Balthazar 80 Spring St./Crosby St., SoHo, 212-965-1414. Getting a reservation here during prime dining times can be a challenge, but if you come a little earlier or later you can sometimes waltz right in and sit down amid the grandeur. I especially enjoy breakfast here.
High ceilings, huge antique mirrors, and gilt galore top off the general roar from pleased diners, and I have found myself with French-speaking neighbors on either side. A nice and useful touch is the striped kitchen towels used for napkin. At brunch the eggs Norwegian (with smoked salmon)
or the crisp waffle with fresh fruit make satisfying choices, especially with a French-style bowl of cafe au lait.
More delicious breakfast items include spinach poached eggs
and traditional eggs Benedict.
And because the restaurant is known for its wonderful French pastries (you can pick some up to go in the tiny bakery adjacent), do order a sticky bun, croissant, or some other delicious flaky thing as well.
A good souvenir from the bakery is the sweetly packaged house granola, but I find the dried fruit to be a hard-to-chew negative.
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image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers