Coffee Shops in Outer Baristaville, Part III — ANT Bookstore/Cafe

Over the last few weeks, we’ve brought you to The Fine Grind in Little Falls, and Palazzone 1960 just over the Little Falls border in Wayne. Now, we’re headed to Clifton.

Like most good coffee shop stories, I wasn’t looking for it. The day after superstorm Sandy, my husband and I found that his Clifton warehouse was as powerless as our Baristaville home. Dejected, instead of jumping back on Route 46, we took the slower roads home; I had time to look around and saw that the lights – and coffeemakers – were on at ANT Bookstore/Cafe; inside, the tables filled with folks in search of outlets, wifi, coffee and conversation.

At ANT, you can sip a Turkish coffee, order traditional Turkish desserts, use the free wifi, and browse aisles of new books. The café takes up about a third of the sprawling space, bright, inviting, spotless, with natural light pouring in the large windows. There’s a no-hurry feel and soothing Middle Eastern style music.

On a cold day this past week, it was hard to decide on a hot drink, with choices that include American, Turkish and espresso coffees; cappuccino and lattes; herbal, Turkish and English tea; American hot chocolate, and Sahlep, a Turkish hot white chocolate with cinnamon.

More intriguing though was selecting a little something to go with the hot drink: something that looked satisfying but a bit hum-drum (bagel, croissant, cheesecake, mini muffins, chocolate cake), or something not-quite-so-common yet enticing (baklava, olive bread, iced lemon pound cake) – or go for the difficult-to-pronounce, unusual, unfamiliar delicacies in the case that tempted with exotic names, visual allure, and remarkably reasonable prices?

A friendly staffer, Makbule (Mag for short), offered me a tour of the food offerings, and I spent 15 minutes – well, I guess salivating is the word. There’s Puaca (poo-cha), a puffy baked bun, either plain or stuffed with feta cheese; squares of Kadayif (kay-dif), a flat cake with crushed pistachio crust topping, and a shiny come-hither look; and a spiral Tahini pastry buried in sesame seeds.

Black olive lovers – be warned, you’ll have trouble choosing between Peynirli and Aycoregi – crescent rolls with cheese and olive filling, and Acma, a soft yeasty bagel-like bread ring. You could tuck into a crock of fresh rice pudding, or try the butternut squash dessert – rings of squash that’s marinated in sugar for 24 hours, then cooked and sprinkled with walnut crumble.

On one visit I opted for the Long Borek, a tubular cheese-and-spinach (or cheese-and-potato) stuffed flaky dough roll (not unlike Phyllo except that it’s made from a Turkish recipe in a nearby specialty kitchen). Mealtime, you can consider the Breakfast Plate – olives, two cheeses, cucumbers, tomatoes, a fruit and nut mix, a hard-boiled egg.

There’s yogurt too, and at least one meat dish on offer, as well as an assortment of traditional Turkish packaged snacks, including Ulker Cokonat and Bianko – if you like hazelnut, milk chocolate and wafers, that’s all you need to know. (Did I say I tried one and then had to stash one more in my purse? No, I don’t think I said that, exactly.)

If you’re meeting up with more than a couple of others, or want to keep the kids from begging for ice cream from the freezer, there’s a pleasant semi-secluded room with larger tables tucked just behind the café, and near the spacious children’s book room.

Which brings us to the books. Mag told me they think of themselves as a bookstore with a café, “a quiet and quite nice version of you know, that huge store.” ANT is the only U.S. outpost of a Turkish book store chain, and does a lot of book business online. Yet the spacious, inviting store is a browser’s paradise with wide aisles, low shelves, comfy chairs. And if you happen to need books written in Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Spanish, or a few other languages – you’re in luck. Ditto if you like unique stationery and note cards.

ANT is located at 345 Clifton Avenue, just before it intersects with Main Ave. It’s open seven days a week; weekdays from 8 to 8, Saturday 9-10, and Sunday 10-7. There is plenty of free parking in the adjacent municipal lot. After 5:00 p.m. all baked goods are reduced by 50 percent.

Do you have a favorite coffee shop in outer Baristaville that’s worth the trip? Or one you’re curious about? Tell us in comments or email Lisa at Baristanet dot com

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