Cafe Gitane, Nolita, NYC

Last night, my bestie and I decided to meet in SoHo for an early dinner and a girly catch up. As we tossed around potential restaurants, it turned out we had some criteria. It had to be lively but not too loud, cute but not too hipster, healthy but not too expensive and most importantly within walking distance and with outdoor seating. Phew! We decided to walk towards the magical square mile dominated by Mott Street and, after passing a few cute, bistro-like Japanese places, quickly agreed on Café Gitane.

Arugula and Herbed Chicken Salad with Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Ambience:
Neither of us had eaten here before but we’d heard and seen many a happy customer. A quick look at the delicious menu and we were sold. We snagged the last outdoor table (literally on the sidewalk) and settled into our tiny wrought iron chairs, which had been endearingly tethered to the windowsill. Our waitress was extremely friendly with traces of an Australian accent. She quickly brought us menus and a bottle of tap water. The place itself is adorable. Charming and cozy on the inside, there are a few tables on the sidewalk as well as a small window for takeout customers.

Menu:
The menu could be described as French-Moroccan but it’s actually a “lite version” without the cream, cheese and butter of the French or the rice, curry and meat of the Moroccans. It’s mostly French inspired salads and open-face sandwiches, a few couscous dishes and some other light, flavorful concoctions. We both chose the arugula, beet, herbed chicken salad, which arrived garnished with goat-cheese topped bruschetta. Yum! Besides the delicious food and some Italian-style desserts, there’s also a good selection of champagne cocktails, fresh juices (including watermelon), lemonade spritzers and coffees.

Even their coffees are doggie friendly 🙂

Verdict:
We sat and chatted in our prime outdoor real estate for well over two hours and did not feel rushed at all (it was Monday night though, mind you). Several of our fellow outdoor diners had brought their dogs along who were patiently waiting and happy to be petted by the beautiful passersby. Cafe Gitane is the perfect place for a girly catch-up. It’s cozy, friendly, inexpensive and delicious. If you’re looking for a healthy meal with a French Moroccan twist and some of the best people-watching in the city, I’d highly recommend stopping by. Be warned though – its tiny tables and pixie-esque proportions make Gitane quite ill-suited for the large-boned, so if you’re used to having lots of personal space, I wouldn’t go here!

Damage: $50 for two, including drinks and tip.
Café Gitane on Urbanspoon

Skipping the Pond

So its been a week (a great week actually) since school re-started and, as much I love the convenience of being able to run home to take naps / collect forgotten notes / make phone calls, I am strongly considering moving off campus. Several of my closest friends live across the “Pond” (Charles River) in Cambridge, in cute neighbourhoods adjoining Harvard Square and the appeal of a sub $1000 rent, a large kitchen and perhaps most importantly, a connection to the real food world, is starting to chip away at my moving inertia.

This Thursday after class, I was led across the bridge by two hardened off-campusers. After much debate about Indian buffet and Greek salad, we decided to head to Crema Cafe, an adorable little place on Brattle street, dearly-loved for its fresh sandwiches and mouthwatering deserts. As I tucked into my perfectly grilled crema chicken, I realized how happy I was. I leaned back in my chair, momentarily zoning out in order to soak up the happy sounds of clattering dishes, lazy conversation and Regina Spektor singing about a statue. Moving to a smaller table, we decided to stick around and get started on the next day’s homework. I downed a cappuccino and breezed through the first case. Working off-campus was easy! Moving off-campus should be easy too…hmm.

Recognizing that my productivity is significantly boosted by mildly frenetic environments, I decided, on Saturday, to head to another fantastic cafe, Dado Tea for lunch and some more work. I ordered the Cran Apple Salad and a chai latte and sat down with my friend, to wait. The food arrived within ten minutes and was absolutely delicious. The salad was huge and succeeded in balancing the (often tricky) ratio of feta, cranberries, apple and grilled chicken. The latte was foamy and unsweetened, the temperature was perfect. Dado Tea is busy on Saturday afternoons and tends to be dominated by laptop toting grad students who’ve perfected the fine art of pacing their bubble tea sippage with wifi consumption. The place still gets its fair share of tourists and townies though, seduced no doubt by the tempting array of Dado’s desserts and hot drinks.

Does any of this help my cause? Not really. Despite the universe’s impressive attempts to sell me on the across-the-pond lifestyle, I am still torn between that and staying in my uber convenient, roll-out-of-bed-fall-into-class situation. Will I find mi casa off campus? We shall see…