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Opening Hours
Today: 12–10pm
Thurs:
12–10pm
Fri:
12–10pm
Sat:
4–10pm
Sun:
Closed
Mon:
12–10pm
Tues:
12–10pm
Location
245 West 29th Street
Neighborhoods
OCabanon 1 French Chelsea

When I visited OCabanon in the summer of 2016, it was in the middle of the European Soccer Championship and the whole restaurant was decked out in French flags and each staff member sported a French jersey, including Armel Joly, one of the three brothers-in-law who own the restaurant - which they have dubbed a “cave à manger,” a term that means “cellar to eat.”

Armel explained that he and the other owners, Alexandre Mur and Michael Faure, were vacationing together during the summer of 2011 with their respective wives/sisters when they came up with the idea of opening a restaurant. From there, the process accelerated and they signed a lease in Chelsea in December of the same year. As for the name, it comes from a piece of family history. Armel pointed to a picture of his grandmother-in-law on the wall, telling me that she had a house in the south of France in which the whole family has had many happy memories. In the house, the kitchen had a tiny pantry off to the side with a small refrigerator. Though “cabanon” is a word that directly translates to “shed,” the grandmother used the word to describe her little pantry. Every time someone came to visit her, she would say something along the lines of, “It’s so good to see you! Let me see if there’s something to eat in my cabanon.” In French, “in the cabanon,” is “au Cabanon,” which phonetically gave the brothers the name of their restaurant.

The cabanon in the south of France often held delicious, fresh food including homemade risotto, mozzarella, and dorado. “She was crazy about fish,” Armel informed me, adding that the restaurant always tries to have one type of fish on the menu in her honor. In addition to dorado, the restaurant does an excellent nicoise salad with fresh tuna. As for other popular plates, Cedric, the wait staff captain, mentioned that the burger, stuffed short ribs, and cherry tomato tarte tatin were frequently ordered. Armel pointed out that the wine is also a “very important focus,” with most bottles coming from small producers.

Armel, who was a banker in France before following his family’s dream in opening the restaurant, is very pleased with what he and his brothers have achieved. “We are very lucky, very happy about this,” he said. “What we have received from the American people is something that surprises me everyday.” Americans, I learned, make up 90% of OCabanon’s regulars. A large number of them discovered the restaurant from a surprising source: since Billy Joel began performing one concert each month in 2014 at nearby Madison Square Garden, OCabanon has been packed to the rafters on those specific evenings. The phenomenon, which Armel describes as “totally amazing,” has allowed him to promote France and French cuisine to even more people... And, of course, soccer - for the space has a side room with a giant screen for watching the games. "We are combining the best of France and the best of New York,” he stated.

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