From green juices to avocado on toast, there is no shortage of healthy to-go or eat-in options nowadays, especially in New York City where food is as much an experience as it is a necessity. Strangely, though, when the sun goes down, so do our nutritional goals as the gluten-free bakeries and veggie-heavy sandwich shops close while butter-laden, meat-based dinner restaurants and fried-grub bars open.
The Baba Cool Café in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood hopes to change that.
In three, short years, the cozy coffee spot has established itself as a neighborhood go-to for light breakfasts, satisfying lunches and strong caffeine choices. But owner and chef Gabriella Mann wanted to offer more. Whether it is an appetizer stopover before heading to dinner or an evening hangout for beers and light meals, Mann felt Baba Cool could serve the community better. At least through its belly. So, after a five-week winter hiatus for renovations, the daytime café is now able to stay open long past dusk.
The extended hours also mean an expanded menu. Available only after 6 p.m., these new dishes include a shaved Brussels sprout salad, roasted cauliflower, braised lentil dip, blistered graffiti eggplant, dandelion greens and sweet plantains. While its breakfast and lunch offerings include eggs, meats and cheeses, Baba Cool’s after-hours plates are all vegan and gluten free. And, frankly, if vegetables tasted this good when I was a kid, I would’ve eaten much, much more of them – and received far fewer scoldings from my grandfather. But while the new options are a refreshing take on evening dining, the stars from a recent tasting were the roasted cauliflower and braised lentil dip.
Roasted cauliflower has been finding its way onto appetizer menus lately and Baba Cool’s version is a delightful mix of savory and sweet thanks to a flavorful blend of charcoal tahini, goji berries and turmeric ghee. The lentil dip features simple ingredients such as thyme, lemon and mint but offers a well-seasoned zest. The dish is served with assorted “chips” in the form of sliced radishes but is delicious enough to eat on its own. Honorable mention goes to the sweet plantains, which are delicate in their sweetness and crispness, and presented like a portable, pop-in-your-mouth street snack.
Baba Cool also has partnered with Queens-based Transmitter Brewery to offer locally-crafted beers as well as a selection of wines which pair perfectly with the new menu. And, as part of this new bar program, all drinks are freshly poured from the recently installed tap. Although the new food items are available only in the evening, the bar menu will be offered during the day to offer diners more options, such as during brunch. Also, existing menu choices such as toasts, salads and sandwiches also will continue to be served during the later hours.