Restaurant review

Alif Cafe, a trendy and welcoming place in Glens Falls

Glens Falls is bustling. The restaurants, cafes and brasseries on Ridge and Glen Streets, two rays from the downtown roundabout, teem with crowds on the sidewalks in the sun. They munch on tacos at Raul’s, burgers and beers at Davidson’s Brewing and Downtown Social, small plates on tiny tables at Radici Kitchen, and sip cocktails at the counters at Farmacy. There is dinner on the wraparound porch at Morgan & Co. and lounging on the patio sofas at the Queensbury Hotel.

But meet somewhere quieter tucked away in Samantha’s old cafe. Alif Cafe is an unexpected place.

Alif is a lounge with modernized Pakistani street food and a halal bar – a rare sight, with Kashmir chai tea, oxidized rose scalded milk; malai wali, intense espresso with steamed cream; and Tez coffee, its flavor of Malabar monsoon beans soaked and aged in the monsoon rains of India. The cafe opened in Glens Falls in January as the sibling of a lakeside original in Lake George Village, where roll-to-order ice cream and South Asian upholstered living room furniture draw crowds of captive pedestrians. walking past the steamboats across the street.

In Glens Falls, the look is different: the large open space mixes barnwood and industrial piping, with black support columns graffitied by guests. 24-year-old owner Muhammed Saud, whose parents own the Tandoori Grill and Alif Cafe in Lake George, set up a tandoor oven for fluffy, puffy naan and created a series of hand-stuffed beef ‘naanwiches’. , chicken tikka or vegetables, and buttery paratha bread stuffed with cheese or potato (aloo), cut into wedges for quick bites.

Saud created something that was missing in the upstate, and I remember a bit of Dishoom, a London-based channel designed around the heady days of Bombay’s jazz era – all retro vintage, chairs and fans. curved wood ceiling, brunch menus and small plates. Here, exposed brick walls, retro furniture, and a vintage cigarette dispenser under a Pakistani flag mingle with a honky-tonk piano, antique sink, velvet armchairs, long dining tables, and thoughtfully wired counters for something partly 90s cafe lounge, partly international coworking space.

It goes further, with the vibe returning to the faded elegance of 1940s Iranian cafes in Bombay (now Mumbai), when Parsi settlers recreated the Parisian brasseries and grand cafes of Vienna and these spaces became community centers. The Muslim origins of coffee in Yemen and Ethiopia meant that the Muslim cities of Mecca and Istanbul in Cairo and Baghdad were dotted with cafes. In recent years, coffee culture has taken hold in Pakistan, a tea lover with Gloria Jean’s and Second Cup coffee chains in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, designed as places where post-millennials can enjoy their drinks. espresso and their ice cream in workspaces with free Wi-Fi. Fi at your fingertips.

Choose from banana, mango or strawberry lassi, a traditional South Asian yogurt milkshake, or go above and beyond with Oreo, chocolate and vanilla ice cream with baklava, pistachios and caramel chopped into a sweet cream poured on a metal surface at minus -20 degrees for a perfect scrape Rolls.

Food served in take out boxes merges East and West. Masala fries are sprinkled with a custom blend of dried mango, cumin, ginger, black salt, red chili, cinnamon and salt and drizzled with yogurt and cucumber raita for a distant Pakistani relative of poutine. Channa papree chaat layers chickpeas, onions, tomatoes with a tamarind and mint chutney, yogurt raita and a handful of tiny puffs of air-filled crackers. A recent chicken tikka masala over basmati rice special shakes up a crispy raita salad. I am told that they sold the beef naanwich, so I accept the chicken and ask them if they can make a plain naan as well. It’s not on the menu, but my server, Saud’s brother, agrees, and I unwrap the foil and tear it, still hot, from the tandoor wall.

In Glens Falls, Alif only has two tables on the street, so it looks quiet, almost empty, until I park in the high-backed chairs by the window. But those in the know come regularly for Monsoon Malabar coffee, takeout boxes, and rolled ice cream. The tasty Kurkure countertop snacks in flavors like Cheeky Tomato and Green Chutney are spicy enough that you need water on hand.

Saud has a Next TikTok to him – nearly 30,000 people – and his quick videos are sure to fuel interest in his halal bar and modern Pakistani street food. The cafe epitomizes its own laid-back brand with songs from Atif Aslam, Abida Parveen, Rahat Fateh and Ali Khan, live recordings from Coke Studio in India, filling the air-conditioned air. Arguably surpassing any workspace cafes in Saratoga Springs, Albany or Troy, the options in Glens Falls just keep getting better.

Restaurant review

Cafe Alif
193 Glen Street, Glens Falls
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday
Prices: Snacks, $ 5.50 to $ 8.50; street food, $ 8.50 to $ 13.50; drinks, $ 2 to $ 6; dessert, $ 5.99 to $ 8.99

As well:
Alif Café on Lake George Beach
28 Beach Road, Lake George
Ice cream shop with limited menu.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday

Info: alifonline.cafe and 518-741-0079 (Glens Falls)



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