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Cafe Katja


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#1 weinoo

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 07:03 AM

My wife and I stopped in here last night (after deciding very quickly we didn't want to deal with the hordes at Bacaro). Lower Orchard is becoming quite a little restaurant row, with Katja, a new Mediterranean/North African place and a newish Thai place right next to each other. Katja is at 79 Orchard, and we had a most enjoyable, and quite unique meal.

First off, they actually have a "mini" cocktail program - this is the spot that used to house Bocadito (?), before an unfortunate fire ended their short run, so the liquor license was already in place. I was drinking beer, but the cocktail my wife had, a Violet Femme, was well crafted - (Gin, dry vermouth, creme de violette and bitters) and nice and dry. They have Rittenhouse behind the miniscule bar, and jiggers - two thumbs up in my book.

We started with a dry smoked sausage called Landjaeger, from Austria, which came with house made pickles - sort of like jerky, but smokier and more luscious. Along with some house made liverwurst that was quickly devoured. And a smoked trout salad, basically nice hunks of trout which came with cucumbers dressed in a lemony sour cream - could this be bad? We didn't try the pretzel ($2) or the pretzel with two dips ($3) - but I was told they come frozen from Germany...they looked good at the table next to ours.

For mains, I had beef goulash with spaetzle - big chunks of beef, nice and tender - I confess, I could eat this all day. There's a spaetzle main course as well - just the spaetzle with cheese and chives. Our other main was the house made bratwurst and sauerkraut - nice, rustic bratwurst and sauerkraut with a hint of smokiness from bacon.

A really interesting beer list - served in various sizes (my glass was $3), along with a great looking wine list - including a number of Austrian and German wines that go so well with this type of food.

Most items on the menu are under $10 - there's an assorted sausage plate that's $14, and my beef goulash was the most expensive item at $16. Katja is probably not a bad place to build a base if you're making your way up Ludlow on a bar crawl. Nor a bad way to end the evening either.
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#2 Luckylies

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 07:42 AM

I've been looking to try this place after looking on menupages for a restaurant with weisswurst... It's Mediterranien and North African? Odd menu...
does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

#3 phaelon56

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 09:21 AM

Mediterranien and North African? Odd menu...

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Not really. Spain, Provence and Italy are on the northern side of the Mediterranean while Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya (and perhaps a bit of Egypt?) are on the southern shore.

We had a very cool place here in Syracuse for awhile that had exactly such a menu - mostly Spanish and Moroccan influenced dishes with a small and large plates offering. There were other Mediterranean influences as well and it really worked nicely.

But alas... this is a conservative food town that's usually ten years behind major metro areas in terms of food trends. The owner was unable to sustain enough customer volume to be profitable and switched over to a Mexican / Latin American / Caribbean themed menu at a more moderate price point (and it has been reasonably successful).

#4 ludja

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 09:42 AM

Thanks for the report, weinoo!

Did you notice if they had any desserts on offer?
"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"


#5 weinoo

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 11:13 AM

I've been looking to try this place after looking on menupages for a restaurant with weisswurst... It's Mediterranien and North African? Odd menu...

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No, no, no - Katja is an Austrian/German place with weisswurst on the menu - the Mediterranean/North African place is a couple of doors up Orchard (#85) and is called Elyssa Dido. Menu looks pretty good there too, though we haven't tried it.

There are two desserts - we tried the linzer torte mit schlag - quite good. There's also a warm chocolate cake.
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#6 zEli173

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 01:44 PM

I had the goulash as take out last week. Definitely not a fair way to judge, but I wasn't thrilled with the goulash itself (and as take out goes, goulash is the sort of thing that should hold up well). About half the pieces were on the tough/dry side. Not terribly so, but not ideal. The other pieces had a little more fat in them and I enjoyed them much more. in general, I thought the dish needed a little something to wake up the flavor. The spaetzle on the other hand, was absolutely top notch.

I look forward to actually eating in the restaurant. There are lots of other items on the menu I'm eager to try.

#7 weinoo

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 01:59 PM

I had the goulash as take out last week.  Definitely not a fair way to judge, but I wasn't thrilled with the goulash itself (and as take out goes, goulash is the sort of thing that should hold up well).  About half the pieces were on the tough/dry side.  Not terribly so, but not ideal.  The other pieces had a little more fat in them and I enjoyed them much more.  in general, I thought the dish needed a little something to wake up the flavor.  The spaetzle on the other hand, was absolutely top notch.

