Cafe Sabarsky (New York, NY)

Two weekends ago, we did another day trip to New York City, courtesy of the Dartmouth After Hours program. This time, we were unabashed tourists, and decided that the best way to spend our morning was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (which we rather enjoyed, and this was my first visit there in 30+ years). After a morning at the Met, it was decidedly time for lunch, so we headed across the street to the Neue Galerie. The Neue Galerie is a neat little museum featuring early twentieth-century German and Austrian art and design. And, more imporantly, it’s home to two Viennese-style cafes: Cafe Sabarsky (upstairs), and Cafe Fledermaus (downstairs), both serving up the same menu of Viennese coffee and German sausages. This time, however, Cafe Fledermaus was closed for a special event, so we had to wait in line for Cafe Sabarsky.

The Nueue Galerie used to be the home of Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt, and walking into Cafe Sabarsky, you get a really interesting mix of “Old Money Elegance” and “Viennese Cafe”, with a rather impressive number of small round cafe tables crammed into an elegantly appointed room with a large coffee bar, and a white-jacketed waiters running about with pastries, silver coffee trays, and dishes of food. And really, those waiters rushing about with the silver coffee trays? That’s really what you want: Viennese coffee. A few shots of espresso topped with a rather large mound of really good whipped cream (the good stuff, not the crap in the spray cans) and a dusting of chocolate, it’s one of the spruced up forms of coffee that I actually like (mostly, I’m a “black coffee” guy, preferring my coffee to be coffee flavored). And Cafe Sabarsky does a particularly good job with both coffee and hot chocolate drinks.

But it’s not just about the coffee, since Cafe Sabarsky has a full lunch menu as well, ranging from the simple (soups and salads), to modest lunches (wursts served with pretzels, for example), to elaborate (wienerschnitzels, spaetzles, and goulashes). Looking it over, both the spaetzles and the schnitzels at other tables were quite impressive, but we weren’t all that hungry, eventually opting for some simple wurst dishes, myself opting for the weisswurst (I learned the joys of weisswurst when visiting Munich a few years back, and love it when I go someplace that can do it justice), while Carol opted for the Käsekrainer (smoked bratwurst with cheddar).

We rather enjoyed both sausage dishes. My weisswurst was everything I was hoping for, with two moist sausages rich in veal, pork, and cardamom flavors. Nicely paired with a perfectly-done Bavarian-style soft pretzel and some good sweet German mustard, and this was the perfect late lunch entree for me. Carol did quite well with the Käsekrainer as well, with two very nicely smoked bratwurst with plentiful pockets of ooozing cheddar cheese, paired with a nicely done German potato salad.

But where Sabarsky really shines is the desserts (after all, it is a cafe). Looking over the many dessert options, I opted for the Kafferoulade, a roulade with a coffee mousse cream, and it was a really nicely done roulade: the mousse was more creamy than sticky, with a nice strong coffee note, and the cake firm and not at all soaked by the mouse. Carol, meanwhile, opted for the Rehrücken: chocolate marzipan cake with orange confiture, and the result was also a rather nice, firm chocolate and marzipan cake with rich layers of orange confiture. Sitting back and enjoying these desserts while finishing our coffees was a great way to finish a late lunch.

Overall, I rather liked Sabarsky, they’ve really captured most of the feeling of a good European cafe, and have a pleasant array of light entrees, coffees, and desserts. About the only issue I can raise is that Sabarsky is a little bit on the pricey side, but being across the street from the Met in Manhattan, you’ve got to expect a bit of that anyways. I’ll definitely keep it on my list of cafes that I like to enjoy in New York City.

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