Thursday, August 7, 2014

You’ll Fall In Love With The Love Café and Bar

By Anne M. Raso

The one type of restaurant Manhattan has a shortage of these days are ones with a comfy feel—at The Love Café and Bar at 24th Street and Second Avenue, you’ll feel like you are in your grandmother’s living room although owner Margarita Abramov has pretty great taste in the unusual items that decorate the walls, including old window sills and Russian folk art. There are flowing white curtains on the front windows and a “no rush” atmosphere. Margarita’s husband and daughter can be seen hanging out there, and Abramov—a native of Odessa in the Soviet Union—kind of serves as a den mother for a large group of Russian models who miss food from the old country. It’s great to know that foodies do not have to trek all the way to Brighton Beach for “real deal” Russian eats these days.

Abramov is quick to point out that the food served at The Love Café and Bar is simply “the best of Europe” but most patrons are there to test out her Russian recipes which date back 200 hundred years in her family. Abramov first tested the waters of the restaurant biz three or four years ago with Sara’s Café, a crepe restaurant in St. Augustine that was named after her grandmother Sara and was a local favorite. When her husband got transferred up here for work, they found a cozy location in Gramercy Park and decided to make more than just crepes—although the crepes at The Love Café and Bar has become legendary in just a few short months. Prices are inexpensive to moderate at The Love Café and Bar and portions are large, but be sure to check out the drink menu before you start selecting your food. Abramov is a coffee and tea expert, and The Love Café and Bar serves types you’ve never had along with terrific Italian sodas. They also serve beer and wine but do not have a liquor license, so no hard alcohol is served. I started out with the Mango Iced Tea ($2.25) which was the best sugar-free fruit flavored ice tea I have ever had. The mango taste is strong in a good way and you will not miss the sugar. I then sampled two salads that are done in a very traditional Russian style—the Olivier Salad (a vegetarian salad that consists of finely chopped carrots, pickles, fresh dill, and hardboiled eggs. Potatoes and peas) and Vingret Salad (a wonderful mélange of cooked beets, sauerkraut, carrots, onions, scallions, pickles, peas, potatoes, dill and wine vinegar). Both salads are a reasonable $8.95 and two diners can easily share them.
Chicken Liver Pate and Dark Rye Bread
I had to taste Abramov’s real Russian soups, and got to try both her hot and cold borscht knocked the ball out of the park, as they say. The creamy cold soup was my favorite and it had tons of chunks of fresh beats that sat on the bottom. It was well worth the effort to dig to the bottom of the bowl for them. The Love Café and Bar also makes a killer classic French onion soup that is overloaded with oozy hot melted Gruyere on the top of the bow. The hot Borscht was served very hot and had wonderful chunks of beef in it. All soups are $3.95 for a cup and $4.95 for a bowl (a bowl will definitely be enough to fill you up at lunch time). As a prelude to their entrée, many diners order Chicken Liver Pate ($8.95) served with homemade dark rye bread. It will make you forget about any of the famous delis that serve this legend of Russian-Jewish cuisine and the portion size is a generous 1 1/2 cups. Pierogies are also appetizer favorites and The Love Café and Bar perhaps has the greatest variety of homemade pierogies in the entire city. I opted for the classic Potato And Fried Onion Pierogies ($8.50) and topped them with sour cream. I could tell that they had been homemade on the premises only an hour or two earlier and they are something I will return to The Love Café and Bar for—and get a double order next time! I tried both the classic steamed Stuffed Cabbage ($14.95) which is filled to the brim with a chopped pork and chicken mixture and served in a very light tomato-based sauce with Basmati rice, and Chicken Kiev ($15.50), which is done in the classic breaded recipe but is served with a buttery vegetable mélange that includes the skinniest and most tender asparagus I have ever had. Melted butter and herbs just come running out of the rolled up chicken—and that’s just how I like it!
Vingret (Beet Salad)
For dessert I tried several crepes but fell in love with the chocolate sauce drenched crepe called La’Belle which is served with vanilla ice cream ($9.50) and a warm cinnamon apple crepe with two layers of caramel sauce known as the Crepe Pomme Caramel ($8.95). The crepes are served tender and hot, covered with confectioners’ sugar--and many people show up at The Love Café and Bar for after theater desserts. It goes without saying that these crepes (made with Grandma Sara’s recipe, of course) are world-class. The café also has savory crepes, which serve as lunch or dinner entrees.

The Love Café and Bar welcomes families and provides an interesting cross section of diners. Even though everything is made from scratch (other than the non-crepe desserts, anyway), it comes out to your table in a short time. Abramov—who resembles Gina Lollobrigida in her heyday—is a warm person who comes over to great every diner. After going there a few times, she and her staff will remember your fave dishes and how you like them prepared—they are just very considerate people. Pardon the pun, but there’s a lot of love at The Love Café and Bar.

The Love Café and Bar
430 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10010
(212) 779-7300
Cuisine: Russian

Love Cafe and Bar on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...