The Real French Deal Redux: Happy Hour at Cafe du Soleil


Rillettes de Canard (pour deux)

I wrote about the stupendously inexpensive Happy Hour at Cafe du Soleil in 2017. Since then this boisterous bistro bar has become ever more popular, judging from the growing crowd every time I stop in. During the World Cup final between France and Croatia there was a brass band out front and joyous patrons dancing on the sidewalk. Tonight I wondered if the particularly lively mood was bolstered by the news of Paul Manafort's conviction and Michael Cohen's guilty plea. It would not be unreasonable to think that on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where truth is still truth, this would be good enough reason to lift a glass.

I came on my own-some, just because the evening light was lovely. The Chef had texted that he and our son were having beers at Flagship Brewing Company in Staten Island after completing an 18+ mile urban hike. I admit I felt a little lonely among the groups of two and three, with nowhere to sit and read my book, but I enjoyed my lovely coral house cocktail, an Aperol spritz ($5.00--it has actually gone down in price since my last visit!). While the $6.00 escargot are my "go to," I decided to be daring and order the rillettes de canard (all small bites are $6.00 and large enough to share). Rillettes are a meat paté made by chopping meat, salting it and cooking it sloooowly in fat until it tears into tender shreds that are then recomposed into the solid patè by cooling it with fat. They serve an entire glass terrine with about a half cup of solidly packed rillettes, mustard sauce, cornichon and three slices of toasted baguette slices (I just wish they didn't serve it straight from the fridge!) I did a brilliant thing: I ate half and sandwiched the rest between fresh baguette slices that the barman brought me in a silver bucket. I packed the sandwiches in napkins and brought them home in my tote bag. When I got home I emptied the rillettes into a tupperware and froze the good French bread--a perfect pre-dinner snack for the Chef and me tomorrow!

Making my way back up Broadway with fatty ducky goodness in my bag and a slight buzz from my drink, I couldn't help notice all the empty storefronts. Each day it seems we lose yet another family business or restaurant--recently Nussbaum and Wu and in the spring we mourned the loss of long-time watering hole, The Abbey Pub. While, as I'd said in my first post about Cafe du Soleil, there is something a little "canned" in the decor of this ultra French bistro, the affection for this genial bar is totally genuine. Indeed, I noticed some regulars, like the Irish-looking snub nosed man commanding a choice corner spot at the bar. He has a grey brush-cut crew cut and an amazing voice. I know the latter because once I heard him break into "Danny Boy." I was so moved that I recorded a snippet. I'm reminded of the pub the Chef and I so loved during our stay in Norwich and that we miss now. I hope the lights will stay on at this convivial Cafe du Soleil bistro bar. Come between 4PM and 7PM. Enjoy a small bite that's big enough for two, and help keep this the best "Third Place" on the Upper West.