Text and photos by Stacie Joy
It’s early evening when I arrive at C&B Cafe, 178 E. Seventh St. between Avenue A and Avenue B, for the start of dinner service. The interior is intimately lit, with the sounds of Isaac Hayes coming from the record player. (Yes, an actual turntable and stylus.)
Chef and owner Ali Sahin is cutting up chickens while prep chef Sayvon “Sam” Flemings is chopping eggplant into symmetrical cubes for tadig, an Iranian dish served here with tomato, asparagus and a poached egg over crispy Persian rice. The freshly prepared chicken will be made into several meals: breast meat for sandwiches, made with avocado and lemon juice, chicken legs for the chicken and eggs breakfast bowl as well as braising for the dish’s accompanying jus, and bones for making stock.
Bread is proofing gently on racks, about to be transferred overnight to the tiny and well-organized cold storage. C&B creates and serves two kinds of breads, a 4-pound sourdough loaf that takes three days to make, and the round bread rolls for sandwiches and burgers. Ali uses a bit of aged or “old” dough in each batch to add tang and flavor to the finished product.
Best sellers at the small restaurant include the sausage egg and cheese (with either merguez or chorizo) and one of Sahin’s’s favorites, menemen, a Turkish breakfast. Sahin, who is Turkish, makes the dish with tomatoes, garlic and onion, oregano and spicy red peppers, finished with two scrambled eggs stirred into the cooked dish.
Barista Sade King selects a new album, “On the Radio: Greatest Hits (volume 1)” by Donna Summer and rings up the midweek burger-and-fries dinner special for a local repeat customer before making a cup of Callebaut-chocolate-based hot cocoa with steamed whole milk.
She reflects on the recent rise in popularity of oat milk, while Sahin uses a propane torch to flame-finish the cheese on the burger. “No lettuce today,” he informs the customer, due to the CDC’s temporary banning of romaine. Before he can even answer (he is fine with it!) Sahin has already turned his attention to his roasted red peppers, which will be used for the housemade (and available for sale) hot sauce, cooked down with roasted garlic and habaneros. He winces a bit as he tastes it: “Spicy!” he announces, satisfied.
C&B Cafe, 178 E. Seventh St. between Avenue A and Avenue B, is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. You can keep up with C&B Cafe on Instagram here. The Cafe opened in January 2015.
Previously on EV Grieve:
A visit to the Tompkins Square Library branch on 10th Street