Cornerstone Café may be one of the best deals in the East Village. Perhaps it’s because the restaurant is cash only [2019 editor's note: they now take cards]. Perhaps it’s thanks to the no frills atmosphere—exposed brick painted in jewel tones is the only decoration. Regardless, it’s a welcome change to see an $8 cocktail menu in NYC—the restaurant even offers a two for $12 deal. You get what you pay for, though—both the gin martini and the prohibition-inspired The Last Word are merely serviceable. It might be a safer bet to order off the extensive beer and wine list.
If the page-long beer list overwhelmed you, the dinner menu might be a tough sell. Largely Italian in its influence, it offers everything from penne vodka ($4—no, that’s not a typo) to burgers ($10) a roasted lamb shank in red wine sauce ($26). Though some of the more elegant dishes fall flat—the salmon fillet ($24) arrives overcooked and oily and the tiramisu ($9) overly bitter—the elevated bar food is more successful. Pungent gruyere adds big flavor to the creamy oven-baked mac and cheese ($16), and the chef batters and fries fresh cheese for the breaded mozzarella appetizer ($9).
What Cornerstone Café lacks in execution, it makes up for in friendly, attentive service. Water glasses remain constantly full, and servers always seem ready to offer a recommendation or refill the bread basket. Though it’s not particularly fancy, perhaps that’s not the point. It’s a corner café, as the name suggests—and a charming one, at that.
BY COMMUNITY REVIEWER: ANNALISE MANTZ