Karen’s Cafe Does Over-the-Top Sandwiches in Greenwood Lake

Karen’s Cafe takes it up a notch with crazy wraps, creamsicle smoothies, and loaded Texas Toast sammies in the Hudson Valley.

At Karen’s Cafe in Greenwood Lake, crazy is a very good thing.

Without a little cray cray, Karen Velez and her fiancé, Christopher Ryan, might never have dreamed up the over-the-top concoctions that find a home on the menu. The specialties are exactly those dishes that you drool over on Instagram but question how they hold up in real life. The only difference is that their creations are actually deserving of eye rolls of pleasure as diners savor that first bite.

“[I’m] not shy about having crazy items,” the New Rochelle native admits. Indeed, wacky works when it comes to the cafe’s porky tater tots with slow-roasted pulled pork and hickory brown sugar barbecue sauce or mac and cheese bowls topped with everything from crispy bacon to saucy chicken. Where it truly shines, however, is on the couple’s menu of specials and “secret” items, which they change regularly.

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Want a sneak peek? Watch this.

In case you’re wondering exactly what “this” is, it’s one of the duo’s secret Texas Toast sandwiches. As the word “secret” suggests, the sandwiches are not on the main menu that hangs above the register. Yet they are plastered across the café’s Instagram (which is why you should probably follow it now). True #foodporn in the Hudson Valley, the sammies are impressive constructions of thick Texas Toast slabs stuffed with indulgent ingredients like mac and cheese, chicken cutlets, and runny eggs. With everything from cheese pulls and drippy yolks to stacks on stacks of add-ons, they check all the boxes of social post perfection.

“Our specialty here at Karen’s Cafe is creativity!” Velez enthuses.

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Of course, that’s not to say that the not-so-secret menu is anything less than delicious. Inside the cozy, 900-square-foot café, which opened at the beginning of May 2019, Velez and Ryan treats diners to comfort food with a loving touch. They make their own hot sauce and base many of their creations around inspiration from daily life. Take the Craig’s Favorite sandwich, for instance. Made with chicken tenders, buttery garlic buffalo sauce, crispy bacon, curly fries, and melted cheddar in a wrap, it’s based on Velez’s fiancé’s favorite foods.

As for the space, Karen’s 18 seats makes it just as ideal for breakfast for two as it is for lunch with friends. For the couple, the restaurant is a natural transition from Salt & Pepper Café, the eatery in which Velez used to work. When it closed, she realized it was a golden opportunity for her and her fiancé to take over and finally pursue Velez’s dream of opening a food business of her own. Although they originally planned to one day launch a food truck, their love of the Greenwood Lake community made Karen’s Cafe a perfect fit.

“Never did I think I’d be planning to open a café, but I grew to love the people who I’m blessed to have met while working at Salt & Pepper,” Velez says.

Hungry for more? Because Karen’s changes the menu (the public one and the secret one) often, every visit is a surprise – and an excuse to make a return trip.

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Karen’s Cafe
699 Jersey Ave, Greenwood Lake

Related: The Valley’s Pint-Sized Coffee Shop Debuts a Flagship Store in Rhinebeck

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