photo by Bradley Hawks
When chefs Erwin Schröttner and Andrew Chase started talking about opening a place, Schröttner didn’t want to cook anymore. He just wanted to own a spot where he could get a proper beer poured — with a nice head, he explains — and maybe a little schnapps. Chase, who’d originally proposed partnering on a fried chicken joint, managed to convince him to serve a little easy food on the side, and they put together plans for a menu of cold cuts and cheese. But when they flung open the doors to their then-minuscule Lower East Side establishment seven years ago, it didn’t take long for Chase to finagle his exceptional bratwurst onto the board, and he didn’t stop there. “Suddenly we had a full-blown restaurant,” says Schröttner. And one that drew legions of fans for its Austrian vision, its pork belly reuben, its red cabbage salad, its goulash, and its meatballs, as well as its joyous (and often raucous) dining room, where you can almost always spot the owners. Cafe Katja became so ingrained in the neighborhood, it had to expand twice, annexing neighbors as leases became available. Still, it’s packed nightly. And yes, you can get a proper pour of beer (we recommend the Stiegl) with a hefty head.