2013-05-01 / Restaurant of the Week

Exo Café

There’s a fresh, lively vibe at Exo Café any time you visit. This vibrant café on bustling Austin Street serves fabulous cocktails, craft beers, wine and best of all, delicious food, seven days a week for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. Owner Peter Kambitsis runs a tight ship and ensures the highest quality ingredients in the kitchen and the bar always mixes up the most inventive cocktails.

We visited on a Tuesday night when “Karaoke” begins at 8:30pm and goes until just after midnight. The barmen mix up fresh, fruity cocktails such as their two most popular: Lychee-tini garnished with fresh lychee fruit and my pick: the pear flower martini, made from pear-infused vodka. Frozen drinks such as the frozen appleade, Island Rhythm and Funky Monkey are very popular too. A nice selection of wines is available and Exo Café serves over a dozen craft beers, each in a distinctive glass. Try a freshly poured pint of Delerium Tremens, Left Hand Milk Stout, Duvel or Radeberger. Indeed Exo Café is a great place to relax after work especially with their generous Happy Hour from 4pm to 7pm Monday to Friday featuring 50 percent off cocktails, beer, wine, and appetizers. On Wednesday nights, bottles of wine are available at half price and you’ll want to order one with your meal.

The sleek, multi-level eatery features dark wood floors, stacked stone walls and wooden tables illuminated by soft lighting. But, it’s the exceptionally good food at Exo Café that keeps them coming back again and again. Everything is made from scratch and served hot on gleaming white plates. Angela, the friendly manager suggested a smattering of the house specialties and we devoured them all. The house bruschetta are irresistible, assembled on crisp ciabatta bread, topped with chopped tomato salsa, balsamic vinegar, and crumbled feta cheese ($7.95). Cheddar cheese sticks are hand cut from blocks of fine cheddar cheese, lightly fried and served with sour cream and green chilies. ($8.95). The chicken quesadillas are one of their most popular items, loaded with fire roasted chicken, Monterey jack cheese, sharp cheddar, onion, avocado and jalapenos, with sour cream and salsa for dipping. Kobe beef sliders are made with exceptionally good beef, gently grilled with cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickle on mini buns ($12.95 for three). We also loved the crab cake bites, replete with sweet crabmeat and just the right size, served with three signature sauces. All the appetizers at Exo Café are generously sized for sharing. One could make a meal of three or four of them, along with a nice bottle of wine.

Exo Café’s dinner menu includes freshly tossed salads, unique burgers and their famous “handwiches” as they are aptly called, since you’ll need both hands to handle these generously sized sandwiches. Starting with freshly baked ciabatta bread, the Exo Handwich is generously filled with freshly grilled chicken breast, red roasted peppers, creamy goat cheese, field greens and roasted garlic sauce. My companion and I made short work of the chimmichurri handwich which was filled with tender, grilled, sliced steak that’s been rubbed with special spices, then topped with provolone cheese, tomato and chimmichurri sauce made from parsley, garlic and vinegar for a unique flavor sensation ($11.95). Next time I’ll try the fried fish handwich composed of crispy, beerbattered cod, lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce. All handwiches are served with your choice of their Belgian fries, fabulous onion rings or green salad.

Exo Café’s entrées are cooked to order and beautifully presented. One of the most popular is the juicy, grilled Cowboy steak that’s been marinated in herbs overnight and grilled to your liking. Topped with mushrooms, onions and demi-glace and served with creamy mashed potatoes, this dish will satisfy even the biggest appetite. This time we had the grilled salmon with mango salsa but I also enjoyed the grilled Ahi tuna, seared on the outside and cool in the middle. I hear the double glazed baby back ribs just fall off the bone, bathed in a Mexican adobo and beer sauce ($16.95). Even the burgers are the exception here at Exo Café, thanks to a unique smoking process that renders the meat extra juicy and flavorful. The smoked BBQ burger is one of the most popular, topped with zesty sauce, Gouda cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and caramelized onions. The Portobello burger is filled with roasted red peppers, zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes for a healthy, delicious meal. Burgers are served with fries, onion rings or mixed greens.

Though you’ll be stuffed, it’s hard to resist the Rocky Road sundae; a rich, walnut brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Bailey’s cheesecake, decadent fried cheesecake and red velvet cake are some of the other indulgences, along with robust coffee, espresso, or cappuccino.

A fantastic lunch special is served on weekdays from 11am to 4pm that includes soup or salad, entrée and dessert for just $9.95. Saturday and Sunday brunch at Exo Café is the place to be, served from 10:00am to 3:00pm for $13.95 per person, including a brunch cocktail. Choose among French toast a la mode, Exo’s quesadilla omelet, or Belgian waffles and chicken wings, among other items.

Everyone plans their private party here so call for details and reservations. Exo Café offers great cocktails, beer, wine, and freshly prepared food served by a very friendly staff. Visit their Web site for menus, directions and more information.

70-20 Austin Street, Forest Hills


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