A popular sidewalk cafe based in Bed-Stuy is now moving into a permanent location in Greenpoint. Little Armenia Cafe is taking over the long-vacant storefront at 1035 Manhattan Avenue, previously home to Greenpoint Diner.
Little Armenia Cafe first popped up in 2021, the work of restaurant-industry veteran Ararat El-Rawi. El-Rawi worked for years as a server at fine dining haunts around the city before the pandemic ground the service industry to a halt. Having spent his career watching so many chefs in the kitchen, El-Rawi decided to strike out on his own, opening a weekend-only pop-up with a $20 pre-fixe menu — downstairs from his apartment. A jack of all trades, he acted as chef, owner, and server, all in one.
Based on the publicity he generated from local outlets and with encouragement from his friends, El-Rawi felt ready to turn his temporary pop-up into a full-scale restaurant. With a friend as a business partner, he started scouting locations.
“We were trying to stay in Bed-Stuy — it’s my neighborhood, it’s where I had my success — I just couldn’t get lucky with any landlords,” he told Greenpointers over the phone. But when a real estate agent showed him an available space in Greenpoint, he fell in love with it. “Boy, it’s a beautiful neighborhood. If you want to have a business, this is the neighborhood to have it in,” El Rawi says. He especially raves about Wenwen and how welcoming their team has been.
The menu at Little Armenia Cafe is a mix of classic Armenian dishes alongside dishes inspired by El-Rawi’s years working in fine dining, such as ceviche and risotto. Many dishes are childhood favorites that he grew up watching his mom make.
For newcomers to Armenian cuisine, El-Rawi compares it to other Mediterranean food traditions. “As my mom would say, we’re such an old culture that a lot of this food, we were the first ones to make it, everybody else took it and changed it to their liking,” he says, naming tabbouleh and baklava as examples.
Right now, he’s eyeing an opening date of mid-October, as finishing touches are still being put into place (a storefront that has been vacant for five years requires a lot of TLC!)
One of the cafe’s more unique features will be a living room-themed dining experience. The restaurant space is bursting with tchotchkes and memorabilia, like family photos, Simpsons merch, and even a real Picasso! On the weekends, the front dining space will run with that theme and serve as the seven-course tasting menu space, designed to feel like you’re in El-Rawi’s apartment.
“I had told myself, ‘If you’re ever lucky enough to get a place, I don’t want people to feel like they’re going out to a restaurant to eat. I want them to feel like they’re literally coming to my house,'” he says.