Sugar and Plumm manages to exude a distinctively French charm that appeals to the refined palates of all ages. The Parisian–inspired whimsical haven caters to virtually every taste bud by enlisting the talents of formally trained chefs, Parisian chocolatiers, and various ice cream makers and pastry chefs. Together, this team creates an eclectic assortment of sweet and savory treats, beginning from scratch whenever possible, and enjoyed while dining in or being delivered.
Executive Chef Ben Dodaro oversees the kitchen at the Upper West Side bistro, cooking a sophisticated combination of upscale yet familiar French classics and refined versions of American comfort foods. His team handles every piece of protein from start to finish by butchering, smoking, and curing all of the meats and fishes in-house. This extra bit of effort helps elevate dishes such as the waffles with crispy, free-range chicken, and it complements the classical elegance of dishes such as the salad with confit rabbit, heirloom carrots, and an orange-cider vinaigrette.
Sugar and Plumm’s savory offerings are only one small piece of the puzzle, though. Master French chocolatier Thierry Atlan and his team use raw, all-natural, sustainably farmed chocolate as they meticulously craft small batches of treats. The pastry chefs bake in two shifts every day, ensuring that the shelves are lined with fresh macarons and cakes, even while taking the time to make their own jams and jellies in-house. These chefs also prepare their own ice creams and sorbets from scratch, patiently allowing the flavors to meld and coalesce by using a process that, much like a book club discussion of The Oxford English Dictionary, takes two full days.
After more than a decade following different paths in the restaurant industry, friends Donny Giordano and Pellegrino Mongillo merged their culinary passions into Pellegrino's Restaurant & Lounge. In the kitchen, chef Mongillo—a Culinary Institute of America graduate—and his staff combine fresh, seasonal ingredients into dishes inspired by the various regions of Italy. Fresh seafood crops up in the octopus bruschetta and the scallop-, shrimp-, and mussel-flecked orzo. Other offerings include seared hangar steak with provolone and cavatelli pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and chicken.
In the main dining space, servers glide across tiled floors to wood tables set under arched doorways. Behind a granite bar, bartenders mix specialty flavored martinis and pour a range of international wines.
With a crêpe-centric menu, Kafe Neo expands on the repertoire of the typical café kitchen with a variety of breakfast, lunch, and snack-time fare. During each visit, diners can look on as crêpes ($2.99–$8.99 each) are cooked to order in a pan, flattened over a copy of the French Constitution, and filled with signature combinations of more than 70 different meat, vegetable, cheese, and fruit fillings. After coffee beans are carefully put through the antique roasters at nearby Dallis Bros. Coffee, they're ground up and brewed onsite to make café mochas ($4.49), lattes ($3.99), and classic cups of joe ($2.49 with refills). Whether you're eyeing something savory, sweet, or simply not caught on fire, the restaurant also serves fresh paninis, omelets, and french toast.
New Jersey Monthly’s runner up for Best Coffeehouse, The Fine Grind recharges caffeine-powered batteries with a menu of delicious drinks and treats. Customers can plug their keister into a couch and wait for the friendly cadre of coffee slingers to whip up a cappuccino ($2.95, small) or a yerba maté latte laced with cardamom, vanilla, and cloves ($3.80, medium). The Fine Grind defies the laws of physics with the customer-favorite froho, a frozen hot chocolate blendesso concoction ($4.25).
A multidisciplinary cultural development center, GainVille specializes in language lessons for children but also offers classes for adults, ESL classes, and academic support, including educational-placement programs, counseling, and tutoring. A teaching staff of native Spanish, Italian, French, Mandarin, and Arabic speakers leads immersive sessions that not only cover grammar and vocabulary but also delve into the art, history, cuisine, and famous yo-yoists of the regions where each respective language is spoken. To fill up on brain food before or after class, students can head down to the café for some healthy international cuisine.