Frenchette Bakery moved into the space that used to be Danny Meyer’s Untitled. Photo: Hugo Yu

Museum food is a hit-and-miss proposition. On one side of the divide stand museums like the MoMA, whose Danny Meyer–owned, Thomas Allan–run restaurant has secured its Michelin stars many years running; on the other, the eh-okay sandwich bar at the Met. Between the two, the Whitney has erred toward the MoMA side of the occasion. When it moved down to the Meatpacking District, it took its restaurant, the Meyer-led Untitled — reliably good and appreciably Greenmarket-y, a modest cousin to Union Square Café — with it (while Ignacio Mattos’s Flora Bar moved into the space it vacated after the uptown museum became the Met Breuer).

Untitled moved out of the Whitney for good in 2021, and this past fall, the increasingly imperial team of Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr opened an outpost of their Frenchette Bakery in the space, which has been accented with a new acquisition — Rashid Johnson’s New Poetry, a gridded-steel sculpture in the form of a shelving unit stuffed with ceramic planters, greenery, books, and TV monitors, which extends through the museum’s plate-glass front to the sidewalk outside — but otherwise unchanged. (Museum admission is still not required.)

A Whitney Frenchette can’t insist on the decorum the original Frenchette does. I had my first lunch there, after a visit to Calder’s Circus, with a 3-year-old; our waitress, unfussed, sailed over with a box of crayons for the paper place mat and a kids’ menu. The menu leans on salads and pizzas designed to spook neither children nor tourists: turkey and cheddar with dijonnaise, roast beef with horseradish, plain pizza (not even margherita; it’s just marked “plain”). But while he ate a dutiful slice or two of plain, Godson Ben was a convert to big-kid fare. “Yum yum,” he declared, slurping spoonfuls of his mom’s russet-colored ribollita, though carefully avoiding a few scattered beans. Thereafter, with a small finger pointed in my direction, he demanded half of the housemade sourdough roll from my tuna niçoise sandwich, undeterred by its briny caper mayo.

Back another day for an adults-only meal, I was even happier. A small selection of lightly ambitious pastas and entrées comes from Frenchette alum Angela Zeng — grilled arctic char with mussels in an (Ellsworth) Kelly green watercress broth, duck confit with white beans — and in all cases, they are significantly less expensive than their equivalents at Frenchette Père. But the most exciting offerings, as befits anywhere with “bakery” in the name, are the baked goods.

Regulars at Frenchette Bakery in the small, former Arcade Bakery space are familiar with Peter Edris’s einkorn country loaf and olive-studded Provençal fougasse, as well as its laminated viennoiserie. With the greater space available here, executive pastry chef Michelle Palazzo was able to add composed desserts. At the table next to mine, a couple poring over folding subway maps shared a chocolate mousse, cut with crème fraîche chantilly cream, while one farther than that, a Goth with hand tattoos split what may be the longest eclair I’ve ever seen — éclair suprême, says the menu — with her friends. (“The eclair looks quite big, but it’s very fluffy,” the waiter assured us.) Undecided between a tarte au citron and a pistachio Paris-Brest, I got both. Under an onion dome of bronzed meringue dusted with lime zest, Palazzo snuck not only a tart lemon curd, but the excellent surprise of minced grapefruit and orange. Her Paris-Brest is piped with pistachio cream, not the pallid, princessy pastel of the usual pastry palette, but a deep, boggy, almost khaki green that only a true glut of nuts can provide.

Tarte aux citron with toasted meringue. Photo: Hugo Yu

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