Replacing a beloved neighborhood restaurant like Cafe Orlin, the East Village brunch destination that closed in 2017 after a 36 year run, is a terrifying undertaking, one would imagine. Remember though, owner Yosi Ohayon shut down Orlin voluntarily because he wanted to retire, he still owns the entire building, and he handpicked the new tenants to carry on that community feel—people who live in the neighborhood and are here to feed (and liquor up) the locals.
So although it may not be Cafe Orlin, what we now have instead at 41 St. Mark's Place is actually still pretty great.
There are essentially two restaurants here, and both kitchens are run by chef Ali Sahin, who already makes one of the best breakfasts in town at nearby C&B Cafe. Other members of the team include Jamie Felber and Darin Rubell, who have plenty of experience in the area with Boulton and Watt, Drexler's, and the hopping new cocktail spot on First Avenue, Mister Paradise.
The main space here on St. Marks, which still includes that glorious front porch, is called Paper Daisy, an allusion to the poem "Pull My Daisy" by Beat Generation hall-of-famers Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Neal Cassady, who wrote it together when they were all in NYC in 1949, which hangs in the space. A large L-shaped bar greets as you enter, with some additional seating by the front door, and the main dining/drinking room features tall communal tables and a turquoise, wrap-around, suede banquette. Including the porch, there's seating for about 100 guests, plus standing room around the bar.
If you're here to eat, you're in good hands with chef Sahin. I've had most of the dinner menu at this point, and everything can be considered first-rate bar food. There's a fat, juicy Cheeseburger that comes with a pile of salty fries, a Duck Hot Dog that's even fatter and juicier, and a crock of excellent Spicy Meatballs served with a small round loaf of wonderfully light and chewy homemade focaccia.
The Spicy Spareribs are fall-off-the-bone tender, though really, the dish packs very little heat. There are Clams and Oysters by the half dozen, a Roast Beef and horseradish sandwich, and a hearty Cassoulet starring pork belly and Brussels sprouts. And the surprise winner at dinner might just be the Honey Roasted Carrots, with oranges, a smear of ricotta, and an unexpected cardamon kick.
The Paper Daisy beverage director, Thomas Flynn, is also from Drexler's, and brings a full cocktail menu to St. Marks, featuring both classics and newfangled creations like the Watch Me Matcha, which mixes matcha, gin, lemongrass, shochu, and egg white. Or you can slug back a Tijuana Petting Zoo—tequila, roasted red pepper, lime, tajin, grapefruit, olive oil—and get really crazy.
So that's Paper Daisy, but the great bonus here is the brand new C&B Cafe outpost, with an entrance on the other side of the building's stoop and a full line-up of Sahin's superb egg sandwiches and breakfast bowls. The space is small, but there are a couple tables inside, and one right out the door. A bakery case by the register is stuffed with pastries and baked goods, including hand pies some great chocolate chip cookies, as well as loaves of bread. A turntable provides the soundtrack which, at least during a recent visit, was playing some jazz.
Paper Daisy entrance. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
C&B entrance. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Paper Daisy and C&B Cafe are located at 41 St. Mark's Place, just east of Second Avenue. Right now the cafe is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Paper Daisy itself from 4 until 4 a.m. Expect the crew to open up the porch for brunch as soon as the weather gets warm. (212-777-1447)