Serious Eats: New York
The Vegetarian Option: Indian Road Cafe in Inwood
Indian Road Cafe may just be the most north-westerly restaurant in all of Manhattan. It is literally across the street from Spuyten Duyvil Creek, separating Manhattan from the Bronx, and looking out from the restaurant provides a commanding view of the Henry Hudson Bridge. The menu, at first glance, reads like standard upscale bar food, albeit one that makes sure to point out the vegan and gluten-free options on the menu. But a closer look reveals a menu with a little more creativity to it than you may think.
The cold wind coming in off of the water may have you craving a bowl of soup, and sometimes the daily offerings—rice, bean, & tomato ($6.50) on this visit—are meat-frree. So full and thick it was almost a chowder, the soup was overflowing with lima, kidney, and black beans, as well as bits of spinach and chunks of carrot. I found myself scraping the bottom of the bowl before I knew it.
The lunch menu has a few vegetarian sandwiches, such as the vegetarian version of a BLT" an avocado, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. Above is the IRC Open Faced Grilled Cheese ($11), topped with roasted butternut squash and Monterey Jack cheese. The sweetness of the squash was accentuated by an apple-onion relish, both apples and onions cooked until soft. Monterey Jack, not the most assertive of cheeses, helps balance out the sandwich to keep it from being excessively sweet. All of this is perched atop a crispy toasted roll.
In the middle of the plate, in an inexplicable and unnecessary lettuce cup, is a wheat berry salad. The chewy wheat berries, which are dressed with a simple mix of oil and vinegar, are mixed with dried cranberries and tiny bits of bell pepper, a mix of sweet and savory amidst the nutty grains.
Indian Road Cafe makes many boasts on its website: some of their chairs were taken from the set of Nuovo Vesuvio on "The Sopranos"; they have an electric fireplace for the winter; and of course they have those wonderful views of Inwood Park and the water. Interestingly, they don't boast about the food, which seems like an oversight. Given the amount of thought and skill that went into my meal there, I would have placed the food at the top of that list.
Indian Road Cafe
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Eat to Blog and the creator of BrooklynVegetarian. Follow him on Twitter @bklynvegetarian.