Choose from over 100 cakes, pies and cookies in the You’ve Got Mail cameo spot Café Lalo, in my very own neighborhood the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
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Today we are café-ing in my own personal neighborhood, the Upper West Side in Manhattan. Close to Central Park, Lincoln Square, and Riverside Park, there is so much to do and see. Of course, one my favorite things to do on a Sunday are to go out for brunch. On a cold January day, Pat and I decided to head a couple of blocks up to Café Lalo.
Everyone romanticizes living in New York, and they should, because it is just as magical as people make it to be. Sure, it has its fair-share of crazies and stressful moments, but it is also one of the best places to enjoy one-of-a-kind experiences day in and day out. Today we visit the very well known Café Lalo that has been around since 1998. It is most famously known for its backdrop appearance in the movie You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
Steps from Broadway on 83rd street, you will find a typical Upper West Side brownstone lined with trees and in the middle of it Café Lalo. What attracts your attention to the café are it’s open-air floor-to-ceiling French windows, which are very hard to come by in New York City. The windows embrace the natural light from the outside, giving you a great view of the lined trees. Colorful Christmas lights romanticize the place even more. Inside you feel like you stepped into an early-1900’s café in Paris. You immediately experience a European vibe, from the exposed brick, vintage Leonetto Cappiello posters, lavender plants and chair backs shaped like little hearts.
The café is famous for its desserts, which include over 100 amazing pies, cakes and cookies sure to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. Fig and dark chocolate truffle ganache, maple pecan pie, Grand Marnier cake, sugarless cherry, blueberry or apple pie…and that’s only the beginning! However, they also serve a very full café menu for brunch and lunch. The bar recently expanded to include a variety of aperitifs, cognacs, and spiked milkshakes, so late nightcaps and desserts are ideal for this place post theater. They stay open till 2AM Sunday to Thursday and 4AM Friday to Saturday. Their nightcaps include free live jazz and classical music.
It was exactly how I envisioned my Sunday brunches being—a local café to sit and drink a cappuccino and enjoy a croissant while reading a book or the paper. Truly, European-style. We are seated next to the windows which each read a separate word. Ours read LOVE. To the right of Pat and I was a couple on what seemed to be their first date, to the left were two mothers with their two 10 year old daughters. Behind Pat were an old couple enjoying breakfast and a girl sitting alone enjoying a cappuccino and reading a book. As you can see, it’s a place for everyone.
As we scoured the menu, we went with our obvious Sunday morning choice. I ordered a cappuccino with a plain croissant and Pat a double shot of espresso. The cappuccino was a cappuccino. It’s hard to mess that up. Frothy to perfection and the coffee was pleasantly not too strong.
For our main we ordered the Three Eggs Breakfast, sunny side up, with toasted bread with butter and fruit preserve, I ordered the strawberry jam. As a side, I went for the sautéed spinach while Patrick went for the house made hash browns. In all honesty, the brunch was very standard, nothing to crazy or amazing. But then again, they are not known for their meals but for their desserts. Since it was early in the morning, we did not order a dessert, but our next stop to Café Lalo will definitely include tea or coffee and a delicious slice of cake or pie! Maybe post movies on a Friday or Saturday. That my change my view on their food.
Nonetheless, you come to Café Lalo for the ambiance, not the 5-star lunch or brunch. On the upside, you could taste that all the ingredients were organic and locally sourced. They didn’t use anything to fancy in their meals, which I personally love. I don’t like it when food contains one too many ingredients. The eggs were simple, the toast was simple, and the spinach was sautéed with just a hint of olive oil, salt, and garlic.
On our way out we noticed that the cash register was an old school cash register surrounded by quaint and picturesque Café Lalo paintings. Again, leaving you with that this is so european and adorable feeling that you came in looking for. The attention to detail in the decor is absolutely enthralling.
The service is slow and the place is packed, so don’t stop by expecting to be in and out in 20 minutes. The whole point of Café Lalo is to sit back, relax and enjoy its atmosphere for a couple of hours. You come for the romantic, European ambiance, especially after hours.
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