Ashbox Cafe (1154 Manhattan Ave.) is a unique jewel box on a quiet street with minimal marketing and a barebones website.
What it does have is delicious, healthy food with a Japanese flair. The often-changing menu is a mix of Asian fusion dishes for breakfast and lunch with new specials almost everyday. And many of Ashbox Cafe’s dishes look as gorgeous as they taste.
Yoko Kubo is the sole proprietor, chef, and server at Ashbox Cafe. Greenpointers spoke with the small business owner about her background, her special restaurant, and the best dishes at Ashbox Cafe.
Greenpointers: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got your start in the restaurant industry.
Chef Yoko Kubo: I moved to the United States in 1997 from Tokyo, Japan. I majored in classical music in Tokyo. I was a piano instructor at Yamaha Music School after I graduated college.
Back in 1987, I opened my first cafe in Tokyo and kept running the business until I moved to the U.S. After I got a working permit, I had jobs at restaurants in Manhattan. I was a server, and a host, and then, became a restaurant manager.
In 2008, I had an opportunity to take over Ashbox Cafe. Since then I really enjoy serving my food here. I am focusing on cooking without additives like chemicals and preservatives. This ensures that my food is very simple and safe to eat.
I also upload my recipes on YouTube so that everybody can see how to cook healthy foods in an easy way.
Greenpointers: Tell us about Ashbox Cafe’s menu.
Chef Yoko Kubo: We have sandwiches, salads, onigiri rice balls, and miso soup, as well as daily specials. I enjoy preparing a new special for my customers every day.
Greenpointers: Has the menu changed over the years?
Chef Yoko Kubo: We have had vegetarian and vegan choices, as well as meat, but during the pandemic, we started serving gluten-free options.
Greenpointers: What dish would you recommend for those trying Ashbox Cafe for the first time?
Chef Yoko Kubo: I would recommend the onigiri rice balls or avocado seaweed wrap which is an Ashbox signature item. The customer has a choice for the filling including salmon, tuna, cod roe, kelp, plum, mustard greens, and scallion miso.
Greenpointers: Why did you choose to open Ashbox Cafe in Greenpoint?
Chef Yoko Kubo: Because I live in this neighborhood, and I love my community.
Greenpointers: What do you do when you’re not working?
Chef Yoko Kubo: When I am not working, I enjoy being myself at home with my cat, Shelly, who I rescued from Commercial Street a long time ago. She is now a healthy 20-year-old kitty.
I enjoy cooking in my own kitchen at home. Shelly, however, prefers cat food.