Who or what is a babydude? In this context—and cafe—Babydudes is a term of endearment shared by life and business partners Hannah Jacobs and Tali Petschek. The two met while working at a commissary kitchen in New York and eventually opened a cafe named after their pet name for one another. The cafe, on the bustling Nostrand Avenue strip of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, is queer-owned and operated. All are welcome at Babydudes.
Petschek has a varied history in food service including being a butcher at Marin Sun Farms in Oakland, working as a line cook at the fine dining establishment Bay Wolf (now known as The Wolf). Jacobs brings the coffee background, having worked at NYC coffee staples such as Kaffe 1668 and Devoción. Shortly after the two met they started cooking together and throwing pop-ups outside of bars on their days off. They developed a working relationship with the bar King Tai in Crown Heights through their pop-ups, which progressed into a pizza residency in the summers. Coffee was perhaps not the next logical step, but it was the right one.
In October 2018, the pair was approached by a friend about a commercial lease in Crown Heights. After a speedy and successful Kickstarter campaign, Jacobs and Petschek were able to open Babydudes a few months later, the following January. Through their Kickstarter capital, they were able to purchase a kegerator, stand mixer, freezer, signage, a projector system for film nights, and after a long, seven-month licensing process, a beer and wine license.
The realized space is modest and cozy, with large front windows providing plenty of light to add an airy feel to Babydudes’ small footprint. With wood furniture and fixtures creating a warm and casual vibe, and in an effort to promote an intimate environment, weekends are “device-free”—so leave the laptop at home and bring a friend for engaging conversation.
Ever community-minded, Babydudes takes a hyper-local approach to beverage and food purveyors. The cafe features Brooklyn-based roaster Spectrum Coffees prepared on a classically handsome La Marzocco Linea Classic and Mahlkönig PEAK and EK43S grinders. Tea drinks come from Manhasset, New York-based SerendipiTea, whom the owners tapped not only for their thoughtfully curated tea selection but also for the level of care taken through an equitable supply chain and responsibly sourced teas.
On the menu you’ll find produce from Pennsylvania-based Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative and dairy products from upstate NY’s Battenkill Dairy and Ronnybrook Farms. “Our primary goal is to uplift ourselves and others doing the hard work, putting in the hours, compromising profit simply to be considered a player—you know, small, owner-operated businesses,” said Jacobs.
There’s also a small retail section with unique preserves such as banana, lemon saffron, and chili pepper by Brins Jams, a women-owned and operated company located just up the road in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s repurposed Pfizer Building. Pastries are provided by The Native Bread and Pastry, with classic buttery croissants, sweet and savory breads, and a few vegan options. These join expertly crafted house made specialties, including ricotta, pork belly, and pickles. The daily menu features updated takes on classics such as sourdough waffles, and a stand out kimchi toast. They also offer a few plant-based vegan protein specials with sausages from Yeah Dawg and analog meats from Insatiable Vegan, such as crabless cake toast with bright summery frisée and a cucumber/red onion salad.
Guided by their community-focused mission, the space has hosted many community members for pop-ups and events in their first year of operation. Some recent pop-ups include both/&, a project by local artists-turned-chefs Sachi Nagase and Katie Yun. Crown Heights artists and new tea garden Namastea hosted an evening of art and music while Jacobs and Petschek cooked for attendees. A local group known as Queerets hosted an evening called Qalm, with the goal of creating sober and mindful social spaces for those in the queer community.
The strong sense of community and authenticity that flows through everything Jacobs and Petschek do makes Babydudes a standout in the sea of coffee shops opening these days. It’s apparent from the moment you have the opportunity to speak with them that they are driven by an intense sense of quality and earnestness that just makes you want to be a part of their world—stop by and see for yourself.
Jeremy Hernandez (@thejetboatadventurer) is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Brooklyn. This is Jeremy Hernandez’s first feature for Sprudge.