Hey Guys, Happy Friday! 🙂
Today’s post is going to be the first of many that come your way in the future that’s related to FOOD. I mean who doesn’t love food right? I know I definitely do, especially when it comes to finding and trying different spots and restaurants.
Diego and I tend to go out to eat A LOT, but don’t usually like to go to the same places over and over again unless we REALLY love it. So, because of this, we’re constantly finding new places to go and try out. It’s great because some are fancy, some are low-key, some we find hidden around the streets of New York, and some we don’t look for at all and just kind of stumble upon while on our walks around the city. We always get a ton of questions about the places we go from people whenever we post about it on Instagram or Snapchat, so I figure, why not make a new segment out of it? I want this to be the type of thing where I talk about the location, scenery, food itself obvi, and our general thoughts on the place, so that’s what this will be.
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As I said, Diego and I don’t typically repeat going to certain places unless we REALLY love it, so why not start off with a place that falls into that category? The place I’m talking about is called Mottley Kitchen! It’s a nice, new, cute little cafe located in East 140th Street in the Bronx (New York).
I’m not going to lie, when Diego first came to me and told me about this place and how good it was, I was definitely on the fence about it, because I was like honestly how good is this place REALLY when it’s not exactly in the best area of the Bronx? But let me tell you now….I was definitely pleasantly surprised and this has quickly become one of my FAVORITE places to go over the weekends to just chill get a coffee and pastry and get some blog work done.
Recently, Diego and I got a chance to sit down with the owners of the cafe, Kat and David, to chat and ask them a couple of questions about who they are as people, how they got started, etc. And one of the things we love about this place is how friendly and down-to-earth they (the owners and staff) are. We’ve exchanged a few words with them here and there in the past few months, but this was the first full-on conversation we had with them, and it just solidified our original positive thoughts about them and their business as a whole.
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The owners of the cafe are actually a young, married couple named David and Katherine, who are originally both from North Carolina (him from Charlotte, her from Raleigh). They moved to New York in 2015 after Katherine received a job offer to work at a restaurant in the city. After a few years of living in the Upper East Side, they realized they wanted and needed a bigger living space for not only themselves, but also to (possibly) expand their family one day, which is how they ended up in the South Bronx.
David says they had pretty much looked all over New York for a new place to live, then they read up on a few things about the Bronx that interested them which was what prompted them to make the decision to move here. “It was a rich cultural neighborhood, and just an actual neighborhood feel in general. So from that we just started visiting and checking out a lot of the nearby places like the Bronx Brewery and La Morada, just kind of feeling everything out,” he said. “Then we found the place we’re at now and just realized it was a great fit, not only were we getting the bigger space that we wanted, but also the neighborhood sort of feel that we had been searching for.”
They’re also definitely no strangers to hearing the negative remarks that comes along with seeing and/or visiting the South Bronx, but they try not to let it phase them. “I think the area from what we’ve briefly seen and heard, still obviously has its rough edges, but there’s so many other great things about this area that almost makes those rough edges not even matter,” says David. “Like when we first moved in, within a week we had already known ALL of our neighbors and everyone was so friendly around us; we had spent 4 years in a walk-up on the Upper East Side and didn’t know or really speak to ANYBODY. Now we come here and everyone immediately accepts us as the ‘white people’ moving into their neighborhood, it just says a lot about them (in a good way).”
In meeting all of these people, they feel like they’ve created a sense of community, and now with the cafe they’ve created, they hope that that feeling is only going to continue to grow more.
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About the cafe:
Which brings us now to the cafe itself.
Their main reason for wanting to have this space, aside from loving to be able to serve people, was because two years ago WAY before they opened, they were going around the Bronx and noticed that there really wasn’t a good hangout cafe spot in the area where people could go work, get a good cup of coffee and just hang out with some friends.
Which they don’t at all throw any type of shade at the nearby bodegas and their coffee, but they know their coffee isn’t exactly great quality.
“It’s something we definitely try to be attentive to, is how do we operate our business in a way that’s good for us AS a business, but also for the community and to better it?,” says David.
It was also a way for David to help Katherine live out one of her dreams. “I think it’s always been Katherine’s dream to be able to own/run a small cafe, and to be a ‘shop girl’,” says David. “But I don’t think she ever envisioned it being this big or having so many different facets to it.”
