253 W 11th Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 229-2611

There are two great things about a BYOB place. First, it’s cheaper. Restaurants typically price wine two or three times the wholesale cost. This means that the fifteen-dollar bottle of Chateau Je Ne Sais Pas you drank last week is probably going to be $30 or so when you order it with your meal. You not only save money by getting the wine yourself, but you can amortize the cost of the entire eating experience over two bills, making you feel like you spent even less. No matter how good the food may be, it always tastes worse when you’re hit with an exorbitant bill.

The other great thing about a BYOB restaurant is that you have removed that guilt you know you have about getting that second glass. No more stretching the first glass for as long as possible. You HAVE to get a second glass. And then you HAVE to get a third. After all, you don’t want to get arrested for waving your open bottle of vino around like a hobo with a forty.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Tartine is BYO.

Tartine is nestled deep in the West Village, surrounded by the quaint brownstones and bistros that define the West Village streets the way used record stores and sex-toy shops define the West Village thoroughfares.

If you’re like me, and find that these quaint West Village streets make about as much sense as string theory, then I suggest you bring a map. Option B is to wander around until you see a corner with people standing in a long line, wrapped around the corner, drinking wine. Huzzah, you have found Tartine.

Tartine is a bistro in the truest sense of the word. A small restaurant serving a limited, basic menu. The specials are listed outside and I promise that you’ll have plenty of time to pick each of your courses before you sit down. If the staff tells you that the wait is twenty minutes, you should be hearing “at least forty minutes.” Ask for some glasses and you can drink on the street while you wait. And if you and your date run out of things to talk about, you can just stare inside and watch people eat like they’re part of a Macy’s display. But the crowd here is very friendly and the odds are that you’ll talk to the other people on line.

Claustrophobes beware. Tartine is a teeny tiny place. This means that no one in wheelchairs can eat here, no one fat can eat here, no one who broke their leg and has it in a cast while they hobble around on crutches can eat here, no one who doesn't have a cat somewhere on their family tree can eat here. Tartine’s tables are so tight that you practically sit next to but reversed from the table behind you. Parties of four should seriously consider eating somewhere else. To avoid having too many people crawling over the other customers, the four-person tables are almost all by the door. So you’ll have every new customer squeezing past you, virtually without exception. In the winter you’ll get the first blasts of cold air. This may be invigorating to some, like members of the Polar Bear Club, but the general twenty-something public, of which I am a member, may opt for warmer climes in the back.

I went on a Saturday night with a friend, M. She’s a vegetarian. Like many vegetarians, M is a vegetarian who cheats and eats fish, thus allowing her access to a wider variety of resaurants. Tartine, however, has almost no fish and this seriously thinned down her food choices. Not me though, since I’ll eat almost anything. I try not to rub it in.

For starters, M ordered the corn chowder and I ordered the escargot. When I was a kid, I went to some French restaurant somewhere with my parents and tried escargot for the first time. Most often, the criticism I hear from people who don’t want to try it is that it’s going to be like eating a big, disgusting wad of snot. NO. Not true. It’s like eating a big, delicious wad of snot, piping hot and drenched in garlic and butter. Heaven. Since then, if I’m at a French place and they have escargot, I have to get it. And the escargot at Tartine was probably among the best I’ve ever had. I also really liked the corn chowder (so did she). Smooth and corny, like half of my jokes… yum.

For dinner, M ordered the only thing on the menu she could that wasn’t a salad, the grilled salmon. I didn’t try it, but M said it was very good. And since she ate the whole thing, my vast brain deduced that she wasn’t lying. For me, I ordered the Brouche a La Reine, which is basically the French version of the pot pie. It’s a big flaky pastry ball in which is baked chicken and vegetables and cream. Absolutely delicious. Everyone around us was ordering the lamb special and I wondered if I was missing the boat by passing on something unique for something more generic, but by the time I started eating, I stopped noticing their plates and concentrated on my own (this is harder than it sounds since we practically had to share the table). We were pretty full by the end and decided to skip dessert, but not the coffee.

One thing that you need to know is that Tartine is cash-only. Cash or travelers check. You 're not gonna break the bank here, though. Our dinner-for-two total, including tax and tip, but not including the wine, came out to around $70.

If you get a late dinner, you might be able to avoid the wait. The kitchen closes at 10:30pm.

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