The Baco Cafe Serves DUMBO a Helping of Israeli and North African Food, With a Side of Whimsy

The Baco Café, on Jay Street, in DUMBO, could just as easily be mistaken for a furniture store, a gallery, an artist's loft, or a small whimsical mirage - only it happens to be a restaurant, with a clothing boutique tucked in the back. Everywhere the eye lingers, it is drawn to decorative touches - whether it's a golden unicorn slouching in the windowpane, pieces of glass that fall from the ceiling like stalactites, bright artsy photographs of the wailing wall in Jerusalem, or the hand-painted antique Moroccan tables. Somehow the frenzy comes together in its own unpretentious form of feng shui.

Baco's shakshouka.
Baco's shakshouka.
Elizabeth Dwoskin

Few restaurants are decorated with as much attention to detail as this DUMBO spot. The place is owned by an Israeli couple, Motti Bercho and his wife Miritika. Motti, a former private investigator who runs a construction company, built the interior walls in the shapes of small minarets (He built white steps that lead to a tiny room, big enough to hold a D.J. booth and a bed for guests).

"Everything here is curvy and slopey," says Miritika, who runs the vintage clothing boutique. The aesthetic of the café is pure Miritika: both ultra-modern and ancient, plush, and decidedly anti- minimalist. To make the glass stalactites, she broke off pieces of an antique chandelier and placed them in cylinders made of bamboo.

Another oversize chandelier is made of a silver metal so thin it's almost papery. Long fabrics, the kind you'd see in an Arab market, drape from the high ceilings. The café's Israeli owners are an odd mix - they have a bohemian air about them, as if they had woken up that morning in the Israeli mountain town of Safed - known as the birthplace of Jewish mysticism - but their business hustle is pure Tel Aviv. (The two met on a camping trip in the middle of the Sinai desert ten years ago and were married a month later).

Miritika's menu is made up primarily of Middle Eastern and North African-inspired fare. There are also fresh-baked bourka pastries - which come in flavors that change throughout the week: apple cinnamon, chocolate and helva, banana and cream cheese. For brunch, there are lamb-stuffed artichokes and a shakshuka breakfast - a traditional North African Jewish dish that involves poached eggs in a pepper tomato stew that's flavored with tumeric and cumin. At Baco, they add to the shakshuka whole roasted garlic cloves, three kinds of colorful peppers, and cilantro. The place offers all traditional café drinks, plus Jasmine lattes, Israeli black coffee, mint tea with espresso, and fresh banana-date shakes. All the drinks come with fake flowers placed so delicately that you don't want to take them out.

Baco Cafe 71 Jay Street 718-694-2226

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