Cafe Orlin

By Dane Feldman

Photo by Dane Feldman.

Cafe Orlin is a gem of a restaurant located in a sea of hot spots down on St Marks Place between 1st and 2nd Ave here in Manhattan. It seems to be a fairly well known place amongst seasoned New Yorkers, but until last week I hadn’t heard of it.

The food
Cafe Orlin boasts several menus: daily specials, breakfast, lunch, brunch, brunch specials, dinner, brunch cocktail specials, lunch and dinner cocktail specials, as well as desserts and after dinner drinks. I have only dined here for dinner, but I do intend to return for both brunch and breakfast in the near future.

What I find so supremely excellent about Cafe Orlin is that the menu is something of a fusion between Mediterranean food and Western European food. In short, the menu is everything I didn’t know I needed. Some items seem overtly French (coq au vin), while others are boldly Israeli (falafel sandwich, shawarma, hummus).

I took the Italian route and ordered mushroom ravioli in walnut basil cream sauce. The best way to describe the dish is to say that the sauce was reminiscent of the creamiest pesto I’ve had, making it a certain can’t miss entree.

The drinks
As I had already had a whiskey drink or so and didn’t want to mix spirits, I made a beeline for the Maple Manhattan: maple syrup, lemon, salt, and whiskey. The cocktail was a pleasant reminder that I should revisit my attempts at maple and bourbon cocktails (and that whiskey and lemon are a near perfect match).

Cafe Orlin also offers a handful of other special cocktails for dinner, but I am mostly drawn to the chef and bartenders’ decision to stick to the classics for brunch: the mimosa, bellini, screwdriver, bloody mary, and French 75 are all on offer amongst 8 total brunch cocktails.

The service/ambience
The restaurant is a large space with three different sections. I arrived first in a party of three without a reservation and was told I could sit anywhere I wanted. The service was friendly, attentive, and quite knowledgeable. One of the friends I dined with is a regular and it was clear that she is treated there as such. We received complimentary dessert and the service was impeccable.

Cafe Orlin’s combination of European and Mediterranean dishes makes this restaurant an immediate staple even after only one visit. I will be going back again and again so I, too, can reach regular patron status.