

Jonathan Parker said...

This has been my go-to place for brunch for over 30 years. It will be dearly missed.

sdurkee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FRivera said...

Before French Roast, yes, that was a Blimpie's (a then-well-known regional, cafeteria-style sandwich chain) on the corner of 11 Street and 6th Avenue. Joe Jr.'s was one block up. And R Filmprod, I consider it merely grungy, not nasty, similar to a lot of older businesses that were there when Blimpie's was younger, there. I used to hang out at Blimpie's as a teenager in the 1980s because they had a couple of arcade games in the back; I remember it fondly. We used to hang out there too often, late at night. A kind, but firm, quiet older fellow worked there for years; he recognized us and was cool. I miss him; I wonder if he actually was an employee, or owner. I believe early 1990s is the correct time period since my fuzzy memory remembers Blimpie's still till possibly 1990, or so, I can't be definite anymore.

FRivera said...

Evidence! Jeremiah's has a 2012 article about the Blimpie's chain here in Manhattan. Further down, there is a photo of a corner, elevated, three-dimensional Blimpie's sign hanging at the Blimpie's location. This is the same location at 11 Street and Sixth Avenue, per the caption.
http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/2012/02/blimpie-base.html

Susan Yung said...

To me, I never entered there. The ambience looked like Fake French Roasted coffee.

Ellen Horan said...

The cafe au lait in a huge bowl would have me buzzing all day. Burgers were good too. Service was terrible but it didn't matter, made it a place to sit and linger. Spent many dreamy morning there's after dropping child off to school. It was the Village for me.

Donnie Moder said...

Joe's did close, like 10 years ago, from its original corner Bleecker/Carmine St. location
A crappy Albertino's Pizza moved in but closed within a year or two. Joe's moved up the block to a smaller storefront. Not as good as the old one imho. The first Superman movie had featured old Joe's.

Gregoire Alessandrini said...

The place did look a bit fake, like a cardboardish reconstitution of a french café in NY...but it was "very New York" to me and very "West Village" in a way...a nice place where you could hang out sipping good coffee and read the art and photography magazines you had purchased in the wonderful newstand on the corner. Another vanishing 1990's memory for me...
www.nyc90s.com

Unknown said...

Catherine Deneuve used to eat here so not sure how "fake French" it was. Delicious and affordable. Last time I was there Lttle Steven sat next to me. Loved their escargot!

brooklynpunk said...

It's very amusing..and telling.. as what sort of establishments folks find "authentic" New York joints worth mourning over!
As a 60 something-ish NYC native, I just never found this joint "French Roast" appealing or "Village-y" in the slightest, and never went in.
I probably felt worse when its former resident, Blimpies, closed
I WILL , however, mourn fact of yet another empty store front on 6th Ave..AND , will be furious if another chain store or bank moves in
The way things are going , in The Village, and all over town... this will probably just become another empty storefront , for the foreseeable future

NYC has become a tragic wasteland

RMAN said...

I've been more of a Cafe Reggio's guy, but it's sad to see this coffee house close.

Unknown said...

Joe Jr's was one block up in 12th St and closed long after French Roast opened.

French Roast was a Blimpie location. The orange, brown and tan panels underneath the windows are remnants of it -- those were once Blimpie's corporate colors.

RMAN said...

To Brooklynpunk - Yes - I used to go to Blimpies here all the time, loved their bloated Blimpies Best.

Goggla said...

This was one of the first places I spent time in after moving to the city. Loved the atmosphere and French onion soup (despite not liking onions!). The windows on the street made for many cozy afternoons.

TravelEscapesandBeyond said...

I like the current Joe's pizza there! Very delicious slices!

Morose Recluse said...

That's the place I miss.

traceyjackson@mac.com said...

Just endless goodbyes here. French Roast was just one of those places..Easy to meet someone. Fine to sit alone and just watch people - it had charm. Two more months and this town is Sioux City with skyscrapers.

Mikema Reape said...

There are hardly any diners left in NYC. Many of the good ones vanished years ago. Shocked that French Roast is closing. What about the other one on the Upper West Side? I went to that one more than the Greenwich Villiage location. RIP

Marco said...

We used to go the UWS location until I read a horrible unhygienic story involving spoiled chicken. We never went back. I disliked it but my spouse liked it.

Donnie Moder said...

Yes, it is funny how I found it "authentic". It looked old to me in 1997. I wonder what I would think of it if someone told me then it was faux authentic. I liked it a lit.

Donnie Moder said...

Yeah, but since I was at the "real" Joe's, I am stuck on that one.

Carol Gardens said...

https://www.hobokenlife.co/2017/02/16/blimpie-a-hoboken-classic-is-moving-uptown/

I also must say that the last time I ate at French Roast then food was awful.

zuzuzpetals said...

At first blush, I thought the place was kind of imitative-fake, just like a lot of posters here. But then I started to eat there once in a while and it was very pleasant. All the genuine old wood and the golden light cast a nice spell. At least it wasn't a Pain Quotidienne. Nice to go there and then wander to its backside and look at the old Jewish cemetery.

BTW--Blimpie, as a franchise, never felt "very New York" but the beginning of a very bad trend, and I was thrilled to see it go.

Adam Weiner said...

I'm in the '92-'93 camp for its opening date. It was wonderful that it was open so late. It was on the early edge of the "instant old" French cafe/bistro trend that took hold in NYC in the '90s, and (like L'Express and some others) it stuck around long enough to gain the authenticity it originally faked.

One French Roast memory will always stick with me, triggered by humid, cool nights in March and April: it was spring 1993, around 2am or later, and a crowd of people were gathered around that stretch of 6th Ave, which was blocked off for a movie shoot. I stood outside French Roast looking south as the crew got ready for a take. High above the street, "rain" came down in the area by Jefferson Market Library, and then a car sped up the avenue and maneuvered. I couldn't make out who the figures were I saw in the car and the outside it, and in a few seconds the action was over. The crew started preparing for another take, and so I hung around French Roast for another 45 minutes or so to see another take by Al Pacino and Penelope Anne Miller for "Carlito's Way."

Adam Weiner said...

Little Steven must live in the neighborhood. I saw him a year or two ago on 6th Ave around 8th or 9th St.

Adam Weiner said...

I like your term carboardish. When the French bistro trend took off in the mid '90s I thought of them as "bistros in a box", imagining the owners ordering a standard starter kit for an instantly old bistro look.

Unknown said...

The Blimpie's must have closed by 1986 because I knew it as a coffee shop called Windows on the Village. Very cheapo, but a "good" breakfast place for a college kid like me. I would sit at the window by the corner door and watch New York walking by. I often saw Jane Curtain walking her kid to the school up 11th. And I remember the panels under the windows were painted like that when French Roast moved in. The were unpainted metal before that.
Joe Jr's was there until the mid 00's. It's now "O Café".

Unknown said...

Fun fact: in the mid/late 1800s, the French Roast site was occupied by a tavern called The Grapevine. It was notorious as a place to chat and gossip, and it is said that the phrase "I heard it through the grapevine" originated there.
https://www.nypl.org/blog/2009/03/28/village-landmarks-old-grapevine-tavern