While The Mallard Drake (43 Franklin St.) awaits its grand opening, the space is serving as a bakery pop-up from the team behind the bar’s menu. Back Alley Bread owners Autumn Moultrie and Brian Villanueva are offering mouthwatering baked goods in the mornings while The Mallard Drake’s owner, Tony Petillo, is tying up loose ends before opening the new watering hole.
This partnership began when Moultrie read the Greenpointers article about The Mallard Drake and reached out to Petillo about renting the bar’s kitchen. “He agreed to give us the kitchen portion if we took over building it out,” explained Moultrie. “After a few months of build out and equipment set up, we’re finally ready to open!”
The chefs are no stranger to pop-ups. Though they both grew up about ten minutes apart in California, Villanueva and Moultrie met at a pasta pop-up in New York in 2017.
Not only are they fantastic bakers, the two are a charitable pair. They have been baking in their apartment since start of pandemic after they lost their jobs. Instead of lounging around, Villanueva started gifting fresh loaves of bread to seniors in the building. He explained that during the pandemic, he noticed that stores were ransacked, and his neighbors couldn’t find bread. First, Villanueva tried to teach them how to make sourdough, but found it proved difficult for the older residents, so eventually, he just left loaves of bread on their doorknobs.
Moultrie was already baking a lot, too, so she added pastries to the bags. Soon, all of the building’s elderly residents were raving about Moultrie’s Angel Donuts. “They got popular very quickly,” laughed Moultrie humbly.
At first, the two chefs started taking orders over Instagram. They would wake up to a multitude of messages, asking for the popular treats. Things got really crazy when they were recognized by StarChefs and named one of the publication’s Rising Stars of 2020.
Moultrie and Villanueva knew if the business was going to be a success, they needed to find a space larger than their apartment. That’s when Moultrie reached out to Petillo. To build out The Mallard Drake’s kitchen, the chefs had to buy everything and went searching for affordable used kitchen supplies. “We drove four hours from the middle of New Jersey with our trunk open and a 300 pound oven inside,” said Villanueva.
While building out the kitchen, the chefs created a menu for The Mallard Drake. The menu will focus on childhood classics from the 80’s. Think snacks like Pop-Tarts, Bagel Bites, fried bologna sandwiches, and jumbo pretzels. Most of the menu will include elevated or reimagined versions of childhood classics without all the grease and microwaving. For example, the bagel bites they created are made with sourdough bagels, hot soppressata, smoked mozzarella with a bit of honey.
For now, Back Alley Bread fans can enjoy the pop-up’s morning menu of both sweet and savory breakfast treats, plus lunch and dinner items. The pop-up menu’s most popular item is the Angel Donut. It’s Back Alley Bread’s take on a beignet. They are coated in cinnamon sugar and cooked in Wildflower African raw honey, lending a slightly floral taste to the delicious pastries. Another sweet treat is the ube coconut morning bun. It uses the purple sweet potato from the Philippines. “You’ll see our heritage and experience mixed into the menu,” said Villanueva, who is Filipino.
Back Alley Bread’s second most popular item is the chicken and biscuit pot pie. It reminds Moultrie of the Marie Calendar pot pies of her childhood. Villanueva handpicks vegetables from local farmers’ markets, using things like carrots, celery, peas, and pearl onions, switching them up seasonally. Another tasty choice is the beef patty. They use an all-butter crust and cheese inside. It’s truly outstanding. The patty also comes in vegetarian form with eggplant, squash, and bell pepper.
For dessert, try one of Back Alley Bread’s ice cream sandwiches. The chefs switch up the offerings often, trying funky flavors like blueberry pancake or pineapple upside down cake. They even did a series called “Ice Cream for Breakfast” and offered toast and jam and coffee ice cream sandwiches.