Get it while it’s hot (and before the city shuts it down)

Get it while it’s hot (and before the city shuts it down)
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

On a recent Saturday, a handful of people gathered in a Prospect Lefferts Garden backyard, happily devouring plates full of sliders, sweet potato fries and corn.

But this was no backyard barbecue, or secret supper club. It was Taste of Hawthorne Street, a weekends-only eatery that Prospect Lefferts Garden resident Patrice Carter runs out of her backyard with her friend Doreen Simpson.

Carter and Simpson serve their delectable salmon sliders and sausage to anyone brave enough to knock on a stranger’s front door, though the eatery is officially only open for friends and friends of friends (so it’s not really a “restaurant,” you understand? Got it, Health Department?).

“We wanted a place you could grab a good burger in the neighborhood,” said Carter. “Somewhere you could go for good, fresh homemade food instead of just settling for Popeyes.”

The two women learned to cook from their mothers (“It’s incredible how much you learn when you aren’t paying attention,” said Carter). They focus on foods that are easy to cook quickly, meaning barbecue-style fare like sliders, fries and chicken-skewers. The food has a West Indian slant, with other cultural influences popping up, like the cheese and chili powder-encrusted corn on the cob.

Patrice Simpson (left) and Doreen Carter own and operate the seemingly illegal backyard eatery Taste of Hawthorne in Prospect Leffers Garden. The food is great, but how long it remains open is a question for the Health Department bureaucrats, apparently.
Photo by Kristen V. Brown

They say they charge only to recoup the costs of food, the menu featuring nothing over $7. By day, Carter works at an independent record label and Simpson for a “well-known” director. They haven’t really kept track of how many customers they have each day, but say it must be more than 20.

“We really don’t sleep,” said Simpson.

A small sign and menu, featuring the eatery’s logo, a playful, hand drawn house, mark the entrance to the ground-floor apartment. Diners are greeted at the front door by the chefs and their rambunctious dog, Ori, who spends the afternoon attempting to scale the wooden backyard fence in pursuit of squirrels on the other side.

In a neighborhood lacking in good sit-down eateries, Taste of Hawthorne Street has become a lazy place to catch up with friends and have a bite. The budding chefs like to think of themselves as champions of community and local businesses. Carter sports clothing designed by local artists, and she displays a friend’s T-shirts in the back, pointing visitors towards a row of business cards for local businesses on their way out.

But what about letting strangers through the door? Not a problem when every stranger leaves as a friend.

Customers hang out back.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

“This is just something nice to have in the neighborhood, somewhere nice to sit and eat good food,” said Curtis Franklin, whose aforementioned shirts are on display in the backyard. Franklin brought his mother for the first time, who raved about the sweet mint green iced tea.

Currently, the eatery is operating without permits, but when they shut down for the winter, the women plan on looking into options to make the eatery legal and potentially expand to a real restaurant.

“We discovered this is something we’re really passionate about,” said Carter. “We don’t want to pass up the opportunity to follow though on this just because it’s not what we planned to do with our lives.

Carter and Simpson hugged a reporter when she left. “You see,” said Simpson, “you’ve had lunch in our home, now we’re friends.”

Patrice Carter co-operates a restaurant in the backyard of her house in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, serving up comfort classics such as sliders and sweet potato fries.

For information on Taste of Hawthorne Street, e-mail [email protected]