At nine p.m. this Friday at Indian Road Cafe in Inwood, the band was playing, the tables were packed, the coffee barista was busy preparing drinks and the bar stools were taken. This restaurant has quietly transformed this corner of Inwood from unexceptional to exceptional. I now make the trip regularly to buy the coffee by the bag ("Counter Culture" brand, organic and fair trade). The point of this blog entry, however, is to review the food and drink in the restaurant portion of this establishment.
Drink: Peter Smith and I didn't delve into the wines on this trip; we focused on beer. But the wine list includes a good variety of California, Argentine, Spanish and even Long Islands reds and whites. The beer selection is even more impressive and includes several local New York breweries. I selected the Hennepin from Ommegang brewery in Cooperstown, New York. The menu described the beer as containing ginger and citrus flavors. I'm not sure I tasted those flavors, but it was a truly rich beer.
Food. Since it was already fairly late by the time we finished our beers, we skipped the appetizers and went straight to the entrees. I give the restaurant's chefs great credit for choosing local farms and food purveyors (including Arthur Avenue in the Bronx) for as much as they can, like eggs, chickens, vegetables, cheeses, etc.
Now to our entrees, which is where the review gets mixed. I selected the bacon wrapped buffalo meat loaf with mashed potatoes and vegetables. The meat loaf was good. The vegetables didn't seem farm fresh, more freezer ready. Peter picked the evening's special, lamb with ratatouille. The ratatouille was good. The lamb was well-prepared but distinctly gamey.
At this point in the evening, I stepped away to the restroom. Peter, knowing this was his chance to order desert, selected the ginger cake special. Solely for the purposes of writing this review I tasted it. It was light and flavorful. But the desert menu is a little uninspired and includes cookies and cakes but no fruits, apple pie or other seasonal deserts that I would expect from a restaurant like this. (Not to worry, the coffee is desert enough in this place.)
Overall, this was a great dining experience, complemented by extremely friendly service. It is well worth the trip to Inwood, which you can pair with a stroll around the marshes in Inwood Hill Park directly across the street. (Take the A train to the last stop and exit at the northern end of the station; walk north and west.) With entrees in the range of $15 to $25, however, a few of the items (i.e., my vegetables) could be taken up a notch.
Tip: Don't leave the cafe without taking a look at the historic postcards on the wall near the rest room, which depict the mansions that lined the hills of Washington Heights and Inwood until the City expanded into northern Manhattan. Also, take a look at the website, www.indianroadcafe.com, for a listing of weekly lectures, music, trivia and other events.