Which is where the name Mottley came from. “It’s a lot of different things out of one space, it’s like a diverse group of things or kind of like a ‘haj-paj’ if you will,” says David. “And that’s where the name Mottley derived from, because not only is this neighborhood like a diverse neighborhood, but we hope to kind of like offer a haj-paj of things when you come here; good food, a good place to sit and eat, a good place to have events, do catering, etc.”
David explained to me that before they had the idea to open a coffee shop, they were really only looking for a space for Katherine to run her catering business in. “Katherine had been renting one of those incubator spaces in the city at an hourly rate for a while, it was super expensive and just got to a point where it made sense for her to try to find her own little space,” he said. “When we moved to the Bronx was when she finally realized and made it clear that she didn’t want to work out of those little kitchens anymore, which was when and how we found this place; someone showed us the space and we were just like whoa….*laughs*, MUCH bigger than a ‘little kitchen’.”
Alas came the idea of creating the cafe itself! “We figure, ‘alright well if we’re going to take this, we can also build it into a cafe with all the space we’re going to have,'” says David.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I was definitely interested in knowing about the work dynamic they have being that they are a couple, since I know it can be the sort of thing where it might be a conflict of interest at times mixing business with pleasure.
They were also obviously no strangers to hearing and/or experiencing this kind of thing themselves. “We’ve actually seen a lot of negative experiences with couples and families who have worked together. There was this job I had while I was in Raleigh working at a mom and pop coffee shop, and you could tell automatically that they just did NOT get along,” says David. “Katherine’s had a similar experience where she worked in a kitchen that was family-owned, and there was just all this tension you could feel among the family, so we try to be very careful with that.”
He went on to explain that it’s almost inevitable for work to come home with them most times, but they’re very careful in making sure there’s no tension between them and talking out anything and everything right there and than to avoid any of that possibly happening.
As for any particular visions and/or themes they wanted to follow through with for creating the cafe, its layout, or the menus, they both agreed they really didn’t have any ONE particular thing in mind. They did, however, do a lot of looking around, grabbing inspiration from some of their personal favorite food and coffee shops, as well as, of course, going through Pintrest a bit. “Overall it was extremely budget focused, we pretty much did what we could on the budget we had and everything else kind of just sprung out of that,” said Katherine.
Katherine said she’s probably spent about a decade swooning over places she’s loved, the things they serve, etc. so when they finally got to open their OWN place, they grabbed a lot of inspiration from that. “When we go to a bakery or order food at a restaurant, we always get like five different things for the two of us,” she said. Ultimately, they grabbed a lot of their favorite things that they would love to eat from other places, and not only made it their own, but BETTER. “The primary backbone to building up Mottley was locally sourced farm to table, beautifully plated, type of cuisine,” she says.
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Coffee, Food & Pastries:
When creating the menu along with the cafe in general, as previously mentioned, they took a lot of inspiration from some of their favorite places, and really just wanted to enhance it in their own way to make it better. “I remember thinking I definitely want to have a coffee cake, a certain type of muffin, a really delicious kind of egg sandwich, and a biscuit so that we could bring a little bit of the southern side to it,” says Katherine.
Originally, they didn’t even actually have a menu when they first opened back in December! “We didn’t really know what to serve, we wanted to be able to serve things that people were going to WANT to come and eat,” said Katherine. “When we first opened, all we had were baked goods and coffee, so when people would come in I would ask them, ‘what do you want to eat for lunch?’ and someone said ‘I love bowls,’ so that’s where the idea of bowls came from.” Ultimately, they truly fed off of the opinions and feedback of their customers.
Who doesn’t love a good coffee, egg sandwich and/or baked good? ESPECIALLY on a cheat day?! I know I do! Diego and I literally come here every Saturday for AT LEAST 2-3 hours to just hang out, catch up on some work and check out the latest baked good that was added to the menu.
Katherine pretty much bakes everything from scratch in house, except for the challah rolls and sour dough, which they get from Harper’s Kitchen in Harlem, which is an old space that Katherine actually used to work out of.
She believes that she’s more of a baker than a cook though. “I definitely have more experience as a baker, I cook a lot of like vegetables and other stuff for me and David, but I don’t really have any professional experience as a cook,” she says.
