- Courtesy of Cafe Mutton
Though it's only been open since May, Cafe Mutton has quickly established itself as a prominent neighborhood spot in Hudson. This quaint breakfast and lunch joint is known for its meat-centric menu, developed by Shaina Loew-Banayan, the restaurant’s chef/owner. They wanted to cultivate a menu that focuses on quality dishes that may not be found at an ordinary cafe, putting novel spins on traditional menu items like eggs and sandwiches. “My ethos is that it doesn’t have to be a basic cafe—it can be anything that we want it to be,” says Loew-Banayan. “It just has to be good food and be open at the right time of day.”
A Lifelong PassionLoew-Banayan has been working to understand what makes food “good” since they were young. Growing up in a house full of food lovers, they started cooking before their bat mitzvah. Since high school, Loew-Banayan has worked in catering and at restaurants large and small. After living in Hudson for a few years and working in the local food scene, including as a sous chef at Fish & Game and as the executive chef at the Bartlett House, Loew-Banayan decided to open their own spot. “I would have never dreamed if you had told me 10 years ago that I was going to open a cafe, that it would be what I chose to do,” says Loew-Banayan.
Numerous experiences, including time spent cooking in the Spanish countryside, helped them discover more about their own personal cooking style and develop their passion for using local ingredients. “My focus has always been on more rural stuff,” they say.
For Cafe Mutton, Loew-Banayan created a menu that showcases the Hudson Valley’s abundant meats and produce, while staying away from trendier recipes. “I really just wanted to cook food that I like, that I feel is authentic and makes good use of what’s around in the area,” says Loew-Banayan. “We’re trying to focus on food that you want to enjoy and linger over.” Almost all of the meat they use comes from Kinderhook Farm in nearby Valatie, and produce is sourced from Hudson’s Ironwood Farm and MX Morningstar Farm.
Loew-Banayan often makes use of secondary cuts of meat that people otherwise may not consider cooking with, crafting the restaurant’s now famous sausages and paté in-house. The establishment’s name comes from this practice of embracing lesser-known cuts. “We don’t cook a lot of mutton here, but it’s this idea of these things that are not the first choice, and how we bring them back into everybody’s cycle of eating,” explains Loew-Banayan.
Distinctive Cafe Fare
The resulting menu is short but filled with delicacies. “Scrapple and eggs” is one of them—two sunny side eggs are served alongside scrapple, a loaf made with polenta and braised pork that’s pan fried, and a choice of potatoes, toast, or greens. The country paté sandwich is another popular choice, featuring house-made pork and chicken liver pate, whole grain mustard, and cornichons on country white bread from Bartlett House in Ghent. If you’re in search of a gluten-free option, try the chicken and rice porridge featuring ginger, scallions, a poached egg, and an optional chilli crisp. “Especially with the cold weather, it’s selling so fast,” says Loew-Banayan.
For those in search of sweeter treats, Cafe Mutton offers a range of pastries. Buckwheat scones made with Maine Grain's buckwheat flour, toffee crackers, and giant sticky buns flavored with honey caramel and pecans are also popular among customers. “We have such a small menu that everything is sort of a star dish, which is any restaurateur’s dream,” says Loew-Banayan.
While breakfast and lunch are the main focus on a daily basis, Cafe Mutton is open for dinner once a week, hosting Friday night happy hours. Cocktails, wines, beers, and appetizers are served, along with a main dinner dish that changes each week. Sip on the “Poo Driver,” one of their signature drinks made with prune juice, vodka, and fernet Branca. “It’s kind of our joke on a screwdriver,” says Loew-Banayan of the drink, which has developed a low-key cult following.
A Neighborhood Staple
On a Friday evening, the restaurant trades the hustle and bustle of daytime for a little romance. “We turn the lights down, and we get some candles out,” says Loew-Banayan. “My goal was to create a nice little respite for people to come in the winter, and get warm, have a glass of wine and “Welsh Rarebit,” which is rye toast with cheese sauce, and just be cozy.”
During the day, the cafe is filled with a steady mix of both locals and out-of-towners. “It’s sort of like the neighborhood corner place. We see a lot of familiar faces,” says Loew-Banayan, who is excited about the prospect of Cafe Mutton becoming a fixture in town. “It seems that across the board a lot of people that live locally are enjoying what we have, which means the most. We want to be a place that is part of the community.”
Cafe Mutton is open Wednesday-Sunday from 9am-3pm, and Fridays from 5-8pm.
757 Columbia Street, Hudson, NY 12534