photo by Liz Barclay

Buvette has held court in the West Village for a mere three years, but it hums with the energy of a long-entrenched neighborhood joint. Residents meet for croissants, croques monsieur, and cappuccinos by day; at night, the narrow space picks up convivial steam as people pour into seats at community tables, at the bar, and — in summer — in the back garden, where they sit elbow to elbow with strangers and sip wine. A friendly, efficient staff doles out simple, well-crafted bistro fare, including one of the best renditions of cassoulet you’ll ever have. You’ll want to start with charcuterie and a tartinette; you’ll want to finish with the chocolate mousse. Chef-owner Jody Williams wants her place to be accessible, and so she has crafted her lists accordingly: Wine comes priced at thinner-than-normal margins (especially at the high end), encouraging guests to imbibe; and a number of budget-friendly dishes make the menu. A no-reservations policy encourages spontaneity, and that creates a charming energy you can settle into for a while, often without realizing it, nursing a bottle of Vouvray, say, until 2 a.m., when the restaurant closes.