69 Gansevoort Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 989-5779

I arrived at Florent early. That’s normal for me. I’m usually early, especially when it comes to the social stuff. And dinner with Mr. Dogz and Speeds qualifies as social stuff. Having about a half hour to wait and do nothing, I plopped down my bag and jacket (it was kinda warm when I arrived) on one of the outdoor tables and went inside for a coffee. Florent was as close to deserted as a restaurant can be without being closed. I would have presumed that this would therefore mean that my quest for a coffee here would not be an elusive, near futile hunt for caffeine acquisition. But that was not to be. Rather than be met with a smile, I was met by the look of someone whose dinner was interrupted. My request for a coffee was taken, ignored, and forgotten. Twice. Third time's the charm and when I finally did get what I asked three times for, I paused to consider not even bothering to pay. But, I did. Probably because I’m a sucker.

But enough about me.

Florent is supposed to be a French bistro. But it’s really a French diner. A diner that serves French food. Oh sure, there’s maps of France on the wall and they’ve got cool kitchy matchbooks and postcards instead of business cards to up their difference-quotient. But change the menu to include gyros and plug in a neon jukebox playing the golden oldies and this place could double for any greasy spoon along I-95 right between a Cracker Barrel and a Waffle House. If they mysteriously closed Monday, you could find a Moonstruck here Tuesday. Don't read this as a put-down. I like diners. Just don't go expecting to find a place like an Ouest for young, trendy types.

Actually, the only reason Mr. Dogz and I were eating here (and you're reading a review of this) instead of getting Italian in Williamsburg (and reading of review of that) was because Speeds wanted to eat with us, but she didn’t want to go all the way to Williamsburg. Not when she can come up with a place right in her own back yard. And since we're two of the biggest push-overs you're liable to meet, we agreed to change our plans at the last minute to go someplace she wanted. Naturally, she was late. It's her thing. Dogz arrived on time, it's his thing. So we took bets. How late would we eat? He guessed 15 minutes. I threw out a more cynical half hour. Forty-five minutes later, we started ordering.

I usually stick to my unwritten policy of always ordering the escargot when I hit up a French place, but I wanted to keep this meal nice and cheap, so I broke the rule. We skipped ordering appetizers and went straight for the main courses. Mr. Dogz decided on the Veggie Burger. It wouldn’t have been my personal first choice, not being a veggie burger person and all, but he is. Upon finishing, Dogz leaned back in his chair with a wide grin. “Ahhh, that hit the spot.” I tried the Roast Free-Range Chicken. Pretty good. Not great, but I certainly can’t complain. After all, this is a diner. Their mashed potatoes were delicious. Buttery and Cool-Whip smooth. Speeds, once she showed up, also took her time figuring out what she wanted to eat. She picked the Roulade of Chicken Breast, a cheese and vegetable stuffed breaded chicken breast with salad. This was, uh, disappointing. While Speeds said she liked it, I thought it was, frankly, too dry and the breading a bit burned.

Mr. Dogz and I were happy waiting until we could get to a bar before ordering ourselves a hearty dessert of Guinness, but Speeds was itching for something sweet and figured she’d try out Florent’s Warm Chocolate Lava Cake. She liked it a whole lot and told me to recommend it. Dogz tried some and claimed that he thought less of the cake than Speeds did. Nonetheless, his flavor test prompted the inevitable debate come bill time about whether eating half of someone's dessert (it's not a big cake) meant having to pay for half its cost. (It does.)

So dinner was pretty good. And I had a really good time once everyone arrived. Actually, I had a great time. We were joking and laughing and as Florent got crowded and loud things only got better. In fact, given that service markedly improved once the dinner crowd started pouring in, I had almost forgotten the staff’s earlier infraction of treating me like I was wasting their time. So why, oh why, did I only leave a 10% tip?

Speeds and I got charged for coffee refills. Who charges for coffee refills? Speeds and I are coffee… enthusiasts (addicts is such an ugly word). So when she ordered her lava cake, we ordered both figured on having a cup of their heavily cinnamony brew. Little did we know that later on, when the nice lady came by to refill our cups, she’d be tacking it onto our bill. Lovely. I did not fight it. Sufficed to say, this reduced the discretionary spending portion of our day.

And so the evening ended as it began. With frustration over coffee.

Overall, I like Florent. It's pretty cheap. It's a lot of fun. It's very relaxing. Unlike the rest of the Meatpacking District, it's not a haven for poseurs enjoying a chicness that's only provided with daddy's credit card. It's an honest, unpretentious, and discounting the attitude I got in the beginning, an ultimately friendly place. They're open 24 hours, so I'm likely to go back, perhaps for a late night bite to eat, though more likely because Speeds wants to go someplace convenient for her and I'm a great big push-over.

Three entrees, a dessert, and four separately paid coffees came to around $60 plus tax and tip.

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