Restaurant in New York

Café Bar/Restaurant

When the cold starts to bite, the snow starts to sprinkle or the rain starts to batter, I can’t think of a better place to seek shelter than at café Moto in South Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

This intimate and inconspicuous gem is right next to the Hewes stop on the J and M trains making it a simple journey from Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Situated within the acute angle made by Broadway and Division Avenue, this flatiron-style triangular building might be hard to miss unless you know it’s there. The only thing that might give it away is a black vintage bicycle hanging high up on the Broadway side of the establishment. Moto means motorcycle in Spanish, after all.

Once inside, you’re instantly warmed and transported to a 1920s New York speakeasy or a cozy, mood-lit brasserie in Paris. Moto classifies itself as a café, but it’s really more of a small bar/restaurant. If you arrive after 9 p.m., watch out for the band on your right as soon as you walk in. It’s a tight squeeze, but well worth it for the romantic ambiance.

An attentive waitress will immediately greet you with a welcoming smile and ask if you’re dining or simply having drinks. The wait for a table might be 15 minutes or more depending on the time of day. Evenings tend to be crowded.

The best spot to sit at the bar is at the apex. If you get there before the dinner rush, you just might get it. You’re literally at the center of all the action. You can chat with David the nice bartender, sneak a peek at people’s dishes to help you decide what to order, or spy on the couples and see how well their date is going.  

Even before you settle in your seat, you can’t stop your eyes from wandering to all the treasures strategically placed throughout the establishment. From the rusty light fixtures to the old paintings on the scruffy walls, every item has its own story making your mind reminisce about your trip to France or inspire you to move to New York if you don’t already live here. My favorites are the circular red exit lights, the New York Immigrants lifesaver and the wooden zebra puppet. I notice a new treasure every time I visit. The bathroom itself is also a must-see. It feels like you’re in a cruise ship of a Humphrey Bogart film.     

Personally, I mainly just go for drinks and maybe dessert. They have a simple, yet distinct selection of wines and beers. I normally get a glass of red or prosecco. The Black Velvet beer cocktail, which consists of Guinness mixed with champagne, is popular with the lads.

If I’m catching up with a galfriend we might share Moto’s famous date cake served with warm toffee sauce and fresh cream. Moto is a great place for a date, so for the longest time I assumed the date cake was only for people on dates to share and not a cake made of dates. Live and learn. The homemade honey hazelnut chocolate fudge paired with a glass of sherry is also mouthwatering.   

If you do happen to be on a dinner date, Moto has you covered. It serves a delectable seasonal menu for lunch, brunch and dinner. Start with a whole steamed artichoke with saffron aioli or steamed asparagus with a poached egg, upland cress, grated pecorino cheese, hen of wood mushrooms and a garlic crostini. Moto also offers a selection of fresh and creative salads, including smoked trout and a hardboiled egg; green beans and Kalamata olives, green apple, Boston lettuce and goat cheese crostinis; or arugula with blood oranges and pistachios.

The entrées are quite the treat. The steamed Prince Edward Island (PEI) mussels served with plum tomatoes, leeks, chick pea and paprika spread on focaccia toast are a popular choice. Moto also offers braised Portuguese octopus and chorizo-stuffed quail, as well as more traditional dishes including roasted lamb and chicken. For simpler yet, savory selections, try the Swiss Alps mac & cheese with homemade apple sauce or the carnaroli risotto.

When the weather outside is frightful, you’ll never want to leave Moto’s cozy comforts. So nestle in and order another round!

JoAnn DeLuna is a Brooklyn based travel writer and reporter

Moto on Urbanspoon

Moto Inc on Foodio54

Reviewer's Rating
Cuisine American
Clientele Local hipsters, internationals and few tourists who want to do un-touristy things
Restaurant good for Couples, Romance, Meeting up with friends
Cost per head Medium
Dress Code Smart Casual, Casual
Dining Options Brunch, Lunch, Dinner
Accept Reservations No

Additional Ambience Information

Moto is an excellent place for a date. The dim lighting and the live jazz music make it romantic, yet you can still hear your date speak if you move in close. Moto is small, however, so it can get crowded and means you may be standing for a while if you show up during the dinner rush.

Additional Price Comments

Starters from $6; Salads from $10; Entrees from $12; Desserts from $7. They do drinks specials until 8pm and accept most major credit cards.

Last updated on 10-08-2013

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