The hardest part about opening a restaurant during a global pandemic? “Opening during a pandemic,” laughs Michael Nicholas, one-half behind the husband-wife duo of plant-based cafe/bar Aunts et Uncles in Brooklyn.
It was a dream 10 years in the making — ever since the two first met. Billed as a “lifestyle concept shop,” the space is equal parts restaurant, bar, and a place to gather. “Both of us having a big family plays a big role in the purpose of Aunts et Uncles — always having company over,” says Nicole, who loves people-watching from the couch and conversing with patrons at the bar. “Now, we get to have company over outside the house. I’m proud of the fact [that it’s a place for the] community — people you know, people you grew up with, and new faces.”
And one can’t gather without good food. Their approach to crafting an all-vegan menu started with a question: How do we make whole food soul food? The answer: Through texture and flavor. It’s comfort food with a twist, like a plant-based burger topped with caramelized onions, spicy mayo, BBQ sauce, and arugula on a pretzel bun; or a lobster roll done with hearts of palm, vegan mayo, and fresh dill; or a smoky baked mac & cheese complete with white truffle oil, cauliflower, and spices.
Michael recognizes that others in the community look up to them, and he credits the strength of their relationship — a foundation rooted in compatibility, friendship, and family values — for their success. “What we’re doing is good work, and I think we’re inspiring a whole generation of creative, ambitious, determined individuals,” he says. “There are a lot of people who look to us as a beacon of light that they need to see for their dreams to come true.”
Watch the latest episode of Dear, Black Love, done in partnership with Target, above, to learn more about Michael and Nicole’s relationship and their restaurant.