Ok, so I know Cafe Lalo is somewhat cramped. And yes, it is usually crowded. And well no, it’s not close to where I live at all. But I just kind of love it. It wasn’t until I was almost done eating here that my friend explained to me it was where Joe & Kathleen first have their “almost date” in You’ve Got Mail, one of my all-time favorite movies.
Joe: I think you’d discover a lot of things if you really knew me.
Kathleen: If I really knew you, I know exactly what I’d find: instead of a brain a cash register, instead of a heart a bottom line.
Kathleen: I just had a breakthrough.
Joe: What is it?
Kathleen: I have you to thank for it. For the first time in my life, when confronted with a horrible, insensitive person, I knew exactly what I wanted to say and I said it.
Joe: I think you have the gift for it. It was a perfect blend of poetry and meanness.
I’ve been here twice now for brunch. Everytime, I’m physically incapable of ordering anything that is not served with their roasted potatoes. I think I’d come there just for a plate of roasted potatoes. They’re just that good. Now, when I walk through the front door, it’s the smell of the potatoes which I notice most in the restaurant. A bit of rosemary, and just the perfect amount of softness in them.
So that explains how it is that I’ve now twice had their grilled sandwich with gouda and spinach. It’s a generous helping of the spinach pressed along with the gouda, on your choice of their fresh house-made breads. I’ve had the multigrain a couple of times now and am a big fan. So so good. I get it with the magic roasted potatoes and the mesclun green salad, a nice-sized portion with a light balsamic dressing (they are more than happy to bring you more if you just ask).
And of course one of the highlights of Cafe Lalo is the dessert selection, which is prominently on display as you wait in the inevitable line to be seated. Take a good look, as the menu has so many options, no visuals or descriptions, and it’ll be hard to get a spot again alongside the display case for a pre-order review if you wait. Take advantage of that time to perform your sugar research. I’ve had the Parisian Black & White Cake – big fan. It’s comprised of thin layers of white cake with layers of alternating chocolate and white chocolate mousse. The top is a layer of crunchy white chocolate. To sound like a hecka lotta chocolate, it’s surprisingly light. Highly recommend.
Though not quite as light as the Parisian Black & White Cake, the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake Mousse was also excellent. Somtimes chocolate desserts can be a bit overwhelming, even to a chocolate lover. I found this one tip-toed up just to the line without diving into the realm of the ridiculously heavy. Nicely played.
A friend got the Fresh Fruit Supreme – which was good (definitely had fresh fruits) but just couldn’t hold up in a duel with either of the others I’ve had. But then again, when *has* fruit successfully trumped chocolate except when they are paired? Perhaps I’m biased.
Anyhow, I love this place. I’ll wait again willingly. It will happen. And I will have a latte or a cappuccino, because they currently have my favorite one I’ve found in the city – the foam in which lasts forever. And I love that it’s paired with a mini Toblerone, which is slighlty melted if you get the back seat alongside the radiator. While not perhaps the ideal spot if you want a quiet afternoon, Cafe Lalo is one of my new-found faves.
Cafe Lalo -201 West 83 Street (at Amsterdam Avenue) – 212.496.6031