And let me tell you, she’s definitely talented at what she does. Personally, I’m SUCH a picky eater, so I immediately gravitated towards anything chocolate related and of course the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, but pretty much everything non-chocolate and bacon, egg, and cheese-related that I’ve tried here, I ended up loving.
I DO, however, stick to what I know a lot, so when you come check them out, be SURE to try their brown butter chocolate chip cookies and/or their brownies….you will NOT be disappointed (shown below).
Mine and Diego’s absolute FAVORITE drink to get from here thus far is the Vanilla Bean Latte. It’s not too strong, and not too sweet (I personally think). It’s just right (shown above).
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Events & Activities:
I think what makes Mottley even better is the variety of events and activities that they hold there. There’s live music instead of your typical radio/constant loop playlist (although they do use a radio, but even the music they play on there is not your typical Kanye, Rihanna, Ariana Grande music), there’s story-time for kids, and Empanada night (to name a few).
For the sake of not making this SUPER long (longer than what it may already be), I’m just going to go in depth with 2 of their events/activities.
They have all sorts of performers from DJs to live singers/rappers and poets, that come on certain Saturdays throughout each month. And I think what’s so unique about them is that the music that’s played is either personal stuff that they’ve written or old-school stuff with a twist to it. It’s something that you really don’t see in other restaurants and/or coffee shops, and personally, I love that.
As for how exactly they go about picking people to be able to perform, David says they really don’t have a specific process or system for picking people. “At the moment it’s really just anyone that we can get to come in,” he says. “We did some small marketing for anyone that wanted to be able to perform, some signs outside, posts on Instagram, etc. and then if we heard about anyone that had musical talent we would be like ‘hey, come by!'”
For the time being anyone who does come in to perform are doing it for free, but they hope to be able to change that. “Eventually we want to be able to set up a program where when and if we get bigger, it’ll be more beneficial to not only us, but them as well,” says David.
Another event they tend to do on Saturdays is story-time for kids.
David said that this woman named Rebecca came into the cafe one day while they were merchandising, saw their shelves, and asked about possibly being able to turn their shelves into somewhat of a library. “Rebecca has her own non-profit called Boogey-Down books, and ultimately, it’s meant to to help with literacy and get kids into reading,” said David. “Then she asked us if it would be okay for her to come in and do a reading every other Saturday, so we said of course!”
Both Katherine and David explained that many of the activities they hold at their cafe have been because they (the people who end up being in charge of them) actually approach THEM about it. “Some of these people will walk-in, see the space and ask us if we ever thought about renting it out for certain little events and we think it’s really cool so we say yes to them,” they said. “They pitch the idea to us and we’re just like ‘yeah, please use our space for your event! *laughs*, and our other customers seem to enjoy it as well, so they will definitely continue to be apart of the business moving forward.”
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I know blog posts typically tend to be short, sweet and to the point with things, but there are just so many amazing things to be said and known about this place that it’s like how could I NOT make it long and in depth?
At the moment, they’re open Tuesday through Friday from 7:30am-4pm, and Saturdays from 8am-5pm. They’re closed on Sundays and Mondays because ultimately, they do have to make some time for themselves. “I work Monday through Friday, we knew that we wanted to be open on Saturdays, and so for Katherine to have some sort of “weekend” it would have to be Sunday-Monday for us to be closed,” said David. This is likely to change in the future though at some point.
As for any possible future plans of expanding? David says he doesn’t think they would want to have a ton of different locations all over the place, but if the opportunity were to arise to be able to do or open something else in the neighborhood, they would definitely consider that.
They DO, however, have big plans for this current location. The biggest one being to construct and open to the public their rooftop section of the cafe. Although it is still in the beginning stages of research and planning, they hope to be able to create it as a green rooftop. “I’d like to build almost like a rooftop farm up there, try to do fruits, vegetables, and ACTUALLY try to farm stuff up there,” says David.
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This is literally like our modern day Central Perk. It’s chill, trendy, friendly people that work there and great quality coffee/food. What more can you ask for? I can only imagine the great things they’re going to be able to accomplish here in the next couple of months and years even. 10/10 recommend for you guys to try it out if you haven’t already.
Go show love and stay tuned to their Instagram page (@mottleykitchen) for any updates on future events, menu items, or plans that they may post about!
*Most of these photos were taken and/or edited by Diego 🙂 *
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for new content that’s going to be coming soon here!
-Xoxo, Leo Girl ❤