Café Loup has been on West 13th Street in the Village since the 80s, almost 30 years with very little change. It is old school, not overly traditional French dining and does not make apologies for it. The room is big, with a very long bar all with a bit of patina that goes easily back to the last century. On Sunday evenings there is live jazz with no cover charge. David Lapham, a West Village resident, who works as a private chef and responded to my article of suggested places to eat, recommended Café Loup as a place he feels at home and eats there frequently.
In April, I dined there with David and George Capsis, having never been there before. Despite a non-descript façade, I was immediately surprised upon entering to find a large restaurant that was almost full on a Monday night at 7:30. Inside, it seems like a world unto itself, a little bohemian, a little old fashioned and lively. The menu also has seldom been updated; maybe the prices have slightly, but are still relatively gentle. You are given two menus, one with a good value $32 prix fixe and an a la carte menu. Strangely, the prix fixe menu you are given had a few additional a la carte choices. We ordered seafood focused starters to begin, oysters, fried oysters, and escargots. This course was the best, in that the two later were very well done yet with a bit of an original detail about them. The fried oysters, freshly fried, plump, crisp, and not greasy were served with an aoli flavored with wasabi and garnished with a bit of seaweed salad. The escargots were served out of the shell in a traditional dish but topped off with hollandaise sauce, adding richness and a creaminess which made for dipping bread into even more satisfying.
Main courses included mussels, duck, and striped bass. Generally, all were presented in a relatively traditional way, in abundant quantity and the latter two, plated as a complete meal with a few vegetables and a starch. The mussels were accompanied by a wine sauce flavored with the right amount on Pernod Anise, and with a large plate and perfect pomme frites. The striped bass was well cooked and complemented with plenty of julienne vegetables. The half duck with moist and crisp with a not too sweet fruit foil. We had a well priced bottle of Sancerre from the wine list which refreshingly begins at less than $30 for a bottle.
I am afraid I cannot be as complimentary about dessert or service for differing reasons. Desserts where generous, a rice pudding laced cookie combination and a tarte tartin, but neither had much about them that was delicate or nuanced, making them less than tempting to finish. Service had a bit of Peter Luger about it; it was real New York and if you did not know exactly what you want, you could either be entertained or you were in the wrong place, salty in a word. This seemed particular to the server we had who did know David as a regular so it is partly explained as well by that.
It is a big open space, convivial, with an old traditional feel that I understand has a great jazz brunch on Sundays. In the world of weddings, there are countless over the top shiny places to book but Café Loup is an old fashioned rustic place in which to have a new traditional wedding.