We love bar food. We love good cocktails. We love live music. We love dark, old-school-style rooms, in which these elements combine. So, on the face of it, Cafe du Nord is our perfect restaurant.
One day, it might be – the things they get right, they get just right. But it’s slightly out of balance today.
Let’s start with the positives. The bar is a great place to hang out for pre- or post-dinner drinks, and/or as a place to hybridize dinner with drinks. It’s underground, which somehow intuitively makes it seem cooler, and the cocktails are spot on. The bar is also not wildly oversubscribed, which means you can tuck it into your “restaurants you can actually get into” holster.
The smaller items on the menu are also the best thing going. The Caesar salad is world-class: rich, salty, tangy, and delicious. Eating the spicy jerky is like eating a well-seasoned steak, compressed into a smaller package. As a place to sit and drink cocktails with an old friend while snacking on high-grade bar food, Cafe du Nord excels.
But as a full-on dinner option, the restaurant falls short. The food down-menu doesn’t stand up to the appetizers – e.g., the signature burger is thin and not particularly juicy. (And give us more secret sauce!) The seafood in the cioppino is competently cooked, but the whole bowl ends up tasting mostly of tomato water.
The inner dining room also hosts ear-shattering live music. It only fits 30 people or so, and when the band is playing, they’re all yelling at each other or experimenting with whatever sign language they remember from third grade. We like rockin’ tunes as much as the next guy, but there is a limit to how well they mix with dinner.
So would we go back to Cafe du Nord, or recommend you do? Yes, but treat it more as a bar (that happens to serve a kick-ass Caesar salad) than a full-on restaurant. If your expectations are appropriate, you’ll have a great time.
Perhaps undeserving of their “fame”? Definitely undeserving of your $6.
Packed with heat, and a nice large quantity. Nothing makes you feel quite so carnivorous.
We’ve said it above, but this is one of the all-time greats. Hopefully they keep putting it out.
Also a must-order if you have any inclination towards tartare.
This burger came out too thin and a little dry – sometimes we feel like we don’t get the same burger as everyone in the hype machine.
Sadly the broth here tastes like watered-down tomato sauce, but with some nice pieces of fish here and there.
The pretzel brittle bits are great, the ice cream is decent. If you want a sundae, it will do the job.