I’ve wanted to try Cafe Katja since they opened (I recalled it being recent, though I learned they’ve actually been there about 2 years now) but somehow have never made my way there. Perhaps because I knew it was supposed to be small, is most known as a spot to hit later at night, and nothing makes me more cranky than trying to grab a bite to eat late at night when you’re ready to get down to business and being asked to wait. My typically scant patience really becomes nonexistent at that point.
Somehow though on this particular Thursday evening, we were on our way back from Obliterati at R Bar, one of the final big social blow-outs for Social Media Week NYC and were very close to Orchard Street – so I recommended we try to stop in. It was around 10:30pm, and the seating area was packed. However, the server was quick to state repeatedly that they could easily accommodate our table of five if we could hang tight a few minutes. We did, it came to pass, and we were soon seated in the prime seat in the main window for the restaurant. The restaurant has a nicer menu, but is essentially an Austian bar tiptoeing to that restaurant line, not prepared to give up the character to fully cross. Perfect for a late night stop.
We ordered a couple of pretzels for the table, which we then re-ordered once they arrived. Aunt Annie’s ain’t got nothing on these. Big, fluffly, and just the right amount of salty. They brought out the German mustard to the table, but we abstained for the most part in favor of the red pepper butter spread and horseradish which came out specifically for the pretzels. At $3.50, this was a great value. I’d be willing to come back and sit at the bar just to get another one of these. Perfect.
I was undecided as to what to order when I decided to try one of their wurst plates, going with the emmentaler sausage. It came served with savoy cabbage and quark dumplings. Looking back, I was thinking of emmentaler cheese (nope, no cheese in this sausage) and did not even know what quark dumplings (though I do now). I was definitely hoping to get a dish with spätzle involved and thankfully the quark dumplings helped me to get my cheese fix. The softer yet flavorful taste of quark made for a perfect pairing with the more strong flavor of the emmentaler sausage.
I tried a bite of my friends beef goulash and spätzle. I’m a big fan of Hungarian paprika, and actually thought a bit more of it in this dish would have made it evern better. The shreaded beef though was nicely prepared and happily the spätzle more than delivered. If you’re over in the Lower East Side, I recommend stopping by. Warning though, if you’re looking for a romantic end to the evening, this might not be your ideal destination. But then again, who knows!
Cafe Katja – 79 Orchard Street (at Broome) – 212.219.9545