One would be hard-pressed to find a person in the townships surrounding Edgewater who is unfamiliar with Archetypus Café. However, one would be even more hard-pressed to find anyone who knows how to pronounce its name - or what the name means, for that matter. (For the record, it's "ar-kuh-TY-pus" and it's a literary allusion to the tale of Salome.)
Warren Sonberg, the owner of Archetypus Café for 25 years, was the person who named the café, and the one who designed its distinctive interior.
While things have changed since Sonberg created Archetypus in 1980, the café continues to offer quality coffee, desserts and light fare in a unique atmosphere. The cavernous, candlelit interior sets Archetypus - nicknamed "The Cave" by locals - apart from all other coffeehouses.
"We are not a chain, but rather a real coffee shop," Sonberg says.
While Archetypus sells plenty of kinds of coffee, it also offers many other types of drinks and food at reasonable prices. The Cappuccino (frothed milk and espresso topped with cinnamon) is a popular choice, as is the Café Aulait (frothed milk with Colombian coffee) and the Hot Cider (hot apple cider served with a cinnamon stick). Drink prices typically range from $3.95 to $4.95.
Popular appetizers include Hummus served with toasted pita wedges, and Fresh Garlic Mozzarella Breadsticks. Popular entrees include Chicken Quesadillas and Barbeque Chicken Pizza.
The most popular ice cream sundae at Archetypus is the Coco Demon - "lots of chocolate ice cream joined by rich cocoa cake and topped with hot fudge."
Sonberg attributes the appeal of Archetypus to two things: the fact that it is astonishingly more creative than many New York City cafés, and also its unique interior design.
"Most people come here, undeniably, because of the interior, to check out what it looks like, to see a surrealistic dream static area," Sonberg says. "But most people also come here because we are the greatest competition to the perception that New York is the only place to go."
Van Gogh's Ear Café
In the four years since Catherine Smook returned from culinary school to take charge at her old workplace, Van Gogh's Ear Café in Union has been completely reinvented. With its laid-back ambiance, musical performances and artwork - most notably the 12-foot-by-12-foot replica of Van Gogh's famous painting "The Starry Night" - the café has become one of Union Center's premier sites.
"I like to give a little bit of the arts to Union Center, as far as having art shows and music," Smook says. "I love having a diverse, eclectic type of restaurant."
Smook notes that the café's intimate character makes it a perfect date destination. And it doesn't hurt that the coffee drinks are among the most creative and substantial in New Jersey.
"Our House Blend is very popular because of the way we make it," Smook says. "We mix three different types of beans, including French Roast, Colombian and Sumatra from Africa. Put together, they create the perfect blend."
Other popular drinks include the thick and inviting White Mocha, made with vanilla milk and whipped cream topping, the Chai Tea Lattes, and the café's signature hot chocolate Luft for Life.
Popular appetizers include the Garlicky Spinach Dip served with tortillas, and Ali Baba's Feast, a platter of Middle Eastern dips served with toasted pita.
The café's most popular dessert is the exquisite Brown Derby - "a warm chocolate brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate syrup."
On Tuesday nights, the café hosts open-mic and acoustic musical performances. Sunday evenings, customers can enjoy jazz and blues performances. On Wednesday nights, the café holds a tarot card reading.
Card games, chess and books are always available, as is an abundance of artwork.
"All of the murals on the walls here are the artwork of our employees," Smook says. "In terms of appearance, it wouldn't be half the place it is, were it not for our employees."
While many of its customers are locals, Van Gogh's Ear Café has been known to attract customers from New York City and sometimes as far away as North Carolina and California.
Grist Mill Café
Green Township resident Eric Derby says the "funky and rustic" Grist Mill Café in Andover was sorely needed. He says the town of Andover was an ideal location, since there was a "lack of café venues."
Derby opened Grist Mill, which serves hot coffees and teas as well as light fare such as sandwiches, soups and salads, with his wife, Aimee Kalnoskas, in 2001 following a career in publishing.
"I turned to my wife ... who is culinary-trained and has a background in catering, and we decided to open a café," he says.
Derby notes that Grist Mill attracts all sorts of people, and that the kind of crowd the café welcomes largely depends on what night of the week it is.
"During lunch, we get a lot of housewives. Saturday nights, we see a lot of couples in their thirties and forties. On Friday evenings, a very young crowd comes and enjoys our open-mic night, and on Sundays we get a lot of senior citizens who enjoy our jazz bands," Derby says.
Derby notes that many of Grist Mill's customers come for special events at the café.
"A lot of our customers come get a coffee because we hold Sierra Club meetings, drum circles, songwriter workshops, and a writers workshop for poetry called 'Writers in the Round,' " Derby says.
Still, Derby adds, there are two main reasons why customers choose Grist Mill Café.
"Customers like coming here, more than anything, to enjoy our coffee and our vegetarian fare," he says. "We serve a very popular brand of coffee called Jim's Organic roasted coffee from Massachusetts."
Asked what he enjoys most about running the café, Derby responds, "I truly enjoy the friends I have made, and I am excited that many of our regular customers have become my friends."
He adds, "I also enjoy when people come up to me and say 'Boy, this place was really needed in Andover.' "
In the neighborhood...
266 River Rd.
21 E. Commerce St.
444 Bloomfield Ave.
The Dancing Goat Café
21 S. Orange Ave.
120 Albany St.
Empire Coffee and Tea Company
338 Bloomfield Ave.
Grist Mill Café
4a Lenape Rd.
517 Washington St.
Van Gogh's Ear Café
1017 Stuyvesant Ave.