Local couple revive Brooklyn Heights’ almost-lost Vineapple Cafe

interior of chairs and tables in vineapple cafe
When they heard Vineapple Cafe was closing in 2019, longtime regulars Aubrey Therrien and Zac Rubin knew they had to act. Now, they’re the proud owners of a revamped Vineapple Cafe.
Courtesy of Vineapple Cafe

After one of Brooklyn Heights’ staple restaurants closed its doors in 2019, a couple who loved the eatery made it a mission to bring its signature meals back to the neighborhood.

When Vineapple Cafe, an Italian-esque eatery located on Pineapple Street just blocks from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade first closed for business, regular customers Aubrie Therrien and her husband Zac Rubin were hopeful their favorite haunt would return.

“We’ve been residents of Brooklyn Heights for seven years,” Therrien said. “Old Vineapple used to be our coffee shop, we basically lived right next door and, like the rest of the neighborhood we were very sad when they closed. First, they put up a sign that they’d be closed until summer … summer rolled around and they never came back. We were like, ‘What’s happening?'”

Eventually, Rubin was able to speak to one of the restaurant’s owners, and confirmed the sad news: Vineapple wasn’t coming back.

“And when it closed we looked at each other at one point and said “We can do this,’ you know, like ‘what if it had food and wine?'” Therrien said.

Her family has deep ties in the hospitality industry and has owned Giambone in Little Italy for over 75 years, which made their project both possible and practical. But months passed before the pair started seriously discussing reviving Vineapple.

“[Rubin] called me one day and said, ‘Were you serious about that’ and I was like ‘No,'” Therrien joked. “Because I know how hard it is to run a restaurant. Eventually he won me over and we took it over in February 2020.”

interior of vineapple cafe
Therrien and Rubin took their time renovating the cafe and cultivating a wide-ranging menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, preserving the original feel of the restaurant while bringing their own influences. Courtesy of Vineapple Cafe

Of course, the start of the pandemic quickly derailed the project, closing the doors of many of the city’s restaurants first temporarily, then, eventually, permanently. While getting the new Vineapple Cafe up and running took a backseat, the delay wasn’t all bad for the couple’s planning process.

“I don’t ever want to say it was a blessing because it wasn’t, but it did give us more time to decide what we wanted Vineapple to be instead of rushing to reopen the place,” Therrien said. “We got to renovate, and it was really a labor of love. We took our time. Our family came up, we painted the mural, we made the restaurant what we wanted it to be and then we slowly opened in July 2020.”

They started small, with limited options and operating hours, and, with the help of a “super forgiving and open and excited” neighborgood, slowly grew into what’s now the thriving Vineapple Cafe 2.0. The restaurant, led by bar director and general manager Jennifer Sandella and Executive Chef Joel Mendia, serves food described as “fusing New American and Italian-leaning cuisine.” 

Vineapple’s three-meal daily menu features coffee from Brooklyn roastery Devoción and locally-sourced pastries; soups, salads and paninis for lunch; and a varied Italian-esque dinner menu complimented by signature cocktails created by Sandella, who doubles as the eatery’s drinks expert.

cocktails at vineapple cafe
Alongside the traditional coffee and pastries served by the original Vineapple Cafe, the revamped eatery has an Italian-inspired dinner menu and a variety of signature cocktails. Courtesy of Vineapple Cafe

With weekly Trivia Nights, live music on Sunday evenings, and regular non-profit nights, where 20 percent of the evening’s proceeds are donated to a local organization, Vineapple is “in a good place,” Therrien said.

It’s a particularly sweet victory to be able to maintain the legacy of the original beloved café and pay homage to the previous owners.

“I think they’re really happy to know that Vineapple is in good hands, it’s legacy, it still exists, and that what she had built for eight years sort of remains,” Therrien said. “We kept subtle nods to Vineapple of the past, and kept true to that kind of coffee shop feel.”

Therrien encouraged the community to head down to Pineapple Street for a delicious meal at any time of day, adding that the restaurant is kid-and-pet friendly.

“We have a really beautiful dinner menu that we want people to try,” she said. “We have what I think are the best cocktails in the neighborhood. We have a garden where people can enjoy dinner, i feel we’re a reasonably priced, and accessible restaurant.”

Find out more about Vineapple Cafe at their website.