Greenpointers interviewed the owner of two local spots that have been flying under the radar. Ahmet Albayrak, a self-proclaimed fan of North Brooklyn, is the owner of two laid-back Williamsburg restaurants, Roka Mediterranean (349 Bedford Ave.) and Weekends Cafe (155 S 4th St.).
Roka serves fresh Mediterranean-inspired bowls, salads, and dips, while Weekends offers breakfast burritos and sandwiches with smoothies and coffee.
Greenpointers spoke with Albayrak to learn a little bit more about him, his two restaurants, and the rumor that he’s opening a third spot soon.
Greenpointers: Tell us about Roka and Weekends. What types of food does each spot serve?
Ahmet Albayrak: Weekends is California-inspired fast casual food. We are known for breakfast burritos, smoothies, coffee and other sandwiches. We got popular during pandemic. Weekends is able to provide large orders that are fresh, fast, and delicious. Besides that we are still friendly neighborhood cafe. A lot of customers come every day, and we know most of their names and orders. They just say hi and their order is ready. Some customers have been coming everyday for three years.
Roka is California-inspired mixed with traditional Mediterranean in a fast casual setting. Roka’s menu was created by a chef from California. The traditional items on the menu were redesigned and modernized. When we first opened, we invited food influencers and got feedback. It took two months to create the final menu. Now, we are getting positive reviews. Roka is designed to handle large orders. We are already doing thousands of deliveries every week, and we are expecting more this year.
Greenpointers: When did you open the eateries?
Ahmet Albayrak: I bought Weekends 3 years ago. Roka is 1 and a half years old.
Greenpointers: What is the most popular menu item at each restaurant?
Ahmet Albayrak: The most popular item at Weekends is the breakfast burrito, and the most popular item at Roka is the chicken tzatziki bowl.
Greenpointers: I have to ask… what does the name Roka mean?
Ahmet Albayrak: Roka means arugula in Turkish and Greek.
Greenpointers: …and why did you choose the name Weekends?
Ahmet Albayrak: When I bought Weekends, it already had that name. It’s a reference to the summer and California vibe.
Greenpointers: We heard a rumor that you opening a third restaurant. Could you confirm this and give us any details about this new spot?
Ahmet Albayrak: Yes, Cafe Canary is joining the family. It will be a small, cute local cafe, but a different concept than Weekends.
Greenpointers: Have you always wanted to own restaurants? How did you get into the restaurant industry?
Ahmet Albayrak: I had no experience in the food industry prior to Roka and Weekends. I was a lawyer before coming to the United States. I’ve been in the food business for 7 years now.
I really like people here. I had several cafes in different neighborhoods, but here in North Brooklyn is the best so far. The food business is hard to manage but, when you see your customers happy when you serve them, it motivates you.
Greenpointers: Why did you choose the Williamsburg neighborhood for Roka and Weekends? What do you like about it?
Ahmet Albayrak: I had several restaurants and cafes in different neighborhoods. Williamsburg is the most respectful to my business to my team. Customers know they deserve the best, and I want to do my best. It’s a good harmony.
Greenpointers: Do you live in the neighborhood?
Ahmet Albayrak: No, I don’t live here yet, but, I am looking for an apartment. I do shop local, and I like supporting local artists.