New Leaf Cafe in Fort Tryon Park

Dan and I went to New Leaf Cafe for drinks on the 4th of July. New Leaf is one of just a handful of restaurants we have in Hudson Heights – it’s in a great old building in the middle of Fort Tryon Park, near the heather gardens.

When we first moved into the neighborhood in 1997 the cafe was usually closed, or had businesses in it that almost always failed since the kitchen didn’t support much more than making sandwiches. Then Bette Midler came along and gave a grant through New York Restoration Project (which she founded) to upgrade the cafe with a proper kitchen and New Leaf Cafe was born.

It was nice having another restaurant in the neighborhood – even though the food was “unpredictable” it was something different and the atmosphere is really wonderful. The problem is, as time has passed the food is still mediocre/unpredictable, and the prices have gone up. It’s one thing to get so-so food and good atmosphere for a “reasonable” price, but when you pay more, you expect more…

On Valentine’s Day Dan and I went to New Leaf and spent $255 on a dinner for two (the only alcohol on the bill was an inexpensive bottle of champagne). For that price you expect something decent, but the food and service were only “OK” at best and some of the food just wasn’t that good (I’m trying not to sound completely harsh, but you get my point…)

After that we swore we wouldn’t go back there for dinner – it’s just not worth the price. It’s not like dinner for 2 always costs $250 (Valentines was a ‘special’ event with higher prices), but it just seems whenever we go there for dinner we always leave disappointed – so we’ve just given up…

On July 4 we arrived around 3 or 4pm wanting drinks and appetizers only to find they weren’t serving any food – not even chips or beer nuts… Nothing… We got a couple of drinks ($9/each), and sat on the walk in front of the cafe and watched people go by. When our hunger got the best of us Dan ran and got crappy hot dogs from the hot dog vendor at Margaret Corbin Plaza (at the entrance to Fort Tryon Park).

It really was beautiful out. Everything was incredibly green and the weather was blustery, but we were protected from the wind… It reminded me of sitting out on our screened porch when I was a kid – looking out at the garden in bad weather…

But once again, the restaurant part of the experience was underwhelming – the drinks just weren’t all that good… How you can get Absolute and juice wrong, I’m not quite sure – but they did – and Dan wasn’t all that impressed by his martini… And once again, high prices for something that’s just not all that great…

We really do want to see New Leaf do well, and we’d still consider it for lunch, but lately it’s just been one disappointment after another… I’m hoping they get a new chef who will turn the place around…

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