The storefront at 62 5th Avenue, between Bergen and St Marks, has been closed for a while, the faded “church” sign always a little hard to make out (is it “cnurcn”?). But over the past few months, many neighbors have noticed work going on inside, and we were happy to see another indication that a business will be bringing this space back to life soon: An application for a liquor license posted to the door.
BK9 will be a restaurant and bar serving up Caribbean-inspired food that’s a play on what the nine guys behind the business grew up eating with their families in Brooklyn, owner Gary Casimir tells us.
“We think the menu is different than than others you’ve seen before,” he says. “Healthier, foodie-er. It takes the authentic and adds a modern twist to it.”
Chef Jeremie Tomczak, who’s worked at the popular Marcus Samuelsson restaurant Red Rooster in Harlem, has developed dishes that reflect the nine guys’ Caribbean backgrounds, but with a spin that comes from not only his training, but perhaps takes a little from his own background growing up in Wisconsin. For instance, Casimir describes a parsnip cake they’ll have at dessert, a tweak to the traditional carrot cake.
“It’s out of this world,” he says.
The space, which was most recently indeed a storefront church, was an appliance repair shop before that, and before that, a luncheonette — which is when Casimir’s family bought the building. It’s been a while since anyone’s cooked up food in there, and they’ve had a lot of work to do to bring it back to a great space for dining and drinking. After some delays, though, they’re getting closer to the finish line, and hope to be open by the end of September. They’ll begin with dinner service, then hope to add lunch and brunch on the weekends to start.
Though we’re getting what sounds like a great new space, one thing that some people will apparently be sad to see change is the actual storefront.
“People keep stopping to tell me they love the store’s front, that they want me to keep it the same,” Casimir says. “But we have a new design coming, and it’s going to be beautiful, so people should probably get ready for the change.”
This is something of a homecoming for Casimir, who was born in Fort Greene and moved to Park Slope when he was about two, and whose parents still live here. Though he doesn’t live in the neighborhood currently, he says he’s seen it change, particularly along 5th Avenue, and was “there in the bad days and good days.” But he’s happy to be a part of that continuing development.
“No doubt there’s been a lot of change, the change is obvious,” he says. “A lot of people I knew are gone. But there are still a lot of great people coming in, and that’s a theme of our restaurant in a way. This is a place for all kinds of people. Like our chef from Wisconsin — on a national level, people want to be a part of Brooklyn.”
And while Casimir may be able to satisfy many of these newcomers, the difficult task might be pleasing his family and former neighbors.
“I know the community I’m serving and feel I can bring something good,” he says. “But there’s added pressure — if I screw up, everyone will know it was me!”
You’ll be able to get a sneak peak at BK-IX during the upcoming Summer Strolls block parties along 5th Avenue from Dean to Sterling, on August 15 and 22 from 5-9pm. They’re hoping to hang out and serve some food, lemonade, and pass out menus, so stop by and welcome them to the neighborhood!