Times Likes Iris Cafe; Slams Rest of Heights Restaurant Scene

Oliver Strand, in his “$25 and Under” column in Wednesday’s New York Times:

Iris Cafe, 20 Columbia Place (Joralemon Street), Brooklyn Heights, (718) 722-7395, opened in November on one of the sleepiest cobblestone streets in Brooklyn Heights. Getting there is an excursion, or at least a several-minute walk from Court Street.

Despite the limited menu, Iris Cafe is a radical addition to a neighborhood where there are more gas lamps in working order than there are notable places to eat.

Strand goes on to praise the pastrami sandwich, the meat for which comes from “a Chelsea butcher so new-school, it lists its abattoirs on its Web site”; the ham and cheddar biscuit with soft-boiled egg; the yogurt; and the coffee, all of which have impressive pedigrees. “Such careful selection”, he notes, “comes naturally to one of its owners, Rachel Graville, a former intern at Slow Food USA and until recently the event director for Edible Brooklyn.”

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  • WillowtownCop

    I’d much rather have the Bs and Ts from Manhattan sitting in there and drinking their coffee and leaving than some of our neighbors who think it’s not rude to camp out with their laptops for hours on a busy weekend while others are waiting.

  • ABC

    I love Iris Cafe, and agree with the rest of the review too. So happy to have something good in the area.

    It IS a shame that some people feel like they can take up tables for hours at a time during the lunch rush or on weekends. I find myself walking in and back out again when there are no tables. If I were the owners I’d be frustrated. Maybe they think people who can’t be seated are getting food to go, but I’m often with a friend or a kid and we just move on to the next place.

  • Ari

    I think Iris Cafe is a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.

    However, as a resident of Columbia Place, I am a little disappointed to see two huge commerical sized garbage bins chained to the iron gate in front of the building.

    Furthermore, has anyone else noticed there just seems a lot more garbage strewn around the street all over the place. Have property owners/caretakers on the block collectively decided to not clean up around the front of their buildings anymore (constructions debris, broken glass, garbage scraps all over..etc,)?

    Enjoy the weather!

  • Billy Reno

    They should post a sign like Tazza: “No computers 11am – 4pm”!

  • Monty

    NY Magazine actually rated Cafe Iris as the best in the whole city (http://nymag.com/bestofny/food/2010/cafe/). Personally, I think the coffee is actually terrible. Crop to Cup is much better, but so is Tazza and Starbucks.

  • harumph

    @Monty – I’m not a huge fan of stumptown coffee either (way over-rated) but the food at Iris is delicious. So much better that Tazza or the pathetic grub at Starbucks.

  • Joe

    I think with stumptown coffee like any coffee is the way its brewed (e.g. how much coffee gind, how hot the water etc). I’ve had it at various places and Baked is consistently good while other places has been hit or miss.

  • AEB

    Excited by the review–I’ll go there!

  • Marianne

    I haven’t tried Iris Cafe yet, but it does seem intriguing. After living in the Heights for 37 years, I am quite frankly sick of our restaurants. One is worse than the other. They are either too expensive; ordinary, bland food; too much of one thing, i.e. Italian/Chinese. We used to get deliveries and eat out alot; now I’d rather cook!

  • Quinn Raymond

    Iris is a great addition to the neighborhood– and I agree with the sentiment that people who camp out there on a busy weekend for hours at a time are being rude.

    Of course when it’s quiet and empty, camp away!

  • Monty

    I would add that both Cafe Pedlar and the Wine Bar use Stumptown beans and their coffee is far superior. I think the food at Tazza is pretty good, haven’t tried Iris’ food yet.

  • Peter

    I always wonder why Brooklyn Heights gets a bad rap for its “restaurant scene.” For such an intimate neighborhood, it certainly boasts its share of memorable (if not enjoyable and return-worthy) institutions like Henry’s End, Jack the Horse, Noodle Pudding and even 70s-looking Queen (love that Carbonara!).

    Granted, duds like the Heights Cafe may set a “blah” tone, but I have no qualms about our neighborhood’s eateries …

  • http://www.dishonestdaily.com Tarek P

    Luckily, as of today, Iris has reserved a 3 table section for computer use, and all other tables are for the ‘others’. I, having brought a client for a cup of coffee to show a quick 5 minute presentation, was on the salty end of the new rule, there being no spaces left at the ‘computer station,’ but I totally agree with the new rule, especially for the hard young workers/owners of Iris.

