Behind the counter, dishes like boeuf bourguignon and casseroles of coq au vin simmer over low heat. Typical French food. Past the counter and into the store, freezers filled with frozen food line the walls. Believe it or not, this is also typical French food.
Welcome to Babeth’s Feast Upper West Side. The “Picard’s of New York“, as the French expats call it in reference to a quality frozen foods store in France. Like Picard’s, Babeth’s Feast sells premium frozen foods ranging from full meals to meats to sauces. And the inspiration for the store? France.
It’s true. The country with a reputation for having a highly refined and sophisticated palate loves frozen food. “The French shop daily for fresh ingredients, but they also frequent another type of specialty store stocked exclusively with frozen food,” writes founder Elisabeth de Kergolay. “This ready-made pantry enables them to eat incredibly well all week long.” But this isn’t just any frozen food. No Tostino’s Pizza Rolls, Hot Pockets, or Bird’s Eye Fish Sticks—those are the McDonald’s of frozen food. France’s frozen meals often require additional ingredients or must be prepared in an oven (no more cheese-and-meat splattered microwaves!). Frozen food in France is healthier, more filling, and less guilt-inducing.
Their shelves stocked with racks of lamb, veal dishes, leek gratin, and croissants, the Upper West Side store opened in January, just three years after launching their first on the Upper East Side. But their rising popularity doesn’t stop there: they just signed a lease in Brooklyn on Court Street. The mastermind behind the small company’s fast-paced growth is CEO Frank Matz. He joined the team in 2015, having already worked as the chairman of Dean & Deluca, the produce manager at Harrods in London, and the co-founder of the café Maison Camus.
Although the Babeth’s Feast on the Upper West Side is smaller than its twin on the Upper East Side, it has an essential feature that the East Side one does not: two counters encircled by six seats where shoppers can sample foods and eat on location. The shift to serving food in addition to selling it was easy for Babeth’s Feast. Cost stays low because they don’t need a kitchen to prepare the food, only ovens and casserole dishes. The addition was obvious for Matz. “In an Apple store, there’s immediate interaction between consumer and product,” explains Matz. “A dining space can do the same. People who eat in the store will be able to purchase products right after.”
Having opened a store in Los Angeles after launching in New York, Babeth’s Feast aims to expand outside of the Big Apple. For now, the brand prioritizes e-commerce, which, according to Matz, is their biggest seller. “We are not a conglomerate,” he adds, “we’re only a small startup with ten employees per shop. Everyone here gets their hands dirty.” Dirty with coq au vin, that is.