OK - so part of me is embarrassed to admit this, but here we go - I like La Goulue. Saturday was my birthday and we were stuck at home until about 3pm waiting for Fedex to arrive. Once they did, it was time to think about food, i.e., a late lunch. It was raining cats and dogs, and we didn't feel like heading downtown, nor did we want to go somewhere where we'd be the only people eating at that hour. Steak tartare and frites seemed to be foremost on both our minds, so I made an open table reservation for 3:45, we got ourselves together and headed down.
We were greeted nicely upon arrival and quickly seated to a corner table in the front room, which was relatively full, given the hour. The menu at that time is one I've not seen before - rather abbreviated, even when compared to their prix fixe brunch menu (which is a good deal, if you order carefully), but had the requisite steak tartare with frites ($30) and terrine de foie gras ($28). My husband ordered a beer, and I a Lillet (straight up and a wedge of lime, please). We then ordered - French onion soup for me (soup of the day) and the foie gras for my husband, under the strict understanding that we were to share these 50/50 (the enforcement was on my part, and I watch, eagle eyed, as he ate through his half of the foie gras, while I sipped on my onion soup). Onion soup was as it should be, rich, cheesy, etc., and the foie gras was divine, served with lightly toasted brioche. My husband also ordered a bottle of Pinot Noir, and we each had the steak tartare, which was particularly good on this occasion, and the frites were wonderful, served with mayonnaise, as is our preference. After polishing that off, I ordered the profiteroles, and my husband the Tarte Tatin, and we each had an eau de vie. Tarte Tatin was excellent, the profiteroles less so, as the dough was completely soggy. However the great chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream made it a perfectly good dessert.
Service was great and friendly enough. Tab was, well, with tip, about $300. Certainly, I can think of better ways to spend $300 on food in Manhattan (i.e., Yasuda - though wine was $80 and the various drinks, of course), but for that afternoon - it was the perfect lunch for us, and some fun people watching. It's actually been a good choice for us in the past for visiting Latin American friends and family (they seem to like the scene as well as the food), and the occasional "I want some good steak tartare and don't feel like travelling far" lunch, as well as, maybe surprisingly, with visiting friends with children. My caveat is to be careful about ordering bottled water, specials and other things that can quickly add to the tab if you don't know the price. I have seen some people treated with less that what I consider to be acceptable courtesy, but, at the same time, I can add that neither my husband nor fit the description of the majority of their clientele, and have only ever been treated well on our 10-12 vists there over the past five years.