By Helen Epstein.
When I go back to New York (where I grew up as a city kid and worked as a cultural journalist many years ago), one of my first stops is a late breakfast at Cafe Sabarsky. Located in the Neue Galerie, the museum of Austrian and German art at 86th St and Fifth Avenue, the cafe is mobbed at lunchtime but relatively quiet in the morning. Named after Neue Galerie co-founder Serge Sabarsky, it is as close a replica of a Viennese cafe at the turn of the twentieth century as you can find.
I try to get a banquette at the window looking out on Fifth, and when I’m not watching New York characters passing by, I peruse the lighting fixtures by Josef Hoffmann, the furniture by Adolf Loos, and the banquettes that are upholstered with a 1912 Otto Wagner fabric. When I get tired of that, I read the newspapers served, as in Vienna, on long, wooden sticks.
The major reason I go, however, is for the desserts. So far as I can tell, Sabarsky is one of the few places in North America that still serves authentic apple strudel (mit shlag) as well as my beloved Sachertorte, kugehupf, and marzipantorte. Just its coffee menu is a dream. If you want a Central European lunch, this is the place: goulash soup, wurst, sauerkraut. None of it cheap, but it’s a great treat, as is the remarkable and beautifully appointed bookstore.
Helen Epstein’s Where She Came From, a social and family history of Central Europe, is available on amazon and as an e-book.