When Josh Ku and Trigg Brown opened Win Son, a perennially packed Taiwanese-American restaurant, in 2016, times were tough. They used a Kickstarter to fund the opening, relied on friends and family to get through a night of service, and had moments where they didn’t know if they were going to make it.
More than three years later, Ku and Brown are opening Win Son Bakery with former Win Son General Manager and beverage expert Jesse Shapell under different circumstances. They’re part of a growing Taiwanese-American food scene and have a talented team ready to go. For their second concept, they hired Danielle Spencer, a Craft alum and longtime friend of Brown’s, as the pastry chef and baker and Brian Girouard as the sous chef.
The bakery, which offers Taiwanese-inspired breakfasts and pastries by day and an evening menu and bar program, is located kitty-corner to the original Win Son on Graham Avenue by the Montrose L. It’s more casual as guests order at the counter and food is brought to you. In the mornings, service will be quick, with coffee and housemade sweet and savory soy milk on offer. They’re distinct, but related concepts, sisters not twins.
Hundreds of people have already sampled Win Son Bakery’s menu at their Sunday pop-ups, a solution to the construction issues that delayed their opening. Each week, the team delivered soft serve with seasonal toppings, gluten-free mochi donuts made with millet, and sticky date cakes that beg for a cup of coffee.
Starting on August 25, guests sampled the bakery’s signature breakfast sandwich, served on homemade milk bread with raclette cheese. At $7, it’s a major addition to the area’s breakfast offerings. There’s also a carnivore version with bacon or pork knuckle, and loaves of the milk bread will be sold whole. Get one if they’re still in stock.
Lines up the block only stoked excitement for the bakery’s opening, gave them “a reassurance of what we’re doing,” and gave the team a chance to work out service kinks and refine the menu. “Getting people in the space has built momentum,” Shapell adds.
In addition to the morning pop-ups, the team previewed their fried chicken boxes at various events this summer, including Eater’s Young Guns Summit. The boxes feature the glazed and fried chicken with a scallion pancake and their new perfectly seasoned wedge fries with a ginger deluxe dipping sauce. “We wanted to put bodies in motion,” says Brown, who also did pop-ups before Win Son opened.
Brown, Ku, and Shapell have complementary skills and an intentional approach. Ku designed the space and oversaw the construction. It was a gut renovation and the result is a bright space inspired by lightness. The stools are comfortable, the lighting works day or night. Nooks are filled with plants from Rooted and the white walls will get art in the months to come.
The team took pains to design a sign that reflected the building’s history: initially the D’Angelo and Bianco Funeral Home, now relocated in Ridgewood, and then a travel agency. They took font and color cues from the original signs. Local artist Massimo Mongiardo painted the exterior in a neighborhood inspired mural that captures the corner’s changing foot traffic.
Ku also traveled to Taiwan on a research trip with Spencer and Girouard. They spent their time visiting bakeries, trailing pastry chefs and walking everywhere to make room for more food. Brown is the head chef, working with Spencer to develop the menu. He also trained sous chef Girouard on the line at Win Son, with chef de cuisine Calvin Eng.
The menu features a number of Taiwanese specialties including fan tuan, a sticky rice roll stuffed with egg and other fillings for breakfast. The dinner menu is sandwich heavy (they offer chicken, squid, pork jowl and mortadella versions), and includes a burger, and seasonal vegetable sides. The late summer lineup includes fresh corn and chinese broccoli. Vegetarians can try the vegetable sides and an unexpectedly delicious eggplant parmesan, also served on the milk bread.
In between savory food and drinks, Spencer will offer rotating flavors of soft serve in a cup or cone, sized “so you can finish what you ordered and be happy with what you’ve spent.”
Shapell developed the beverage program, which includes American cocktails with Taiwanese flavors. an impressive whiskey selection, Taiwanese beers, and natural wines (the orange wine is a must-order).The cocktail list is short but the back bar is deep, with an emphasis on whiskey and agave spirits “it’s fun and easy and high quality.”
Shapell expects people to stop by the Bakery while waiting for a table at Win Son and made sure the menus had limited overlap. The long bar is perfect for grabbing a quick beer and a snack or for hanging out all night. The Bakery has wifi and will be available for freelancers (there are outlets at the bar).
The team looked at spaces around Brooklyn and were thrilled to land so close to their first home. It’s made the opening process more seamless and allowed them to deepen their roots in the neighborhood they love so much. On any given day, you can find Ku outside chatting with neighbors, Brown crossing the street to greet customers, and Shapell remembering everyone he’s ever met. To start, Win Son Bakery will be open for breakfast and dinner and will be adding lunch soon. Eventually, they will be an all day cafe, seamlessly transitioning meals and menus.
Win Son Bakery opens on September 3 with daily breakfast from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. They offer a happy hour with $2 off any cocktail or draft, including draft wine until 7 p.m., plus a beer and shot special.
All images courtesy of Laura Murray, unless otherwise specified.
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