I had the pleasure of trying spatzle two summers ago. I’ve been hooked on it ever since, and a big bowl of it is the definition of comfort food. For those that don’t know, spatzle is a dumpling that is served in Germany and France, made out of flour, eggs, and milk. It’s an extremely simply dish that can be served as a main course or as a side, and I have barely seen it in New York. I’ve tried to recreate it at home with varying degrees of success. If you want to make it at home, please buy a spatzle maker and save yourself the hassle of finding out that any other way simply won’t work. On to the actual review now!
Café Katja, a nice-sized restaurant in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, serves up a smorgasbord of various Austrian and German dishes. They have everything from spatzle to schnitzel to all sorts of sausages and pork products. The interior is reminiscent of a German beer hall, with an all-around wooden theme that includes wooden fixtures and wooden tables. When you step inside, it doesn’t feel like you’re in New York anymore. The restaurant provides an escape into a modern-day beer hall, serving great food at a great price.
The pretzels are fluffy and beat Auntie Anne’s by thousands of miles. They’re not greasy at all, and stand up against the two side dips that are offered with them. The schnitzel and spatzle are also on point. The schnitzel is moist and crispy with breading that sticks to the veal and doesn’t clump or fall off. The spatzle is light and tender, lightly tossed in butter and a perfect accompaniment to any entrée. As for dessert, there are always various delicious options that can not be found anywhere else in the city. While the chocolate cake is standard fare and served with schlag, the other desserts, including a seasonal rhubarb tart, are out of this world and are absolute must-haves. The coffee is also great, and they serve espresso based drinks as well.
Unfortunately, I can’t review one of the most important parts of any Austrian restaurant: its beer. But from what I’ve heard, it’s delicious and authentic.
Every part of Café Katja adds up to the sum of a fantastic and well-priced Austrian restaurant. One of the managers there, Naomi, is one of the friendliest and most charismatic people I have ever met. Café Katja is a great place to try something new and feel like you’re in a small European city, surrounded by spatzle and schnitzel.