When I first moved to the East Village in New York City, 26 Seats was an okay bistro around the corner with decent but not terribly memorable food or ambiance. I tried it once, was indifferently satisfied, and moved on to other spots. Then I started to hear great things about it, noticed that its 26 seats were filling up on a nightly basis, and gave it another try.

It turned out that Bernard and Corinne, an amiable French couple who had sold their successful restaurant in the West Village, were the new owners of this slot in the wall on Avenue B (so space challenged that they did not even have room for that trendy NYC staple – an espresso machine). The new 26 Seats quickly became my favorite place in the neighborhood – great traditional French dishes, a delightful staff – young, intelligent, multi-lingual, creative (more likely artists, writers or dancers than aspiring actors) – with some of whom I became real friends almost instantaneously. For several years if you were looking for me in the evening and couldn’t find me at home, this was the single place you were most likely to find me.

At some point I started to drop by less often, as my eating habits changed – more Spanish lunches and fewer French dinners – and as my good friends on the staff began to move on to other locales and avocations. Then: disaster. Bernard sold the restaurant, with the predictable disappointing result. But all was not lost. It wasn’t long before Bernard was back in the kitchen – whether as owner or chef I do not know – and now, when I return to the old neighborhood, it is as good as it was before.

For information on 26 Seats, click here.

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