I consider babydudes to be a staple of Nostrand Avenue. I think it is fair to give babydudes that designation when I routinely witness proprietors of other neighborhood shops spending time there. Hannah Jacobs and Tali Petschek are partners in life and business, which is immediately reflective of the cafe experience. It is approachable and creates an environment where patrons can feel at home while enjoying coffee and inventive menu items.
I was recently voted onto the NAIA board of directors, and I am eager to support the young proprietors working on Nostrand Avenue. I frequently stop in for coffee at babydudes, chat about Community Board 8 gossip, and without too much persuasion, was granted permission to interview Tali and Hannah for my first NAIA merchant spotlight. On a sunny Friday afternoon Hannah was at the register and Tali was prepping menu items. It was especially enjoyable to witness them working in tandem in the kitchen while reflecting on responses to my questions, even if only for a few minutes. I summarized our conversation and used direct quotes when applicable.
When were you ready to transition from pop-up eatery to a more permanent presence in the neighborhood?
Hannah and Tali were not actively seeking a brick and mortar space even though their pop-up eateries were overwhelmingly supported with positive feedback. The opportunity for a permanent location occurred organically. The previous tenant of a Nostrand Avenue space with connections to Hannah transferred their commercial lease. It was not a stereotypical business plan supported by investors. Hannah and Tali took advantage of the opportunity presented to them given the existing foundation from their pop-up experiences.
What occurred the first time you prepared food together that led you to believe combining forces could result in something special?
Hannah and Tali met at the Eleven36 kitchen, a full-service catering company and take-away café located on President Street in Crown Heights. The kitchen atmosphere was unlike stereotypical masculine spaces. It was immediately evident how the atmosphere of the Eleven36 kitchen impacted the careers of Hannah and Tali. They were learning in an emerging and creative kitchen space. Mistakes were made, but because of the environment, the critique was constructive.They are independent forces with different cooking techniques flourishing in a collaborative effort.
They were unfazed by the chaotic nature of running pop-up eateries because of the Eleven36 experience. Tali expressed her first cooking experience with Hannah as “powerful, comfortable and fun”. Tali casually made a statement about setting 3AM alarms to check on pork roasts prior to a pop-up event. The normalcy of the odd situation will obviously make the day to day efforts of their cafe seem simple by comparison.
Best compliment from someone in the restaurant industry?
There was no direct or single compliment mentioned, but I can immediately tell Hannah is appreciative of other members of the restaurant industry visiting babydudes. They are regulars. Other proprietors in the neighborhood can easily get coffee at their own shops or cafes but they routinely stop into babydudes. Hannah and Tali unlock babydudes every morning and approach the workday as regular employees, despite running the show behind the scenes as proprietors. Hannah and Tali are grounded while respecting the work and customers. Being present is truly felt and appreciated by the customer base. They plan to be here for the long haul. Hannah added, “while waking up early and working our butts off, we will incorporate the community and be involved every single day.”
A version of this article appeared in the 2019 Nostrand Avenue Improvement Association newsletter.