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Curled trumpet shaped pasta in a bowl, lightly dressed.
Pasta with roasted chestnuts and chicken livers.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

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A Museum Cafe That Is as Much a Destination as the Art

The newly opened Frenchette Bakery at the Whitney offers head-turning baked goods and cafe fare

In early December, Frenchette Bakery skidded into the restaurant space at the Whitney Museum of American Art in the West Village, a towering glass box that looks like its floors are slightly askew. Its predecessor in the space had been Danny Meyer’s Untitled, which closed during the pandemic.

Owned by chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, Frenchette Bakery at the Whitney (99 Gansevoort Street at Washington Street) is a spinoff of the pair’s Frenchette Bakery in Tribeca, which is itself an extension of the restaurant Frenchette in the same neighborhood.

Inside an airy, plant-filled restaurant.
Inside Frenchette Bakery at the Whitney.

The place has rolled out slowly the first month: It started with an emphasis on the bakery, with pastries, rolls, and loaves of bread and a trio of sandwiches made on the premises. I dashed in there and tried the tuna Nicoise sandwich ($15.50), which was a crusty roll filled with an amalgam of tuna, runny egg, and tomato — good and gloppy and a slight departure from the usual. The jambon beurre was more Parisian, a demi baguette with just butter and a thin complement of very good ham.

A round sandwich oozing egg and tuna.
The tuna Nicoise sandwich is gloppier than most.
An open face toasted sandwich with a runny egg on top.
The Whitney’s croque madame.

The quirky pastries were interesting, including an egg savory ($9) deposited in puff pastry with a slice of baked mortadella curling on top. A chocolate flan tart rounded out my meal, a little too rich for me. (Can something be too chocolatey? This pastry answers in the affirmative.)

But by last week, Frenchette Bakery at the Whitney had fully opened, and I paid a visit with a couple of friends intent on eating my way around the menu. The sandwich list had been brilliantly expanded with a croque madame ($18) as good as any in the city. It comes mounted on a piece of what amounts to focaccia, with gobs of melted Gruyere and a well-peppered runny egg on top, atop a thin slice of ham; it’s pleasantly crunchy around the edges.

A couple of soups have been added to the menu — which is just what‘s needed for fortification during a multi-floor museum crawl. Of the two I tried, one was wonderful ($14): a roasted vegetable soup abounding in white beans, with kale and garlic croutons as supporting players in a very dark and savory broth. The black turnip velouté wasn’t as tasty, with a fishy dab of Hong Kong red XO sauce floating on top.

There are four pizzas, too, called pizz’ettes — maybe to warn you that they’re French. These substantial pies have an airy crust and simple toppings. The one we picked — oregano, anchovies, and thin slices of garlic — was near perfect ($17). And you won’t miss the cheese.

A pair of soups, one dark, one light.
Roasted vegetable soup and black turnip veloute.
A round red pie with anchovies radiating on it.
The anchovy and garlic pizz’ette.

The heart of the menu, and most substantial feeds, are a series of three pastas, of which we tried two. Priced from $18 to $19, the servings are not particularly shareable, unless you get soups and pizzas, too, and finish up with pastries. Best was campanelle, twirled pasta like ziggurats dotted with creamy roasted chestnuts and funky little gobs of chicken liver. What fun this pasta is!

Curled trumpet shaped pasta in a bowl, lightly dressed.
Campanelle with roasted chestnuts and chicken livers.
Pumpkin agnolotti in a white bowl.
Pumpkin agnolotti.

The pastries are divided into two sections: Viennoiserie, aimed more at the breakfast and afternoon coffee trade, and patisserie, of which many are unusual and sometimes delightful. In the delightful category is a chocolate éclair ($16) long and thin like a panatela, with a sweet vanilla cream inside. If I were a kid, I’d suck out the cream first and eat the chocolate-cloaked shell afterwards. The rice au lai was a boat-shaped shell with another creamy filling inside and crunchy rice around the edges, and a pool of maple syrup on top. It might have been invented in Montreal, and apart from its diminutive size, was memorable in every way. Finally, we had an example of the ubiquitous kouign-amann that was bigger, more buttery, and not as dense as examples elsewhere — and better for it.

A long pastry smothered in chocolate sauce.
A very good kougin-amann.
Pastries from Frenchette Bakery at the Whitney.

Pastry from Frenchette Bakery at the Whitney.

So, don’t miss the pastries at Frenchette Bakery at the Whitney. And don’t neglect the soups, pastas, and pizzas, either, from a limited menu that seems specifically aimed at hungry museum goers, and not intended to make the place a destination restaurant: And yet, the quality of both the bakery and cafe could make it so. Keep in mind the cafe mostly adheres to museum hours, open from 10:30 a.m. till 6 p.m., though the baked goods are available from 8 a.m. every morning, and from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays.

Frenchette Bakery at The Whitney

99 Gansevoort St, New York, NY 10014 Visit Website
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