>> Tuesday, August 26, 2014

106-03 Metropolitan Ave
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 261-2043

I wrote about Theater Cafe, the large European-style cafe on Metropolitan Avenue that is owned by the next-door movie theater, a number of years back when I first started my local blog and, although almost nothing about it has changed, I think it's good to return and give everyone - especially all of Forest Hills' new residents - a fresh (or at least a recent) take on the place. So here we go.

Actually, I find myself at Theater Cafe with a relative degree of frequency, especially in the warm months when sitting outside with a coffee or glass of wine is the ideal way to burn through a lazy evening. There aren't many choices in Forest Hills when you want to sit outside and thankfully Theater Cafe's sidewalk seating area is vast. Bring sunglasses. Theater Cafe has no umbrellas. 



The food is decent, but you come for the atmosphere. I've never eaten a sandwich or a salad here that made me regret coming, but I've never eaten a sandwich or a salad here that made me want to return. It's relatively guilt-free comfort food served in a pleasant place designed to foster conversation while out with friends. More than once, I've gone here with Pike only to look at my watch and realize that we'd been there for four hours. 

I'm not going to go into the menu to any great degree, but it has a tiny bit of everything without having any real entrees. Salads, paninis, sandwiches, pitas with hummus spreads, some pizza. There is a limited wine list, but Theater Cafe is far from a Jack & Nellies-esque wine bar (more on that later) and there is a coffee list, but Theater Cafe isn't a coffee shop, either. No wifi, no outlets, no grad students are studying for exams and no post-grads are writing their first novel. 

The most recent time that I went, I ordered the turkey panini that you see there (I usually get the grilled chicken one but this time wanted to be different. I'm wild like that.) and Pike got the pizza. He usually gets... uh, actually, I think he usually gets the chicken panini too. They were both fine. All three, if you include the chicken panini that we usually have but this time didn't, are fine. Fine. Yum. Good. Fine. Look, we're not here to eat. We're here to talk. So tell me, how's everything with grandma?

Unlike it's nearby neighbors, Dee's and Danny Brown, Theater Cafe doesn't pack 'em in. Never have I had to hunt for a table. This is both good and unfortunate. It's good because I like having my choice of seat. It's bad because I like the place and want it to succeed. In the summer, everyone sits outside unless it's a heat wave. In the fall and winter, with the outside seating limited or simply not there, customers tend to go elsewhere. 

And here is my suggestion to the Theater Cafe people: become a wine bar. 

Right now, Theater Cafe has wine. But it's a mediocre list that won't be getting a Wine Spectator award anytime soon. However, what if Theater Cafe did create a wine list worth mentioning? What if it made some Italian style cocktails available like Campari-spritzers and put little cute bottle of Pellegrino on the table. They could even keep the menu of pizza and panini and mezze and dessert. The interior of the establishment is pretty much wine bar already. It has sofas and tables and a fireplace and brick walls and large windows. The waiters already wear black. Just lose the big screen in the back that occasionally plays a ball game and they're all done. 

Anyway, that's what I'd do.

And on a side note, can you imagine if La Boulangerie opened a second location in this spot? They'd clean up! No more lines out the door. No more lack of seating. I'd still prefer a wine bar or a Sweetleaf Coffee, but, for the bronze...


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