128 Smith Street at Dean Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11201
The French Tabac
A tabac is a shop licensed to sell tobacco products in France. Tabacs are identified by a red diamond-shaped sign. They sell newspapers, telephone cards, lottery ticket and postage stamps. The tabac may also be the tobacco counter in some bars. You see tabacs in many old Godard and French New Wave movies.
The Brooklyn Bar Tabac
Bar Tabac is on Smith Street in the Cobble Hill neighborhood in Brooklyn. Smith Street has many shops and restaurants that are small, local and creative.
Bar Tabac has many signifiers of the bistro. The French flag, the red awning, the small wood tables and red wicker chairs on the sidewalk, the chalk board with the “plat du jour”, the soft globe lights and regulars sitting on Thonet bar stools at the old wooden bar, sipping wine and discussing the events of the day.
And there are the signs on the walls: “Journaux”, “Rue Jean B. Therre” and “Le Petit Parisien.”
Bar Tabac has live jazz four times a week. It was happening when I was there and I found it to be real jazz rather than easy listening faux jazz which one often hears in cafes.
The menu has most of the bistro standards: moules frites, steak tartare and grilled hanger steak. The appetizers are onion soup, pate, snails, and tuna tartar.
The mains are nicoise salad, roasted half-chicken, rtruite amandine, duck leg confit,and steak frites. A variety of sides (mashed potatoes, french fries,string beans, asparagus, etc.) may be added.
Dinner is followed by classic deserts such as creme brulee, chocolat coulant (a small chocolate cake), profiteroles or sorbets.
Staff: 6 (Authentically French, casual and well-informed about the food)
Archetype: 7 (There are many signifiers of the Archetype and they felt organic rather than designed)
Food: 6 (Good solid traditional bistro food; no creative offerings)
Energy: 7 (Noise low, friendly neighborhood crowd, pleasant atmosphere, surprisingly good jazz)