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Actually, I thought very similarly - basically, I thought the beef was under salted. The spaetzle absolutely rocked. My wife thought I was crazy, but what else is new?
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#8 Nathan

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 11:29 AM

I like this place...quite a bit.

the food is better than it has to be (although hardly earth-shattering), and the cocktail list shows some panache...and they actually use jiggers.

prices are very gentle.

#9 weinoo

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 12:40 PM

We were there again this past Monday night, and it's a very nice neighborhood place - as Nathan noted, quite gently priced.

My wife had the cheese-stuffed, bacon wrapped, griddled hot dog (it comes with potato salad for about $8) - which was awesome, while I devoured the spaetzel. For an appetizer, we had a special - the house made country pate - very good, with celeriac, pickled veg, spicy mustard and rye toasts.

There was also a special dessert (apple strudel) which went untried.

We had wanted to go back for a while, but every time we walk by the place is jammed, but we were able to snag a few seats at the bar and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves with the friendly service and food that virtually no other place in Manhattan that I know of is doing.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#10 Nathan

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Posted 03 April 2008 - 12:50 PM

this is one place where I'll actually get dessert. well-made..not very sweet.

#11 weinoo

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 04:47 AM

At Katja (which has become a neighborhood go-to place for my wife and me) the other night, they have a seasonal white asparagus (spargel) menu. We tried one of the 6 or 7 offerings - in a ramp sauce, which was quite tasty. Offered in both appetizer and full plate portions, a couple of giant stalks practically swimming in a pool of ramp sauce.

Additionally, the menu has been expanding over the months...there is a very good house-smoked (hot) salmon dish, an Austrian meatball dish (haven't tried it) and a pork belly reuben that will easily raise your bad cholesterol by 10%.

Prices still as gentle as ever (the imported from Germany pretzel has gone up 50 cents, but the bratwurst and kraut remain $8) and the service is always friendly and helpful.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#12 Steve R.

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 11:27 AM

At Katja (which has become a neighborhood go-to place for my wife and me) the other night, they have a seasonal white asparagus (spargel) menu.  We tried one of the 6 or 7 offerings - in a ramp sauce, which was quite tasty.  Offered in both appetizer and full plate portions, a couple of giant stalks practically swimming in a pool of ramp sauce.

Additionally, the menu has been expanding over the months...there is a very good house-smoked (hot) salmon dish, an Austrian meatball dish (haven't tried it) and a pork belly reuben that will easily raise your bad cholesterol by 10%.

Prices still as gentle as ever (the imported from Germany pretzel has gone up 50 cents, but the bratwurst and kraut remain $8) and the service is always friendly and helpful.

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Sampled the array of after dinner drinks yet? The owner is an expert (at least I think he is). Although one that he was particularly proud of wont go down my gullet ever again, most range from interesting to excellent. Gentle prices on these as well.

Edited by Steve R., 01 June 2009 - 11:28 AM.


#13 weinoo

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 12:13 PM

Sampled the array of after dinner drinks yet?  The owner is an expert (at least I think he is).  Although one that he was particularly proud of wont go down my gullet ever again, most range from interesting to excellent.  Gentle prices on these as well.

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I've had a few, Steve. One in particular tasted like a pine forest. A burning pine forest headed down my throat - we mostly avoid them now, except when they force 'em on us!
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#14 Sneakeater

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 12:22 PM

Oddly, I drink that one (Zirbenz) at home all the time.

#15 Pan

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 02:49 PM

Sampled the array of after dinner drinks yet?  The owner is an expert (at least I think he is).  Although one that he was particularly proud of wont go down my gullet ever again, most range from interesting to excellent.  Gentle prices on these as well.

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Do you remember any of the names of those drinks?

#16 weinoo

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 03:50 AM

Sampled the array of after dinner drinks yet?  The owner is an expert (at least I think he is).  Although one that he was particularly proud of wont go down my gullet ever again, most range from interesting to excellent.  Gentle prices on these as well.

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Do you remember any of the names of those drinks?

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I would call them after dinner liqueurs or digestifs - for instance, here's the web site for Sneak's fave. The stuff is 70% abv.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#17 Pan

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 08:35 AM

I would call them after dinner liqueurs or digestifs - for instance, here's the web site for Sneak's fave. The stuff is 70% abv.

