Manhattan’s Lower East Side is a spunky, fun neighborhood full of cute small businesses and people from all walks of life. Many of the people out and about on the street appeared to be relatively young, each with their own unique style and flair. In the midst of the sea of twenty-somethings sits Cafe Katja, an Austrian restaurant with a whole lot to offer. From carefully curated decorations to a diverse menu, the restaurant cuts no corners when it comes to providing a great experience.
My first time going to Cafe Katja, I was on an Honors College trip, so I just assumed it would be a quick stop to dine at before continuing the day’s adventures, but it was so much more than that.
Immediately in front of the door is a full-service bar, and although I did not order any drinks from it, it is certainly eye-catching. As the centerpiece of the restaurant, it is adorned with bottles from around the world, fitting within the cosmopolitan vibe of the neighborhood. Plenty of chandeliers with warm lights hang down from the ceiling and make the space inviting, and would undoubtedly contribute to a romantic scene in the evening.
When my school group and I visited the restaurant, we were the only patrons, which was especially surprising given it was a Saturday and pedestrians dotted the sidewalks. However, this was to our advantage, as the staff promptly greeted us and led us to a long table by the window.
Throughout the meal, I found myself alternating between conversing, staring at the rustic decor in all corners of the restaurant and simply people-watching.
The brunch menu at Cafe Katja is very diverse, with European offerings such as beef gulasch and bratwurst, as well as pancakes and burgers for those with a more Americanized palate. As with most of my dining experiences, I often wait until the waiter is standing over me to decide on what to order, and Cafe Katja was no different.
Practically every item stood out to me, but I decided on the scrambled eggs as a safe option. After only a short wait, the restaurant staff brought our food out to us, each plate a work of art. Even though my scrambled eggs, toast and potatoes were not the most complex dish, the presentation made me feel like a sophisticated traveler.
The eggs were slightly on the runnier side, but perfectly seasoned and very filling. The toast was very crisp, and the butter paired very nicely with it. However, the highlight of the meal was the potatoes, which were piping hot and had a crisp exterior. Not that I’m any sort of brunch connoisseur, but most brunch servings are very heavy and make me want to sleep through the afternoon.
However, this meal was an exception, as it was filling, but provided me with enough energy for a Tenement Museum tour and plenty of walking through the neighboring streets.
Although the food at Cafe Katja is great, my favorite thing about it are the large windows, which provide a great view of the street outside. A weekend in the city means people dressed in their coolest outfits, so sitting by the window was as close as I’ve gotten to a real fashion show.
Cafe Katja provides a calm yet entertaining dining experience only steps from the Williamsburg Bridge and some of the best thrift stores in the city.
They offer a lunch and dinner menu, but their weekend brunch is a great way to eat a quality meal without the mayhem and crowds. Fans of Austrian and American foods will have plenty of options to choose from, so if in the Lower East Side, definitely give it a try!