The newly opened 80 Riverside Cafe features homemade baked goods and coffee
Upper West Side The neighborhood has a new option for coffee and pastries. 80 Riverside Café opened on the corner of Riverside Drive and 80th Street just three weeks ago and serves a selection of home-baked cookies, croissants, and scones, as well as a few savory items. The bright, airy café adjoins the Riverside Tower Hotel, occupying a portion of the lobby previously used as a sitting room for guests. The business is a family affair, run by sisters Suzy, Margaret and Cindy Wong. Suzy, who formerly worked in the healthcare industry, works behind the counter; Margaret, previously an instructor at Manhattan's Institute of Culinary Education, prepares the pastries; and Cindy, a private caterer, makes the café's salads and sandwiches. Simon Wong, their brother, designed the space.
On a recent weekday morning, the sisters said they hoped the café's family vibe would create a warm, welcoming spot in the neighborhood, which offers plenty of choices for coffee and desserts but which, they said, can sometimes have a hectic, grab-and-go kind of atmosphere. 80 Riverside, they said, will be a place to sit and linger.
"The setting here is very inviting," Suzy said, gesturing towards the corner café's large glass windows that look out onto Riverside Park. "Our customers really love the view."
"There aren't too many places around here that are quiet and calm," Margaret added. "We like our location on Riverside Drive because it's not crazy busy like Broadway!"
Margaret's from-scratch pastries-items like pear-almond scones, buttery croissants and raspberry- and apricot-filled rugelach-will likely be a draw, too, as will their gentle prices, which range from $1.75 to $3.
"That's pretty fair for a completely handmade pastry," Margaret said.
80 Riverside Café is still in "soft opening" mode, and so far, most of its patrons are hotel guests stopping by for a morning cup of joe. One of those customers was Martha Cox, a former New Yorker who now lives in Oklahoma but returns every few years for a short vacation.
"I've stayed in the hotel before," Cox said, "and the café was a wonderful surprise. I've been getting my coffee here every morning."
The café already has a few regulars, the Wong sisters said, and they anticipate more business from passers-by once the temperature becomes more hospitable and Riverside Park more crowded.
"We're waiting on warmer weather," Suzy said.
In the meantime, Margaret is honing her recipes and paying careful attention to what sells and what doesn't. Her rugelach, a Jewish cookie of rich, flaky pastry rolled around a jam-and-nut filling, seems to be the customer favorite so far, which is fortuitous since it's Margaret's favorite item to make.
"You can eat rugelach for breakfast, after lunch, or with tea," she said. "It's an all-day pastry."