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Yeow!

#18 Robin Meredith

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 11:28 AM

We attended a really spectacular wine dinner at Cafe Katja a few months back - I didn't report on it at the time because it was a special menu that seemed considerably more ambitious than their regular menu, but it was certainly the best event of its kind I've attended recently and possibly the most satisfying meal I've had this year. If they're starting to stretch out a little and expand their regular menu I could easily see this becoming a destination spot based on the meal we had that night.

#19 weinoo

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 11:56 AM

We attended a really spectacular wine dinner at Cafe Katja a few months back - I didn't report on it at the time because it was a special menu that seemed considerably more ambitious than their regular menu, but it was certainly the best event of its kind I've attended recently and possibly the most satisfying meal I've had this year.  If they're starting to stretch out a little and expand their regular menu I could easily see this becoming a destination spot based on the meal we had that night.

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Yes, and the biggest problem with that is that they're already stretched out - in terms of space, that is.

And that's also what was so good about the special spargel menu - the ability to be able to try some pretty unique dishes yet still in the Katja setting at the Katja price point.
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#20 Steve R.

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 02:28 PM

Sampled the array of after dinner drinks yet?  The owner is an expert (at least I think he is).  Although one that he was particularly proud of wont go down my gullet ever again, most range from interesting to excellent.  Gentle prices on these as well.

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I've had a few, Steve. One in particular tasted like a pine forest. A burning pine forest headed down my throat - we mostly avoid them now, except when they force 'em on us!

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That's exactly the one I was thinking (shuddering) about.

Oddly, I drink that one (Zirbenz) at home all the time.

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Now, why dont I find that surprising???? Sneak... werent you there with us the night several of us got half a dozen or so tastes of the owner's favorites, including the Pine-Sol, after dinner? Maybe not, since I dont remember anyone actually liking that one. "Zirbenz"?

#21 Sneakeater

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 03:02 PM

Noooooooooooooooo.

I WISH I were there.

#22 weinoo

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 02:05 PM

Dinner here last night - sat alone at the bar. Weisswurst with a pretzel was on special for $8. Along with a side of potato/cucumber salad and 1/2 liter of Bittburger lager, my bill was under $20. Good stuff.

I was comped a taste of a dessert - a single caramelized strawberry in an elderflower cream - one of the owners from Austria has a great gift with the elderflower, since he has family on land surrounded by elderflower bushes (trees?).
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#23 weinoo

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 11:37 AM

Cafe Katja was featured in the January issue of Bon Appetit, and if it's possible, it's even harder to get a seat now, but it doesn't stop me from making it a semi-weekly or so dinner place. They easily have one of the nicest staffs in the city,

At Katja last night, one of the dishes on the "specials" menu was a pork shank. So, after our usual starter of a couple of these, the shank was ordered. A pretzel is a pretzel, I guess (though this pretzel comes from Germany), and one of the great things about Katja's pretzel is that it's served with a side of butter and liptauer cheese; that liptauer is one of the recipes available in the Bon Appetit I mentioned above.

2010-02 Katja Pretzel.jpg

Then came the pork shank...about the size of my thigh, it was served with some lovely roasted carrots atop a bed of creamy polenta. Darkly caramelized, chewy and tender at the same time, and quite delicious. I wasn't able to finish this monster, and took the shank home where it currently is flavoring a pot of lentil soup. Not a light meal by any means, but delicious nonetheless. And please excuse the lousy cell-phone photo.

2010-02 Katja Pork Shank.jpg
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#24 weinoo

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 07:11 AM

Cafe Katja recently reopened after a summer of renovations, which involved their doubling in size. They did a great job on the newly expanded space, and the kitchen, which is now fired by gas as opposed to being all-electric, has allowed for an expanded menu as well.

Food remains excellent, wine list is unique and they know how to pull beer properly - every beer even has its own glass.

Here's the blog I recently wrote about my local gem.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#25 weinoo

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 10:58 AM

Getting a good lunch on the lower east side will be easier starting next week, as it looks like Cafe Katja will be starting lunch service on Wednesday.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#26 weinoo

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 09:09 PM

A tipster told me Cafe Katja is going to be getting a little bit bigger.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?