Tekoá, a Cobble Hill café opened by chef-owners Alex Raij and Eder Montero this March, is very clearly looking to be the sort of neighborhood spot that provides something for everybody — whether you have work to do on your laptop (it’s allowed on weekends!), need a lunch meeting place, want to grab a hibiscus iced tea on your way to the park next door, or are cripplingly hungover and in need of a burger and coffee with which to limp back to your apartment. Fittingly, considering Tekoá’s casual convenience, its name means “habitat” in Guaraní, an indigenous language of South America. (Raij and Montero — whose brilliant Spanish dinner spot, La Vara, is next door — have Argentinian and Spanish roots, respectively.) It’s open for breakfast and lunch and, as of this week, for dinner.
Regardless of the hour you stop by, you’d be well-advised to try the eggs mayonnaise, an elegant glob of tarragon-flecked egg salad nestled into a griddled hot dog bun of the potato variety. It’s like baby food re-engineered for grown-ups, a looser and eggier take on a lobster roll. It even comes in one of those oblong red plastic baskets.
Eggs turn out to be one of Tekoá’s triumphs. The egg-in-a-hole packs its protein into the middle of a triangular, Hot Pocket–esque spinach pie. Then there’s the Turkish breakfast, served on a sectioned-off tray, school-lunch style, to present: a soft-boiled egg; olives; sliced tomatoes and cucumbers; tangy-firm manouri cheese; pickled guindilla peppers; a swoosh of sumac-dusted
yogurt; and house-made simit. (That last item is a sesame-encrusted Turkish bread that looks like a diminutive pretzel roll; it’s fun to pull apart and drag through the aforementioned swoosh.) It’s a welcome shift from well-worn breakfast formats.
The lunch menu includes all the breakfast offerings plus a long list of sandwiches. For the hurried set, there’s the prepared “train station sandwich,” a teensy baguette holding a thin slice
of jamón serrano, very Spanish and very convenient. The mortadella sandwich is cuban-like, with sweet pickles and melted tetilla cheese, and ciabatta that’s griddled and squashed thin to a perfect ratio: 50 percent crunchy, 50 percent soft. Other options prove less predictable: the Bonito melt, which layers together tuna and pimento cheese, adding pineapple pickles for some textural contrast that’s more jarring than exciting. (Maybe you Hawaiian-pizza freaks will find this combination enjoyable.) One of the more rewarding combinations is the artichoke-jamón, whose richness is well absorbed by the crisp-crusted ciabatta.
The salad selection is somewhat slim for now. A recent panzanella, oddly, consisted of a large mound of pickled onions surrounded by sections of ripe tomato and bitty marinated bread cubes; I wasn’t a fan of the proportions. Instead, go for the beet salad, which is hearty enough for a light lunch. The soft, vinegar-dressed beets hide under a pile of watercress, the whole thing garnished by a perfect four-minute egg and a few tiny chunks of hard cheese. The tangy to-go container of yogurt cucumber beet dill salad is another solid choice.
The best seats here are outside, at three little tables, or on the indoor stools lined against the window — either way, perfect spots to watch the foot traffic on this gorgeous brownstone- and tree-lined street as you work on a salted peanut butter cookie. But the tables closer to the back sit under long lamps that emanate a yellowish, abandoned-cafeteria hue. It’s a confusing vibe, particularly juxtaposed against the white-painted exposed-brick walls, marble countertops, and other bright-and-airy Brooklyn touchstones.
That section of suburban-high-school lighting aside, Tekoá is a welcome respite from the kind of café that feels like more of an expensive co-working space than an actual eatery. And don’t worry if some of the less mainstream options don’t appeal: They still serve avocado toast.
264 Clinton Street, Brooklyn