    Well done and I’ll keep bringing new people there to taste your wonderful menu.

  • John Doe

    I’m happy to report that as of my visit this morning, Iris Cafe now has a sign making it clear the computer use is restricted to the “computer table” — which is a communal table that seats 6 people. No longer will people be able to spend multiple hours taking up one of the 12 tables for the price of a cookie. Good for you, Rachel!

  • JimMcD

    For your information, there is only ONE cobblestone street in all of Brooklyn
    Heights, and, it is near, but, NOT Columbia Place!

  • http://selfabsorbedboomer.blogspot.com Claude Scales

    If you really want to be picky, that stretch of Joralemon is paved with Belgian blocks, not cobblestones.

  • rashi

    Iris’s new computer policy is the end of that place for me. Like Tazza, 60% of the seats sit empty outside of the lunchtime rush, yet they want to give the middle finger to people who would fill those seats — buying coffee and food. Maybe I’m of a different generation, but a coffee shop should be somewhere people can go to get work done, with a laptop. Some other people might do other things, but they’d be the minority. If you can’t find a way to make money off that — sell wifi or somesuch — then you have no business running a cafe. With the money I’ve spent there, a serious slap in the face. F them.

  • rashi

    Oh, yeah, and the food is terrible.

  • AL

    I’m delighted to hear about the new computer policy. I like the food but find their sandwiches to be more of a snack than a meal – tasty though they may be.

  • cat

    I think the coffee at Tazza and Iris is terrible, and I agree that it’s the way it’s brewed. You can use great coffee, but if you skimp on the grounds-to-water ratio, it’s going to taste like hell.

    As for the review, there ARE more gas lamps in working order than notable places to eat in the Heights. Haven’t we all complained about the lack of great restaurants here? The reviewer is just telling it like it is. So what, we can bitch about it, but because he doesn’t live here, he can’t? I like Noodle Pudding and Jack the Horse, but there are definitely more than 2 working gas lamps in the nabe.

  • crudo

    rashi. good riddens! What gives you the right to use a restaurant
    as your personal office. With all of the well deserved positive press
    Iris has received, it has been packed lately.
    I have witnessed many would-be customers (including myself) leaving
    because you and your brethren are occupying valuable real estate.
    Go work on your novel at starbucks
    and enjoy a pre-packaged sandwich with your refined palate.

  • ABC


    No cafe can survive selling wifi and coffee. Do the math. They have 10? tables in there. You really think they can survive making $5 a table every hour? Nobody can do that. That wouldn’t even pay for staff alone. They don’t need the tables full all day. The need them filled during the rushes with people ordering meals — and turned over at least once. I sense you’ve never had to spend a summer (or more) as a waiter, but turning tables over is the name of the game.

  • zburch

    Their avocado sandwich is deeeelish. Mushroom soup could be better, a little bland. Sure wish they had some chips or potato salad to go with that s’wich. Glad they changed the computer policy. Last time we were there, there were about 8 food-less people spread about on computers and nowhere to sit at lunchtime.

  • http://limestonefinancial.blogspot.com/ StephM

    weigh-in from Canada…At the busy times, my fav local coffee shop, Sipps, has a one-hour policy per table on weekends. Plus, they have NO internet and they are crazy busy! I went to Noodle Pudding last time I was in the nabe and the food was amazing!

  • jorale-man

    It sounds like the “laptop table” is a good compromise. Coffee shops should be for all types of activities – socializing, reading, working, going on a date. But because good coffee places are in such short supply in NYC, unfortunately, you can’t park at a table all afternoon and not raise a few eyebrows. I just got back from visiting a major college town where there’s a coffee shop on every street corner and this never seems to be a problem (and they ALL offer free wi-fi). NYC feels deprived by comparison.

  • Elke

    Iris Cafe: Went there for lunch yesterday. Cute place, tasty food, relaxed atmosphere, pleasant staff. But do they not know that their bath room needs a little care too? How about scrubbing tiles, door, window? And replace the tattered rag that pretends to be a bath room curtain, please!

  • brooklyn neighbor

    Cute place but the coffee is terrible and the menu a bit limited. Nice if you are passing by, but I wouldnt go out of my way to go there. I like Tazza much better.

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