Entering this candlelit grotto, I’m convinced that it is an underground Eden where Adam and Eve came on their first date. Café Archetypus is not just a restaurant; it’s a dining environment that embodies the word quixotic in its dreaminess and romanticism. A small indoor café leads to a chamber of sculpted caverns and a small garden with the Palisade cliffs as a backdrop.
Archetypus doesn’t open until 6 p.m. on weekdays and 4 p.m. on weekends—with good reason. It’s definitely an evening experience when lights create winding ribbons, organic forms, and sensual figures that play hide-and-seek on the cave walls, reminding me of a creature with a dark, intense spirit.
Plants reach toward the skylight in the center of the cave where shafts of light descend before the sun goes down. At night, only flickering candles light the tables where diners sit on sculpted ledges with thin embroidered pillows.
This hip yet unpretentious café was crafted by owner Warren Sonberg in 1977 and remains in the family to this day. His son, Azori Po Ovu, manages the place, often with the help of his brothers, who are noted for service as whimsical as the place itself. When I visit with two women friends, a little light-hearted flirtation adds to the fun.
Opened as Enigma in 1977, it became Archetypus in 1992. Its sculpted façade gives only a hint of the otherworldly experience inside. The gigantic “Café” sign on Old River Road is just barely visible from the four lanes of high-volume traffic on Edgewater’s new River Road. But word of mouth has been so intense that the wait can swell to an hour.
While the back patio provides a wonderful summer venue, I can’t resist being nestled in a cool indoors alcove enjoying a wrap, quesadilla, barbecue pizza, or cheesy breadsticks dripping with olive oil and garlic.
Even when I have dinner elsewhere, I often come here for the heavenly desserts. I’m particularly fond of the Oracle: big scoops of mint chocolate chip and vanilla bean ice cream topped with crumbled Oreos and a mountain of whipped cream.
Bring your own booze or enjoy one of the café’s signature frozen concoctions such as my favorite—banana cream pie smoothie.
Whenever the spirit moves me, I head for this enthralling little gem carved out of the cliffs of the Palisades.PM
266 River Road