Cafe Amrita Needs A Little Help From The Neighborhood

By Carol Tannenhauser

The photograph above was taken in the carefree days before the pandemic, probably around 2012, when Cafe Amrita on West 110th Street was named the City’s “Best Neighborhood Hangout” by the Village Voice.

“What sets Café Amrita apart is that owner Robert Song has managed to create an unusually special and welcoming vibe, which has attracted a community of good-natured regulars who in turn welcome newcomers without judgment. (Some folks call it their living room,)” the Voice wrote.

These days, Mr. Song, who comes from Canada, sounds like a lot of New Yorkers: a little sad and stressed, but resolute. “I’m hopeful we’ll muster through,” he told us by phone. He’s a meditator and that helps. In fact, Amrita is a Sanskrit word meaning, roughly, “a potion you take that elevates your consciousness and changes your mind and perspective.”

I’d like a delivery, please.

“I’m trying to survive from day to day,” Mr. Song said. “I’m sure it’s what other restaurants and bars are going through. I owe six months rent, which the landlord thankfully deferred, but I’m going to have to start making 100% of the payments soon, plus a percentage of arrears. Sales are bad and costs are higher. I’m in the hole for a good chunk of money.”

Friends convinced him to launch a GoFundMe, which he thought only they would contribute to. It turned out that patrons who have passed through Amrita remembered their experiences and gave from places as far away as Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Vancouver. Ex-employees gave too, and Mr. Song intends to return the favor. “The funds will be allocated for cafe expenses, including for the staff whose hours have been reduced and especially for those who do not receive unemployment insurance,” he said.

For those who are interested in helping another neighborhood mainstay survive, you can find the GoFundMe here. It had raised $8,600 of its $20,000 goal as of Friday morning. With a little help, Cafe Amrita will make it to its 18th birthday this May.

Cafe Amrita is located in Towers on the Park, at 301 W. 110th Street, between Manhattan Avenue and CPW/Frederick Douglass Boulevard. It is open for takeout and delivery. Here is the menu. (212) 310-6600.

FOOD, NEWS | 4 comments | permalink
    1. Roseann Milano says:

      Well done, WSR.

    2. nwags says:

      Yes!! Amrita is truly a neighborhood gem. Much more than a cafe. A place for community gathering & where neighbors become family ❤️ Not to mention their new pastas are en fuego. They’ve got my support!

    3. Frank Lovece says:

      All the years I’ve been going there, the grilled chicken-pesto sandwich and the chipotle chicken sandwich have been consistently excellent … and incredibly reasonably priced. Amrita really is the neighborhood living room. It’s the kind of comfortable local cafe you only see in movies.

    4. Neal Hurwitz says:

      Nice place.