NOT JUST ANY SANDWICH, DEAR READERS!
In 1996, David Bowie became a regular at French Roast, the flagship Greenwich Village brasserie that closed suddenly this summer. “He wouldn't even order,” said Luis Arce Mota, a dishwasher there at the time who also cooked (it was the '90s, lots of boundaries were being blurred). “He would just walk in, nod at our hostess...and would sit and smoke and wait for his croque monsieur. He knew we knew it's what he wanted.” The sandwich, in which Mota mixed beer along with the gruyere, became a soft-spoken ceremony between the two men.
Mota went on to a career that included Union Square Cafe, Bouley and the private Upper East Side Colony Club. This month, he soft-opened La Contenta Oeste (an expansion of his La Contenta) in the former French Roast space. The dynamic menu is a tribute to his native Mazatlán and includes pre-Hispanic Mexican fare, bold cocktails, ancestral spirits and a robust roster of Mexican wines.
And Bowie's croque, off-menu, for $15.
There's no getting around how deliciously strange it is to sit amid the quasi–Aztec nouveau decor and dive into this greasy French sandwich among all the Mexican dinners and drinks being enjoyed in this colonial-era corner of town. The sandwich is an ideal tribute to the Thin White Duke: romantically mismatched, sumptuous and daring. We can be heroes, just for one meal.