May 10, 2016 By Christian Murray
Breadbox Cafe, a Mediterranean/American restaurant that opened in 2010 as a bagel shop, is now offering dinner and has extended its hours in order to serve it.
The establishment, located at 47-11 11th St., was founded by three Israelis as a bagel shop at a time when that section of Long Island City had more businesses and construction was booming.
However, 18 months later and as residents began pouring in, the owners turned again to their Israeli roots to expand the Breadbox Cafe into a Mediterranean-American restaurant, with menu items including eggs benedict, salads, wraps, Shaksouka (poached eggs with spicy tomato sauce) and smoked salmon.
“The most popular items on the menu are the Mediterranean-Israeli items,” said Tal Shuster, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Eyal, and Moshe Mizrahi, who owns the property.
“We were unsure how these dishes would be received, but were pleasantly surprised,” Mizrahi said.
The restaurant’s evolution is now continuing with the new dinner service.
“We are going through a transition as the whole neighborhood is changing,” Shuster said. “Our customers are mainly residents who want us to open later and we want to meet their needs.”
Breadbox Cafe has always closed at 6 p.m. daily. However, last month, the owners expanded their hours until 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
They brought in Kfif Kertis as their chef, an Israeli who has been living in the U.S. for the past three years. The new dinner menu includes appetizers such as falafel sliders, spicy beef cigars and fire roasted eggplant and tahini.
There are a number of salad choices as well as entrees.
Entrees include: homemade potato gnocchi; grilled chicken with chile and date molasses; traditional Moroccan baked salmon filet; and a Breadbox burger. (Click for menu)
There is a strong focus on “healthy, vegetarian and spicy food,” Shuster said. “We do everything from scratch. Our produce is fresh and our meat is
ground here. We only use the freshest foods.”
The Shusters have been involved in developing several local buildings, including One Murray Park and 5-27 51st Ave. They met Mizrahi in Long Island City while developing the Badge Building at 1055 47th Ave. in 2005.
The trio took a 1950s gas station/mechanic shop and converted it into what is the Breadbox today.
The elaborate exterior, with the rolling pins out front, has remained the same since they overhauled the location in 2010.
However, the interior has undergone significant changes.
Nearly 18 months after moving in, they converted the bagel shop into the restaurant that now has 65 seats inside and 50 outside.
“You are literally sitting in what was the garage right now,” Shuster said. There is an old photo of the garage as customers enter the restaurant.
Many people sit outside with their dogs or children in summer and drink wine, beers or cocktails. Shuster expects more people to take advantage of the outdoor seating with the restaurant’s extended hours.
Since it was an old gas station, there is onsite parking for people who want to drive to the restaurant.
Shuster is particularly proud of the 1,600 rolling pins that are a big part of the Breadbox’s facade.
Each rolling pin features the name of someone who gave to the New York Foundling, a non-profit group that helps foster children that the café partners with.
Nearly $50,000 has been raised at the Breadbox in the past six years. Shuster said every $30 represents an enrichment class per child.
“For us, this was not about just opening a restaurant,” she said. “We wanted to give back to the neighborhood. The neighborhood has been very good to us.”
Note: Breadbox is an advertiser of the LIC Post