C, E at Spring St.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
This Soho bistro was a pioneer when it opened in the mid-seventies, a time when area artists were still starving and a smoking ban was a mere glint in Mayor Bloomberg's eye. Still run by the Alsatian Raoul brothers and their families, the well-kept bohemian atmosphere remains, even with a better-fed, tobacco-free clientele. An eclectic bunch of wine-weathered locals, stylish European tourists and young, model types make up the late-night bar crowd, while the three dining rooms suit all moods, from the bright, covered garden behind the kitchen, to the clandestine loft where a fortune teller holds court, to the buzzy main dining room. Decorated with nudes, jazz portraits, and tin ceiling and walls, this is where Europeans, kitten-like models, and longtime locals linger over thick steak au poivre with crispy frites, and fleshy steamed artichokes with thick dipping vinaigrette. They order these classics seemingly for old-times sake, but the insiders know it's because the kitchen is less successful when it experiments, like with a bland tuna tartare, avocado, and plum mixture. No matter what's on the table, however, it's the unwavering laid-back, Left Bank attitude that will always be the draw.Recommended Dishes
Steak au poivre, $39; artichoke with Raoul's vinaigrette, $12