What seems like ages ago, I lived in a tiny 2 bedroom apartment on Christopher street, and Cafe Condesa was my go-to neighborhood spot. Last night, I decided to get a blast from the past after learning about the one hour wait at Joseph Leonard. Cafe Condesa at first site appears to be a neighborhood coffee shop – with just two or three chefs cooking on electric stoves behind a small bar, 10 wooden two-tops max, and an exposed bathroom door, it definitely doesn’t have the fixtures and amenities of most restaurants in the area. Regardless, the vibe is satisfyingly relaxed, romantic, and cozy, and the food, which is a essentially American with a tiny Mexican twist, is consistently delicious. For the bare-boned-ness of the space, the menu offers a wide selection of sophisticated comfort food, from warm brie and honey to roasted salmon and grilled skirt steak, and an affordable variety of wines by the glass to wash it all down. And, even more impressive is the instantaneous serving of warm baguette with fresh butter, the real key to my stomach.
Despite our waiter’s tempting description of the butternut squash soup special, I decided to stick to my long time favorites and ordered the three cheese portobello salad with pecorino, shaved parmesan, spinach and balsamic glaze as my appetizer. The spinach leaves were whole, whereas in the past they were coarsely chopped, but the mushroom filled with the savory, smooth cheese medley was just as delicious as I had remembered.
I could have chosen blind-folded and been happy (I’ve yet to order the chicken enchiladas), but fond food memories urged me to order the pan seared sea scallops, which are served on a bed of creamy potato puree, a hearty portion of char-roasted cauliflower, poblano pepper sauce, and brussels sprouts.
Each component of this dish is so delicate, but equally hearty and comforting, and the flavors, colors, and differing textures make it utterly satisfying. Whenever I visit Cafe Condesa, I can’t help but be simultaneously impressed by the quality of the food and the fact that two cooks in a makeshift kitchen are the ones responsible. Even more amazing is the fact that they’ve managed to keep almost every menu item under $20.00, and there’s rarely a wait for a table…not to mention, it’s in the West Village.
The only disappointing part of the meal was the moment our waiter confirmed they were out of their delicious chocolate souffle. Probably for my own good. The pecan pie would have been a good replacement, but at that point it was 11:00pm and dessert felt like an obligation.
I’m happy a rediscovered an old favorite; Cafe Condesa is sure to be top of mind especially as venturing out of the West Village becomes more daunting as temperatures dip to the teens. Next on the list: Cafe Condesa for brunch.
Location: 183 West 10th Street @ 7th Ave South