Flatbush’s Nostrand Avenue is in need of a new eatery, according to Chef Wesly Jean Simon, who owns Haitian restaurant Zanmi, which sits on the corner Hawthorne Street. There are few good pizza restaurants in the area, according to Jean Simon, and people around the Winthrop Street station, including the staff at Kings County Hospital, have to walk too far for their morning coffee.
In response, he is opening new restaurant Market Bar Brooklyn at 1207 Nostrand Ave. to fill in the blanks, serving coffee and pastries in the morning and transitioning to a restaurant and bar at night that will have a focus on pizza. And it’s going to be good pizza, Jean Simon, who last week was on the hunt for a top-notch pizza chef, said.
“You got to have experts, you can’t come in and throw anybody in there, you want to have good pizza. It’s New York City, if you gonna be in New York City you have to meet the standard of New York,” he said.
Jean Simon said the restaurant will be all about catering to what the community wants to see, including in its pizza and other menus, which he would always take suggestions on. “What do you guys not get in this area, we’re gonna have it,” he said. Already, people have been asking for oxtail pizza, he added.
That same theme of tailoring to local desires will be carried into the beer offerings. Market Bar Brooklyn will brew its own beer in the basement with the help of DaleView brewers (which recently closed its own brick and mortar on Nostrand Avenue). The Flatbush Lager was the first thing on Jean Simon’s mind.
“This is more of what’s missing in the neighborhood. So more ambiance, instead of people going downtown to hang out there [or] go somewhere far like all the way down by the Barclays area or the city, so they can actually walk home. They don’t have to get a ticket for a DUI,” he laughed. Screens behind the bar will show games and a large projector in the main area could become a music video jukebox, he said. And the general music, he added, will almost always be set to ‘90s playlists.
Jean Simon has a long history in New York’s hospitality scene, leading to the opening of his Haitian restaurant Zanmi in 2020, just as the pandemic hit. Despite the restaurant world being turned upside down, Zanmi thrived and its success in the neighborhood led to a recently opened SoHo location, which Jean Simon said is being very well received.
“When I did the Zanmi concept, it was just like Jay Z said, his first album took him a whole lifetime because he’d been writing that first album from day one until he put it out. Then the second album is always a year or two … Zanmi, it’s been an album that I’ve been creating my whole life, since I started cooking.” The food, he added, is his culture, what he grew up eating and cooking.
With Market Bar, he wants to show his broad spectrum of skills as a chef with a menu that is not tailored around Haitian food and is also broader than just pizzas.
“We are going to be doing coffee in the morning, you know, mostly high end sandwiches, crafted pizza, artisanal pizza style, pastas. Something the neighborhood needs that we don’t have in this area, a little bit of sports and TV,” Jean Simon told Brooklyn Paper’s sister site Brownstoner at the new space last week, previously home to MetroPCS, as he prepped for the opening. The aim, he said, is to provide a place for families and friends to chill out together with good drinks and good food, and the game if they want to watch.
The soft opening took place Saturday, with the grand opening slated for Super Bowl Sunday. Jean Simon said he is also planning to launch consulting services for local mom and pop restaurants in the neighborhood to help them be more efficient and run successful businesses.
Over the past few months, he said, he has seen a number of small restaurants in the neighborhood close due to a lack of expertise in licensing requirements and other factors, and he wants to work with the ones still standing (and with people planning to open new spots) to ensure longevity. “I want to focus on that. That’s my next step.”
That would include going through licensing and leasing requirements, strategizing what gaps there are in the local market, and how to do initial restaurant setups to save money.
“This area could have a lot more foot traffic, people,” Jean Simon said, as a place that showcases the best of the Caribbean. “We don’t have to be like, you know, 20 jerk chickens. We could have a broad spectrum of food and culture in the area…like when you go to Trinidad and Tobago they have a strong Indian background in their food, so they could actually focus on that strong Indian background and we don’t have that in the area…so people can understand that Little Caribbean has more to offer.”
This story first appeared on Brooklyn Paper’s sister site Brownstoner.