The abrupt arrival of coronavirus changed the state of restaurants and how people access food overnight, and independent entrepreneurs who are pushing through the pandemic to prepare and deliver food are helping to feed hungry would-be diners faced with fewer options.
Andy Chetakian’s dream is to own and operate a small diner, but for the time-being she’s happy running her grilled cheese and breakfast sandwich pop-up The Blue Light Speak Cheesy from her Greenpoint apartment, “I kinda like the freedom of the pop-up,” she said.
In pandemic-free years past, Chetakian popped-up at Brooklyn coffee shops such as the now-closed Budin (114 Greenpoint Ave.), where she prepared signature grilled cheeses sandwiches like the Staycation with habanero pepper jack and mozzarella cheeses, grilled pineapple, and basil on sourdough bread during the week, and cheesy egg sandwiches for weekend brunch.
Originally from Southern California where she began experimenting grilled cheese pop-ups in the small college town Fullerton in 2014, Chetakian moved on a whim three times between Brooklyn and Los Angeles with her business and most-recently relocated to Greenpoint in January.
The Speak Cheesy had just begun popping up at The Screen Door (145 Driggs Ave.) serving breakfast sandwiches to-go near McGolrick Park when the pandemic hit and the ice cream shop temporarily closed along with countless other restaurants in New York.
“I spent three weeks locked in my room just like everyone else, and I didn’t think that working was going to be an option for me, but I had all this time to sit and think, and I got some inspiration from friends that were talking about how they have a hard time getting groceries and they want more food delivery options,” she said.
On Saturdays, Chetakian delivers grilled cheese sandwich kits in Greenpoint from the menu on the Blue Light Speak Cheesy website. Orders can be placed through Saturday, and she makes the deliveries herself to ensure proper service.
Breakfast pick-up is available at Chetakian’s Greenpoint apartment (complete with contact-less window drop) on Sundays between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Customers can order up to two sandwiches for pick-up and choose from time slots that are spaced out in 15 minute increments in order to prevent crowding.
While her brick and mortar dreams are on hold, Chetakian says that she’s fortunate to skip the stress of the current situation facing restaurant owners: “I feel soo bad for all of the restaurants that are trying to keep their spaces and continuing to pay rent,” adding that she hopes that government aid will be sufficient to help all affected businesses reopen.
“I think this might be a lot longer than I originally thought,” Chetakian said.
The Greenpoint restaurant scene offers a wealth of wonderfully diverse and exciting dining options, but for some reason, finding a soul-warming bowl of ramen has remained elusive. While the American ramen obsession has often been credited to chef David Chang and the bowls he started serving at Momofuku Noodle Bar, Japan has been riding a rollercoaster of emotion over ramen since it was brought to them by Chinese tradesmen in the nineteenth century. Over the last few decades, Japan has created museums to ramen, ramen-themed video games and has even established ramen dating services to pair you with a partner who shares your passion for the dish.
Greenpoint is long overdue for its ramen moment.
While many would lament this culinary gap and continue to accept their fate of having to venture further afield for their broth, Greenpoint resident Daniel Birnbaum decided to take matters into his own hands. His passion for the hearty warming soup has lead him on a nourishing adventure which ultimately meant changing career paths in order to bring ramen to the neighborhood. Continue reading →
If you stopped by Greenpoint Avenue’s Nordic café, Budin (pronounced “Boo-th-in”), any time lately, you might have seen that they’re doing more than coffee and beer these days. Budin has become home to a few regular weekly food pop-ups for lunch, brunch, and dinner. The first is run by two neighborhood chefs needing something to do over the winter, while the other is bringing us all the winter comfort we need.
Chefs Kenny Monroe and Emma Jane Gonzalez are often found cooking up a storm during North Brooklyn Farms’ summer dining series. But, obviously, it’s winter. With the farm closed for the season, the two met up at Budin to brainstorm some pop-up plans. As it happens, Budin itself was looking to bring in someone for food. Now, Kenny and Emma are serving up delicious, healthy dishes every Tuesday and Wednesday at least until April. They start serving at 1pm, perfect for those of you missing lunch at Cassette and Brooklyn Label and keep going until close (10pm). Of course, as with most pop-ups, the menu changes slightly from week to week due to what’s available. Recent menu items included a tasty white bean hummus and charred broccoli on rye toast with the bread coming from Bakeri, a winter vegetable soup, and heirloom grains with mung beans, winter kale and shaved turnip. With the most expensive dishes being about $10-12 plus Budin offering $1 off draft beer & wine, NBK Farms’ pop-up is the perfect inexpensive option.
Of course, it’s easier to stay on the healthy side at the beginning of the week, but really, by Thursday night lately, the state of the world makes me want something to feed my soul. Something like a gooey grilled cheese. And The Blue Light Speak Cheesy is here to help! They’ve been setting up shop at Budin Thursday through Saturdays for dinner and are also there for Sunday brunch. The Blue Light Speak Cheesy has done events at The Diamond a few times, so it’s super exciting for them to be around on the regular. Yes, they have your classic grilled cheese with a little tomato soup, but you can also find them serving up sandwiches like Freaks & Geeks (dill Havarti, herbed feta, sautéed spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and olive tapenade), The Forager (taleggio, crispy wild mushrooms, thyme, on brioche), and the Posh Spice (smoked mozzarella, roasted butternut squash, and fried sage). They even have an option for the vegan outlaws among us with smoky cashew “cheese,” harissa, pickled baby heirloom tomatoes, and avocado. And at least once, there’s been a secret menu breakfast taco.
Budin is located at 114 Greenpoint Avenue. North Brooklyn Farms Pop-up should run every Tuesday and Wednesday until April. They begin serving at 1PM and go until close (10PM). The Blue Light Speak Cheesy Pop-up is Thursday through Saturday, 4:30PM to close; Sunday, 11AM to 4PM.