"Sorry, indoor dining is full. The wait will be about twenty minutes,” said a hustling Michael Touchard to eager patrons outside of his restaurant on a beautiful May afternoon.
Mike's French bistro Le Baratin is nestled just beyond Jefferson Market Garden in Greenwich Village, and aside from Touchard's accent, Le Baratin's French influence is apparent from the Gallic roosters, FC Lorient scarves and Fleur-de-lis adorning the walls of the restaurant. The clinking of wine glasses, smell of steak and brie, and hum of patrons combining with the busy Manhattan street signal a return of quintessential summer in Manhattan.
NYCFC.com profiled Touchard and Le Baratin to kick off our latest partnership profiling local bars, pubs, and restaurants. We discuss Mike’s love of soccer, history with NYCFC, and where he sees the business going in the future.
Tommie Battle: Can you tell me how long you've been in business here in Greenwich Village?
Michael Touchard: June will be eight years. June 9th. So eight years in June that this location in The Village.
TB: Has Le Baratin always had a relationship with football?
MT: Yeah, I mean, I grew up playing football. My dad was actually a pro in France in the 60s and 70s. It's in the blood.
TB: Really? What club?
MT: FC Lorient. A team in Brittany, France.
TB: With that said, how did you establish a relationship with New York City Football Club?
MT: So, I'm gonna be completely honest. 6-7 years ago, we were a big Red Bulls restaurant, That older generation used to come here, and one of the players who's not in the league anymore, actually brought (Maxime) Chanot, and from that day on, it became an NYCFC bar. The Red Bulls jersey came down and it became a chain reaction. So they went from having one Red Bulls guy here to all the NYCFC guys here. So it was a good change.
TB: So with the energy that New York City Football Club brought to Le Baratin did you notice an influx of more supporters visiting?
MT: Yes, I think it's also because some of the players Instagram or tweet with a picture of the food, and within a couple of days, you always have people showing up. "Oh my God, you know, this guy was here. This guy was here." So, 100% it definitely brought us some customers.
TB: What's one of the more memorable moments that you've maybe had with the players?
MT: Two years ago in November when they won the Eastern Conference. The whole team showed up here with a bus, and we celebrated them being Champions.
TB: Absolutely. So that was 2019, and we know how 2020 was. How were you able to keep the business and also maintain your sanity last year?
MT: Maintaining sanity was not easy but I went the route where I didn't close down. I just stayed open and we were doing deliveries and drinks to-go, and then during the summer, we got some tables outside so it helped a little. But it was a hustle, I got to keep everybody in the kitchen, my waiters, so I consider myself lucky because a lot of other people in the industry had it hard.
TB: So looking at 2021 and beyond, do you want to keep this as a family business and keep the essence of football throughout?
MT: It's all family, and there's going to always be football influence no matter how big or how small. There will always be some sort of football, we do the Euros, we do World Cup, and Champions League, and of course NYCFC.