Indian Road Café
New American Comfort Food
600 W. 218th Street at Indian Road
212-942-7451 / indianroadcafe.com
“The Last Café on the Only Road” – A Review of Indian Road Café
BY CLAIRE McCURDY
Indian Road Café, the last café on the only road in Manhattan, is a show-stopper. There is just nothing else like it in the city. Indian Road Café is set in a part of New York where vestpocket, postage stamp, tiny and minute storefronts are the rule. It physically subsumes the space once occupied by a decrepit supermarket, whose floorboards were a public hazard. Indian Road Café is expansive, with a panoramic view of the Henry Hudson Bridge, the river, a long expanse of grass and trees with a few yellow and red leaves still hanging from them, and the Columbia University Boathouse. It is roomy and relaxed and extremely comfortable, so that an individual or a large party can sprawl about and relax. A friend of mine once kayaked up the river and carrying the kayak across the lawn to the restaurant to join me. It was exhilarating! So not New York.
Owner Jason Minter is an 18-year native of Inwood, formerly in film for 20 years, who says the food business is not so different- it’s all logistics. The Café is definitely a labor of love for Jason. It took him some considerable time to research and scout for this location but his own place of residence – next to the chic and trendy antiques and vintage goods shop Scavengers, which is in turn right next to the Indian Road property– gave him some inside information. It took a little dickering but in the end they beat out a competing yoga studio. The interior and basement were so dilapidated that they had to gut it and rebuild from the ground up, so it is in all senses their own and new.
The menus have evolved. When Jason opened the café, they served paninis only. A series of chefs came and went, having struggled with the kitchen; the chef in charge now, Aaron Kindig, has triumphed and they now serve a very full menu from lunch to the late hours. The ambience is expansive. The wood surfaces are polished with a warm glow. Servers likewise are warm and friendly and chatty. A fleet of writers with their laptops populate the restaurant throughout the a.m., joined by families with many small children at lunch and in the afternoon… and it’s a hangout in the evening, hosting the traditional happy hour crowd but also knitting circles, folk singers and songwriters, poetry readers, cyclers, jazz singers, and trivia buffs. It’s a neighborhood community center… there is something for everyone.
And the seasonal menu is also stunning. I recently had the Autumn Salad, which combined and salty crunchy pumpkin seeds and bacon , mellow and creamy goat cheese, crisp arugula and radicchio, and sweet dried currants topped with honey balsamic vinaigrette. It is equaled only by the Spring Salad, which featured more fruit and vegetables—on one memorable occasion I was there at the changing of the salads’ seasons and greedy enough to try both — wonderful. The cured meat and cheese plates, and the beers, draw on local vendors and produce—the meats, for example, are from Arthur Avenue in the Bronx and excellent. On a very cold day I tried the Chicken Pot Pie and it was sublime—scented with herbs and wine and served in heroic portions. It warmed me right through. And the Café has justly won awaqrds for its coffees. The caffe latte is not only absolutely delicious, the baristas have perfected the art of pouring the heated milk so that a lovely flowering tree image appears on the surface and remains for however long it takes you to drain the cup.
In short, when we neighborhood folks were waiting for the Indian Road Café to open—and it took a long while to do the interior work, get the licenses, and put the finishing touches on—we could not quite imagine that the results would be worth the effort. And now we can’t imagine it ever not being there. And we can’t wait to join our neighbors for the New Year’s Eve celebration!