Cafe Cluny

photo by Liz Barclay

Not long ago, Cafe Cluny was the daytime spot for celebrities and the downtown elite, and the restaurant still sees famous faces aplenty. But it has also become a place where West Villagers go for a quick (or leisurely) lunch or brunch, for counsel over coffee and cheese, for weeknight dinners, for special occasions, for birthdays. For anything, really. That’s because chef Phillip Kirschen-Clark puts out effortless, elegant dishes like a crisply bitter frisée salad with Fourme d’Ambert cheese, a poached egg that’s perfect every time, and bacon vinaigrette; and seared yellowtail with roasted baby fennel. There’s also the burger, a fat, half-pound affair that oozes juice and comes without cheese (because you don’t need it) or its surf-borne cousin, the tuna burger, which we like seared black-and-blue with as much spicy wasabi mayo as the staff is willing to fetch us. And textbook-perfect steak frites, the meaty drippings seeping into a heap of salty potato sticks. Owners Lynn Wagenknecht, Judi Wong, and Steve Abramowitz opened Cluny in 2006 hoping to become a fine-but-friendly neighborhood joint, and today they say they’re grateful their baby has grown into exactly what they intended: a place where anyone can come and enjoy a great meal, day or night, in a stylishly sweet setting with enough personality to charm but not distract from the meal at hand.