With its reputation as one of Forest Hills’ best places to get together with friends and family, Exo Cafe has become the place to go to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers or brunch. This trendy and casual hotspot located on Austin Street has three levels, an open-loft area, a wrap-around central bar with five flat screens, rooms and space for quiet rendezvous too.
Get to Exo Cafe and experience it for yourself! But before you go, here is our exclusive interview with Peter of Exo Cafe:
1. When did Exo Cafe open and why did the founder(s) choose Forest Hills?
Exo Cafe Opened 7 years ago. The founders have another restaurant across the street called Ripe Juice Bar & Grill. Whenever they were done with their shift they wanted to go somewhere laid back and just hang out and have a drink and maybe grab some late night food. They couldn’t go to high end restaurants because the kitchens closed too early. They couldn’t go the rowdy sports bars because after a long day at work they wanted to unwind a bit. So they thought, why not build a place that has a cool laid back vibe, a kitchen that is open late and serve up some great cocktails and contemporary American fare with a touch of international influence.
They chose Forest Hills because they grew up in Queens and always would hang out here. The boys are great guys. John is there at nights making sure all the guests are having a great time. He’s got a big bad beard and a bag of M&M’s in his hands. Pete is always making rounds on the tables and the bar making you always feel like home. He always pours the homemade limoncello when someone orders it. Elias, although a bit quiet he gets his fair share of attention from the guests because they always say he looks like David Charvet from Baywatch.
2. Exo Cafe looks like a great place to host a party. What type of events or occasions are the Private Party Packages usually booked for?
The best thing about our space is it’s flexible and can accommodate from 20-60 guests in two different rooms if you want to call them. We do a large number of Baby & Bridal showers for Brunch, sometimes two parties at once if the space permits. There isn’t a weekend that goes by that we don’t host some sort of a party.
Because of our diverse menu, we are able to offer all sorts of packages from brunch to dinner to 2-hour cocktail packages that are great for many of the corporate offices in Queens. Packages start at 29.95 per person and are customized to our guests needs. We never had two parties with the same menu.
3. We saw on the Beer & Wines menu that you have your very own beer, Exo’s Lager! How did this come about and where is the beer brewed?
The founders have a lot of friends in the industry. One of them happens to have a micro-brew out in Long Island that makes them their own Exo beer. It’s the number one seller in here. It really is a beer without the fuss. If you closed your eyes and said, I want a nice cold one, that’s where the Exo beer magically appears.
And speaking of cold ones. We can guarantee that we serve the coldest beers in town. Our beer draft system is none like you have ever seen. We always guarantee to serve beer at 32 degrees or colder because of the system we use. It’s called Chill-Rite 32. It does one thing and one thing only. Chills the beer and pours it at 32 degrees or colder.
4. Browsing the menu, there are plenty of options across your brunch, lunch, dinner and dessert menus. What are the top 3 most ordered dishes?
For brunch our most popular dishes are either the French Toast a la Mode served with a French Vanilla Bean Ice Cream or the Chicken & Waffles.
For lunch, it would probably be the chimichurri steak sandwich or the crab cake burger. One of the founders’ dad had a seafood restaurant in Florida and shared with him the generation passed down recipe. Since we’ve put it on the menu its a big hit for lunch.
For dinner, it’s a close tie between our Steak Frites which is a garlic marinated skirt steak with hand cut potato chips and mashed guacamole or the Teriyaki Salmon & Mash which is a wild Chilean Salmon, glazed with a honey and teriyaki sauce, grilled on an open flame served with our creamy mashed potatoes.
5. For someone who goes to Exo Cafe often, can they expect to find different items on the menu from time to time?
All the time. We put a lot of work with our chefs into finding the right mix to offer on our menu so we can satisfy the amazing and diverse clientele that we have year round.
We tweak our menu seasonally and add items all year round spontaneously. We did secret menus before they were in style. But I have to say, it’s a love and hate relationship when the season ends, and we stop serving one item or two items. We have a lot of people asking for certain dishes and calling in from time to time to see when we will put a specific dish back on the menu.
6. When is Exo Cafe busiest and can someone make a reservation?
Reservations are always help. We fill up pretty quickly and if you have a reservation everyone needs to be here so we can sit you. There tends to be a wait on certain nights because we offer different specials every day. For example if you like Trivia, then you better reserve a table on Tuesday night. If you love Happy Hour get here early. I mean it. Especially on Friday. We do Happy Hour Monday through Friday between 4 pm to 8 pm. We were ranked Number ONE for Happy Hour in Forest Hills by Foursquare. Not only do we have drink specials but also our happy hour extends to our appetizers and all the tables in the restaurant. So if you see the bar packed to the gills don’t worry a table has the same deals!
Wednesday is Wine Down Wednesday and it’s pretty cool night with nice music and half off all bottles of wine. Thursday night is Thirsty Thursday & ladies night. We do $15.00 Sangria, Beer & Specialty Cocktail Pitchers. Saturday and Sunday is Brunch. Always make reservations for Brunch. The absolute only times we do not take any reservations is if there is a concert happening or during a few beautiful holidays like Mother’s Day. It is first come first serve.
7. How has the Forest Hills neighborhood changed since you’ve been here? What would you suggest to make this community even better?
We have been here a decade. Forest Hills has definitely changed since we have been here. A lot of small businesses have left since we have been here. A lot of corporate chains have moved in. Some people say they love the change, others think differently.
For me, I loved the small mom and pop boutique shops that used to be door to door here. If I can suggest a change, I would say give me 75 to 80 degrees all year round! Pete is always making rounds on the tables. He’s an awesome guy stop in and meet ‘em.
Take a look at Exo Cafe’s menu.