All photos by Noah Fecks, courtesy of Café Chelsea

The RundownNew York

All About Café Chelsea, New York’s Newest French Bistro


Before you go to a restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In our series, The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about upcoming and newly opened restaurants.

The story of the Hotel Chelsea is long and winding, filled with artists like Andy Warhol, Robert Maplethorpe, Patti Smith, and too many others to list in one introductory paragraph. It’s a bonafide relic of New York culture, and now it’s also home to an all-day French café and bistro, Café Chelsea, opening on Friday, July 14 (conveniently also Bastille Day).

We sat down with partner Charles Seich and wine director Claire Paparazzo to give you a rundown on what to expect before you head to this latest addition to New York’s flourishing French restaurant scene.

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1. This is all about the classics.

The menu is very much “classic French bistro,” with steak frites, poulet rôti, an omelette, pâté, and frisée aux lardons, as well a few new-wave twists. A prime example? The maitake au poivre, made with mushrooms instead of steak. There’s also ravioles du Dauphiné, housemade pasta filled with comté, served with a vin jaune and salted butter. For dessert, there’s chocolate soufflé, an almond pear tart, and vanilla cognac ice cream, among a variety of other choices.

“We don’t want people to just be dining here once a week because they can’t find a new thing to eat,” says Seich. “There’s truly something for everyone with the food. We’re really trying to keep things classic and familiar, and we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel with the dishes we’re serving.”

Natural wines abound on the wine list, while cocktails keep riff on standards like the French 75, Vesper, and the Boulevardier.

“This is kind of the common theme throughout that you’ll see, not just in the food and the cocktail selection, but also the wine selection,” Paparazzo says. The list leans heavily French and American, with a wide range of affordability.

“We keep leaning in toward this [classic theme] because you think of this beautiful historic building, it all kind of makes sense. We’re representing the classics, right?” Seich adds.

Ravioles du Dauphiné.
Ravioles du Dauphiné.

2. It’ll have all the trappings you’ve come to expect from the Hotel Chelsea.

Café Chelsea’s design very intentionally maintains the feeling of the historic hotel that it calls home, incorporating pieces from a storied art collection that has belonged to the building for decades.

“The common thread that ties [the artwork] together is that it’s all from residents and people who’ve stayed at and created artwork at the hotel. There’s quite a wide array of different pieces of art hanging here,” says Seich. They plan to swap pieces out on occasion, too, given that there’s such a large collection of pieces from which to choose.

There’s also a zinc bar, decorative molding, and vintage chandeliers that used to hang in the Lord & Taylor store, all intentionally chosen, of course.

“Every banquette is not just a banquette. Everything was so thoughtfully put together and curated. It’s just a delight to be here in the space and get people in here to share that with them,” said Paparazzo.

Maitake au poivre.
Beef tartare.

3. It’s more — but not more of the same — from Sunday Hospitality.

The Sunday Hospitality (Sunday in Brooklyn, Rule of Thirds) team operates each of the hotel’s several dining spaces, including El Quijote and the Lobby Bar at the Hotel Chelsea. Café Chelsea, however, will be the only all-day restaurant in the hotel once it’s operating at full capacity; for now, they’re only open for dinner.

“The space was always intended to serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner all day, every day. We’ve been developing it for quite some time now as the type of restaurant where hotel guests and neighbors can come for [all three meals],” says Seich. In total, Café Chelsea is a 200-seat restaurant, with a forthcoming private dining room, called The Wine Room, that will seat 25 to 30 guests.

“We felt like a French bistro could provide that sort of breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday experience,” says Seich. “The ambiance and vibe of a French bistro is also that really classic feeling that felt right at home at the Hotel Chelsea.”

This will be the first restaurant concept to open in this area of the hotel in close to 100 years. Previously, the space has been home to a bait and tackle shop (yes, really), a record store, and the Chelsea Guitar Shop, the latter of which is still a tenant located in a different part of the building.

The grand plateau seafood tower.
Assorted ice creams and sorbets.

4. It’s a hotel restaurant designed with the neighborhood in mind.

“It’s important for people to know that this is a restaurant for everybody,” Seich says, and the staff hopes to engage an audience beyond the guests of the hotel, especially for anyone craving a taste of New York history.

The Sunday Hospitality team has been working for months to get the space up and running, with development starting more than a year ago, taking care to maintain the feeling of the space and make sure that it felt in line with the legacy of the hotel itself.

“We’re extremely excited. We think that the food and the service are top notch, and that Sean and his team have done such a beautiful job with the design,” says Seich. “I think this is this space is going to feel so special, and it fits. It really just fits right in at this neighborhood on this landmark property.”


Café Chelsea opens on July 14 for dinner daily beginning at 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. from Sunday through Wednesday and until midnight on Thursday through Saturday. Breakfast and lunch service is forthcoming.

Ellie Plass is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.