With a local, seasonal, and meat-centric approach, cozy Cafe Mutton brings deliciousness to Columbia Street.
Shaina Loew-Banayan, chef and owner of Hudson’s Cafe Mutton, brings an impressive pedigree and an impish sensibility to this charming, sunny 25-seat corner spot. A graduate of Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration who has worked in several high-end kitchens including Eleven Madison Park (Manhattan), Fish & Game (Hudson), and the Bartlett House (Ghent), Loew-Banayan has always been fascinated by “more traditional and rustic food,” with a focus on meat. However, the café’s broader focus “is this sort of whole system idea,” explains Loew-Banayan, which involves vegetables and everything in between. This is seen in the café’s scones, made with light buckwheat, “an underappreciated crop.”
Prompted also by an interest in sustainability, Loew-Banayan felt the restaurant’s name was a lighthearted way to express a “focus on things that are a little bit less valued in society. When we know what to do with some more random and lesser-known cuts and meats and older meat like mutton, that’s when we’re making our food system whole.”
Cafe Mutton’s take on using lesser-known cuts of meat has prompted dishes like scrapple and eggs, a tribute to Loew-Banayan’s meat- and scrapple-loving grandfather. Scrapple usually gets a bad rap, but I use “nice, quality pig heads from the best farm around,” says Loew-Banayan. “Still, it’s pretty funny how much people are into this.” The pork is sourced from nearby Kinderhook Farm; produce is from Ironwood and MX Morningstar farms.
Loew-Banayan serves breakfast and lunch, a daypart she felt was underrepresented in Hudson’s restaurant scene but does offer happy hour and dinner on Fridays (check @cafemutton for the menu).
The Poo Driver—the restaurant’s take on a screwdriver featuring prune juice, vodka, and Fernet-Branca—is a signature drink that’s become a cult classic, and illustrates the playful, quirky vibe Loew-Banayan seeks to encourage. “Our focus is purely on the flavor and making people feel like they came in and had something so good, it brightened their day.”