And so, it came as no surprise that when I was en route to a holiday lunch at Bouchon Bakery, my boss that lives out in Westchester, home to one of the greatest malls around, hardly shared in my excitement of heading to a mall for lunch. I have no doubt that images of food courts and frantic holiday shoppers were all that came to mind during that subway ride. However, the Shops at Columbus Circle are truly unique. Whether it's the fact that this shopping mall is home to a three star Michelin restaurant or to the Samsung Experience where no products are actually sold, these shops have figured out how to charm and can still be called a mall! It certainly did not take long after we were seated at the communal table at the Bakery for my boss to feel both at ease and still far from the 'burbs.
There is no denying that part of the charm of Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery is indeed its setting in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a mall (in traditional food court fashion). However, unlike most mall dining, this restaurant overlooks Columbus Circle and the base of Central Park - a NYC setting at its best. On a rainy day, the scene below can actually be quite romantic. And, on a sunny day, the scene is spectacular. No matter the weather, time of day, or day of the week, the food measures right up to that magnificent view. The menu is made up of soups, salads, sandwiches, and bakery selections. I almost always struggle with my decision since I so rarely lunch out - especially in this area. However, I've quickly learned, that you truly cannot go wrong as I have yet to leave The Shops unsatisfied (that is, only after dining there).
My all time favorite option is the tomato soup and grilled cheese - a San Marzano tomato soup with grilled fontina and gruyere cheese sandwich. This is comfort food, at its upscale best - one of my all-time favorite lunch combinations done to perfection. On my last trip, I ventured out and tried the wagyu beef brisket with house-made cole slaw and pimento aioli on caraway rye. This was an excellent, gourmet variation on a classic pastrami sandwich. The vegetarian option, roasted squash with brie, arugula, and pear marmalade on toasted country bread, was a seasonal treat, new to the menu, but hopefully sticking around for at least another season - a great combination of fresh flavors. I recommend ordering one of their sandwiches as this is an excellent way to sample their bread - one of the highlights of the bakery. And each one is accompanied by a simple French salad, dressed with a light vinaigrette that is reminiscent of the classic French topping. However, it is always tough to pass up the homemade quiche of the day. No matter the filling, this French delicacy will be light and fluffy with both a buttery and flaky crust that will melt in your mouth. If you do order this, I still recommend indulging in the bread and butter as they are truly not to be missed!
And, since you are at a mall where no meal would be complete without TCBY, Dippin' Dots, or Cinnabon (yes, I did just give a shout out to Dippin' Dots), dessert is a must at Bouchon Bakery. The homemade cookies with ice cream are hard to resist. But, for a real treat, ask for the macaroons from the take-out bakery - the caramel and chocolate are the ultimate sweet. I never imagined I could be transported back to Paris while seated in a mall - but Bouchon Bakery has done the impossible. If only every day I could eat in a food court!
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):