2014-05-07 / Restaurant of the Week

Exo Café

Spring into Exo Café in Forest Hills, where the name itself means “outside”. Exo Café is a restaurant, bar, and grill serving craft beers, unique cocktails, fine food and desserts for all to enjoy. This would be a great place to bring mom for Mother’s Day or any day at all. The weekend brunch at Exo Café is a neighborhood event and their Happy Hour gets underway Monday to Friday from 4pm to 7pm with $4 wine, $5 beers and $6 cocktails. Tuesday night Karaoke is a big hit too. The service is very friendly and professional, thanks to congenial owner Peter Kambitsis and star-manager Angela. Everyone is made to feel welcome here at Exo Café.

Exo Café was inspired by a combination of European cafes and upscale Manhattan restaurants, The resulting design of this sleek, multi-level eatery features dark wood floors, stacked stone walls and wooden tables illuminated by soft lighting. Dalia, the friendly server, brought me a refreshing Mojito, just one of the dozen or so specialty cocktails given a special touch by the barman. My companion, a beer aficionado, fancied one of the many craft beers on hand and really enjoyed it.

The array of appetizers at Exo Café is so impressive, one could make a meal out of them and they are nicely portioned for sharing. I highly recommend the crab cake bites which are loaded with sweet crabmeat and mild seasonings, served with Mango salsa. Tender dumplings can be steamed or fried, and are filled with chicken and vegetables ($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). Soft tacos filled with chicken or beef and cilantro with guacamole and pico de gallo are great to munch on at the bar too, along with a frosty Margarita. An array of cold Mediterranean dips is served with triangles of warm pita, or try the warm spinach and artichoke dip served with crispy corn chips.

One of the best things about dining at Exo Café is the range of entrees on the menu. Whatever you’re in the mood for, the chefs at Exo have you covered. Only the freshest fish and seafood is served here and the tuna steak burger is proof. This thick slab or high quality tuna was char-grilled black and blue to its ideal cool-in-the-center temperature and served with avocado, tomato, red onion, and their famous wasabi sauce on a fluffy brioche bun ($14.75). Speaking of burgers, the smoked burgers are something special, topped with barbecue sauce, bacon and Gouda cheese, for example. The Black Angus Burger is cooked to perfection and topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and bleu cheese. How about a Hawaiian burger seasoned with teriyaki glaze and a ring of pineapple? Garden burgers, turkey burgers, and Portobello vegetarian burgers round out the selections. If you enjoy eating with two hands, you must try one of Exo Café’s “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. Thai chicken, crispy fried fish and grilled skirt steak with chimmichurri sauce are some of your fillings for these hearty, two-handed affairs, making them a great option for lunch or dinner, served with fries, onion rings or a salad.

One of the most popular entrées is the juicy, grilled Cowboy steak that’s been marinated in herbs overnight and grilled to order with mushrooms, onions and demiglace. The creamy mashed potatoes that accompany this steak are delicious. Double glazed baby back ribs just fall off the bone, bathed in a Mexican adobo and beer sauce ($18.95). Blackened steak and shrimp fills your surf and turf needs, while the linguine with shrimp scampi, is prepared in a delicate butter, garlic and lemon sauce over al dente pasta ($19.95). Grilled wild salmon is another goto dish for a light, healthy meal.

You could hardly find a better place for lunch than Exo Café whose lunch special is served on weekdays from 11am to 4pm. The special includes soup or salad, and entrée and dessert for just $10.95. Saturday and Sunday brunch at Exo Café is the place to be, served from 10:00am to 3:00pm for $14.95 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.

Desserts and coffee drinks are outrageously good here, and worth their own trip to Exo Café. Rocky Road sundae, mango guava cheesecake, Bailey’s cheesecake and molten chocolate lava cake are just a few of the decadent options to choose among. Add to that “illy’s” finest coffee drinks and you’ve got the perfect finish to a perfect meal, or a great post-movie date.

To quote their own menu, “Whether it is conversation over coffee and dessert, a weekend brunch with friends, after-work drinks, or a dinner date, Exo Café strives to make it an experience to remember.” I find each visit to Exo Café to be memorable, and you will too. Enjoy Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or any day here. Private parties are happily arranged too. Get out to Exo Café in Forest Hills.

70-20 Austin Street, Forest Hills


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