Entering Porcelain on Woodward Ave. feels like traveling back in time. The space is anchored by wooden banquets, a heavy L-shaped bar with colorful stenciled wall paint, tin ceilings, and vintage mirrors.
When former management consultant (“it steals your soul,” he warns) Mike Stamatelos decided to open a cafe, he was looking for a space with character. He thought about creating a community-oriented space. The team has built something and knows the neighborhood will shape it over time.
Stamatelos, who has no previous restaurant experience, save for a job at Panera Bread where he was demoted from sandwich maker to dishwasher, gathered an experienced team for his first opening. He began construction in May and started planning in January.
Drawing inspiration from cafe culture in Vienna in the prewar era, which encourages “staying all afternoon” and lingering over desserts. Designer Elizabeth Ingram built out the space with vintage furniture. They found the wall design in a book at the Neue Gallery uptown and modernized it with bright colors.
The space’s bar and banquets are not leftover from a previous restaurant, but rather a film set. The cafe was a location for Martin Scorcese’s upcoming film, “The Irishman.” The movie, which Stamatelos says went four times over budget, did a full built-out for the set, which appears very briefly in the trailer. Before serving as a film location, the space, built in 1903, was used by a nearby church for kitchen space and Boy Scouts activities. A German pork store across the street also inspired the space’s story.
Porcelain’s opening menu, designed by Executive Chef Jeremy Griffiths and Thomas Chun, features grab-and-go options for the morning, like strudels, vegan pumpkin tarts, egg gribiche toast, and yogurt with berries. The all-day menu includes schnitzel fingers, seasonal soups and salads, latkes and spaetzle. Stamatelos knows people appreciate value and is adamant about serving generous portions.
Coffee comes from Redefine Coffee and the beverage menu will be straightforward, possibly adding some Viennese specialties later on. The cafe’s branding is subtle, as Stametelos wants the space and the experience to take center stage. He expects lots of grab-and-go purchases from commuters on their way to the nearby Forest Ave. M train.
Porcelain will introduce beer and wine in October, once their liquor license is approved. The focus will be Eastern European wines and craft beers, including Berliner Weisse with syrups, a traditional German treat. Inspired by European culture, they hope to have less of a divide between coffee and wine for the people who want afternoon wine and after work coffee.
The cafe will have WiFi and has about 40 seats for lingering or working. Stamatelos worked part-time in consulting, while building out the space and has invested all of his own savings in the projects, as well as securing a loan from the Small Business Administration.
He initially looked for spaces across Brooklyn, then came to Queens and fell in love with Ridgewood, which has a thriving community of small businesses. Most of his staff lives locally as well. He now resides blocks away from the cafe, which takes its name from the Moby song “Porcelain.” It’s also meant to evoke a Grandmother’s chipped china collection.
Porcelain opened at 880 Woodward Ave. on Friday, September 13. During opening week, guests can take 20 percent off all purchases. Opening hours will be 7:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7:00 a.m. through 8:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Hours will extend until midnight when the liquor license comes through.
All images by Mélanie Duault.
For more news, sign up for Bushwick Daily’s newsletter.