Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Edge of the City Review: Exo Cafe

I had lunch at Exo, the new place on Austin, over the weekend, ordering the sampler plate ($12.95) for an appetizer, the classic cheese burger ($10.25) and to drink I had something from their craft beer menu, an Apple beer by Ephemere ($7). For dessert I just had an iced American coffee ($3.75) (this was when it was still Spring and not Winter like today, so iced, not hot :).

All in all, I think Exo is a very good addition to Forest Hills and I would definitely go back. My strongest positive association with it, now a few days out, is of how comfortable a place it is to relax with friends. Unlike many restaurants in the City, this place, especially on the second floor where I ate, is nice and roomy, The tables are very nicely spread out, giving you a chance to have a conversation with your friends and not have to be listening to the people sitting right next to you at the same time! What a breath of fresh air that is for the City, right?

One thing I noticed about Exo is your experience is very much determined by where you end up sitting. If you are facing one direction, you could end up staring at a big-screen TV showing a ball game. If you are facing another, you could end up looking out one of the big windows at the passers-by on Austin. So, this place can either feel like a sports bar or a nice, casual restaurant, depending on where you are sitting. Overall grade for atmosphere and the design of the place: A+.

The upstairs dining area at the new Exo Cafe on Austin St.
Now onto the meal. I enjoyed their sampler plate, which comes with beer battered onion rings, chicken poppers and cheddar cheese sticks. My favorite of these were the cheddar cheese sticks - nice and peppery. Overall grade for this dish: B+.

I also really liked their beer selection (see photo of menu below). Some of the more progressive restaurants are starting to offer a nice selection of craft beers, and Exo is one of them. Overall grade for beer: A.

Unfortunately, my least favorite part of my first Exo Experience was the main course. My classic cheese burger started out strong - it was presented really nicely, with Belgian fries on the side.  But by the time I was finished I wasn't very impressed. The burger was even slightly overcooked in one part. Overall, it was kind of dry, not a big, juicy, tasty burger. Now, it wasn't bad - just not great. Grade for the burger: B-
The fries were pretty good - I recommend them alone, without ketchup. Fries grade: B+

For dessert I had an iced coffee which was fine. I'd give it a B+

Also, our service was very good. The staff was extremely friendly, attentive, and helpful. And the food came out pretty fast. Service: A+

So, wrapping it all up. I recommend Exo Cafe as a nice place if you want to spend a relaxing time with friends or family. It's a very casual, nicely decorated restaurant and bar with great atmosphere, excellent service and pretty good - not great - food. I look forward to trying some of the other dishes there. The salads I saw being served looked very impressive.

Overall grade for Exo Cafe: B

Looking down on the bar area at Exo.

The view from Exo's second floor. Great people watching while you eat!

Exo's craft beer list. 


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  2. Thank you for your review. The dishes reflect the great presentation this newcomer restaurant strives for. I highly recommend the veggie burger dish, which is a juicy portobello mushroom burger with lots of fresh vegetables. I also ordered a mesclun salad, which came with an ultra-tart vinaigrette dressing. The desserts are very original and highly recommended. The owner, Peter, who also owns Ripe is very friendly & cares about the direction of the community. The staff members are also friendly & accommodating. Welcome Exo!

  3. I've been reserving my review of Exo Grill because I wanted to go a few times before I render my final decision. All the times I went (for lunch), I sat on the first floor facing Austin Street. To me this place is a C at best. I had grilled salmon - didn't finish it because of an odd seasoning it was marinated in, I also had the wilted Caesar with bland steak (the steak was a cold sort of mystery meat). Anytime I have to sit an wonder about the fresh of food or even worse what is exactly is this meat it is not a good sign. The belgian fries were actually pretty good. This may simply be chicken poppers, burgers and fries place.