Linger Cafe & Lounge
533 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217-1913
(347) 689-4813

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Jessica Pichardo runs from the backyard space of Linger Café & Lounge, her restaurant on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn where she’s chatting up a group of people to say hello to me.  She seems a bit frazzled – the polar opposite of the mood in the restaurant which is more laid back and calm.  But such is life when you run a café in a booming neighborhood; working six long days per week.  But she’s in great spirits, and is genuinely happy with her life since opening the doors of Linger almost one year ago. 

In fact, the actual anniversary is Monday, July 19th.  On Saturday the 17th though they’ll be throwing their one year anniversary bash complete with a live DJ & Break Dancing, art by Chris Mendoza and other local artists partnering up with kids art program for disadvantaged youth, and food & drink specials from 8:00 PM until midnight.  A portion of the evening’s proceeds will even be donated to local arts youth programs.

While this may appear ambitious for a local café, the food and fan base speak for themselves.  Jessica opens the restaurant six days a week starting with breakfast all the way through dinner, and beyond.  Ambition is the name of the game if you want to survive in this fickle market.  She even plays into our community’s obsession with outdoor activities with a film series beginning this month that will be held in the backyard through the summer, and will eventually move indoors.  Films will range from experimental, indie, foreign, horror classics, and cult classics.

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Jessica was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her busy day to answer some pressing questions I had about the restaurant, the one year anniversary, and the surrounding Boerum Hill neighborhood:

What is the concept behind Linger Café & Lounge?
I wanted a nice cross between very sexy parlor living room and modern with the intention of having people seek us out as a respite from the everyday.  You can come in any time of day and just stay for a little while or stay & LingerWe serve food all day; local wine & beer, and homemade baked goods.  It’s just sort of a neighborhood, cozy spot.

What does the cuisine center around?
It’s a mix, really.  We do anything from a really simple sandwich such as our homemade chicken pesto with local free-range chicken.  On the weekends we do a full brunch with poached eggs over shrimp saffron risotto, or French toast that we soak in cream overnight, and serve it with brown sugar, figs, & apples.  Our menu changes a lot.  We have a core offerings, but we like to play around with the rest of it based on what our customers like & don’t like.  It’s important to keep it interesting.

Are you open for weekday breakfast too?
We actually have found that serving breakfast all day works very well for us.  You’d be surprised how many people come in here ordering the Florentine Wrap or French toast at 5:00 in the afternoon.

And you also feature live music?
One of the major things that we’re looking into is making Linger into sort of a community gathering spot, and centering it around art & music.  Every month or so we rotate the art on our walls to feature local Brooklyn artists, and we also have live music a couple days a week usually during brunch.  We’re starting to also have music in the evenings now that the weather is getting warmer.  And it’s also supporting all Brooklyn talent.

Who is your customer?
We are lucky in that we are getting a really wide range of the market.  We have everyone from freelance professionals that live in the area; regulars who stop in for their morning coffee or people who count on us for their weekend brunch. We also have a lot of young couples with kids coming in.  They enjoy the backyard now that the weather is warmer.

What do you see happening in this part of Brooklyn right now and going forward?
 I see a lot of development – more & more people moving to the area.  It’s such a great central location.  We’re on the cusp of a lot of different neighborhoods (Boerum Hill/Fort Greene/Clinton Hill/Downtown Brooklyn/Park Slope) within walking distance.  It’s definitely an up and coming area especially with the Atlantic Yards project happening.  I expect a lot more hustle & bustle over the next few years.  I’m excited about being one of the pioneers in this neighborhood, and one of the things that’s important to me is staying true to that mom & pop, small business sort of mentality regardless of how developed the area may become.

What is your culinary background and inspiration for starting Linger?
As a little girl my grandmother would have me clean shrimp to help her get dinner on the table.  It was a real beautiful bonding experience.  I think food is one of the simplest ways that you can touch people and force them to stop for a second and enjoy something simple.  I’ve always been really comfortable in the kitchen.  I waited tables from the time I was 15 years old, so I’ve always been in the (restaurant) industry.  I always thought that I would open up a restaurant later on in life, but after getting laid off from the Banking industry in 2008 I decided to take the plunge sooner.  I hadn’t been very happy the last few years prior, so this was my chance to really do what I wanted.  It’s been a really satisfying labor of love.

What are some of your customers’ favorite dishes?
The pesto chicken sandwich is easily a favorite.  We use local chicken, homemade pesto, and fresh mozzarella.  Brunch is also big for us – we play around a lot with our poached egg dishes sometimes over a crayfish or shrimp risotto, or sometimes mushrooms cooked down with cream & herbs.  I’m actually making a homemade hash with fried eggs for tomorrow.

Where do you see all of this over the next few years?
We’re approaching our one year anniversary in July, and we’re at the point where we’re figuring out what works and what doesn’t, focusing on tightening up the menu, and getting a positive buzz out there.  I definitely want to be the to-go place for good food and a really relaxed environment.  We’re finding the space being used more & more for private parties which is nice because it supports a sort of familiar, cozy. If I can open up the space for a group of 30 people and really make something memorable for them, I think it’s a nice way ot leave an impression on the community.  More importantly – longer term I really want to see this be a sort of focal point for art & music in the neighborhood.  We’re working a lot with local music – we’re actually starting with The Classical Revolution and their New York City following.  They’re a large group known in San Francisco; classically trained musicians – it’s like a jam session of chamber music.  We were featured in Time Out New Yorka couple of weeks ago – there was a piece on us with The Classical Revolution.  Mostly I want to help people take some time out; smell the roses and enjoy an hour.  It makes all the difference in your quality of life.

Linger Cafe & Lounge is open Tuesday-Thursday, 10AM – 10PM, Friday-Saturday, 10AM – 11PM, and Sunday from 10AM – 6PM.

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