Food For Thought
by Linda Viertel –
Okay, carnivores….who doesn’t love a terrific hamburger cooked to order and brimming with juicy flavor? And, where could you get one, accompanied by perfect fries and a milkshake, until Irvington’s Dexter’s Den opened this summer? The problem has been solved by Emily Feliciano, owner of The Black Cat Café in Irvington, who has expanded her restaurant footprint by creating another intimate setting for enjoying informal comfort-food dining with a seasonal touch. And, vegetarians or vegans will find tantalizing options; all who love The Black Cat, as well as newcomers, will be happy at Feliciano’s new family-style eatery.
Feliciano has, herself, designed an inviting, fresh, and welcoming spot in which to enjoy her unique creations, located in the space formerly occupied by Wolfert’s Roost and Mr. Koo’s Kitchen,
“I’ve had The Black Cat Café for over a decade, and I knew what the community needed,” she said. “The opportunity arose for this great location and wonderful landlords. I’ve always wanted to give local people a good place to work, so this is a mutual benefit. Several employees have been with me for eight to 10 years, and we are a team.”
Together with Chef Georgia Dodge, Feliciano has created a simple menu giving a full range of options for casual, comfort food dining as well as providing seasonal offerings. For starters, “wings and drumettes” are delicately fried and served sweet or hot, with a creamy blue cheese dressing and crudité. A “California Power Tower” – crab, mango and avocado tower is constructed from perfectly cooked, succulent crabmeat and just the right complement of sweet mango and smooth avocado. Feliciano really loves salads, and her “Super Food Salad”- quinoa, nuts, seeds, pomegranate, carrots, broccolini, feta, avocado, in an orange balsamic dressing – is a healthy, fortifying meal in itself. Combine it with whatever special salad is offered.
The Full Dexter is her signature burger: six ounces of organic beef, Vermont cheddar, lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, New England bacon, caramelized onions and house brewed BBQ sauce on a sesame brioche bun. Sounds divine, and it is. The Dexter is a simpler version and “The Den” adds complements of blue cheese and charred jalapeno aioli. An unusual and succulent, popular choice has become the Wild Duck Burger, served with Hoisin Sauce, julienned carrots and cucumbers. And, for those who eschew red meat, try the Wild Salmon Burger with mustard dill sauce and sprouts. Vegetarians aren’t left behind and can enjoy a Garden Burger created via portobello mushrooms, herbed cheese, lettuce and heirloom tomatoes. Diners can also customize their burgers with a variety of cheeses, vegetable options, sauces, bacon or avocado- the burger creations can be yours.
Fries at Dexter’s Den are a must and accompany all burgers. Try the Abyssinian fries, dusted with North African spices and plenty of salt – your choice. ”Kitten Bites for the Young and Young at Heart” include a four-ounce burger with or without cheese, chicken fingers or an open faced grilled cheese sandwich, all served with fries. Feliciano takes care of everybody in the family.
All meat at Dexter’s is organic and locally sourced by Blake the Butcher a small family-owned start-up that specializes in grass-fed beef ground the old-fashioned way. Feliciano’s goal is never to serve frozen beef. Chef Dodge breaks down the whole wild (not farmed) salmon and hand-chops it for her salmon burger. Look for new creations in the fall as root vegetables and other ingredients come into seasonality.
“Straight Up Shakes” are classic chocolate, French vanilla and strawberry with a mint chocolate chip thrown in for good measure. But, for the more adventuresome, try the vanilla spiced chai, spiced chocolate or “muddy strawberry fields.” Sophisticates might want a lavender vanilla, olive oil (yes, olive oil), peanut butter, banana and chocolate or chocolate espresso freeze. They all sound like dessert to me. But, diners can also enjoy an old-fashioned banana split or a cherry pastry with toasted walnuts, vanilla ice cream and caramel.
Dexter’s is a friendly setting, with seven counter stools, several four-top tables and a family table for eight. A casual and comfortable seating area is arranged in the back where a flat-top TV gives customers a chance to view news or sports. Feliciano’s walls are decorated with art created by local artists Zoe Denahy, Jackson Denahy and Selene Smerling; supporting the arts is another of Feliciano’s passions.
Wine, beer and mocktails are coming soon as is the possibility of Feliciano’s famous pop-up El Gato Negro tapas menu in the fall. 99% of all serving ware and “to go” packaging is 100% compostable and 1% recyclable at Dexter’s. Feliciano takes sustainability seriously in all ways.
Oh yes, but who is Dexter?
A ginger cat adopted by Emily and her husband Kyle, the New York Times Deputy International Editor- London, who receives a posthumous tribute. Dexter enjoyed his native Irvington as well as his adopted neighborhood in London. Wherever Feliciano has lived, “I’ve always enjoyed hosting people in my home,” she explained, “And Dexter’s Den is an extension of that passion.”
If You Go:
100 Main Street, Irvington
Tues.-Thurs.:12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Fri. & Sat.:12 p.m.-9 p.m.
Check in the fall for extended hours and delivery service in conjunction with The Black Cat Café.