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Neighborhood Restaurants and Cafes Cater for Unfussy Valentine's Day

By Sonja Sharp | February 13, 2013 7:39am

CROWN HEIGHTS — A party of one is a perfectly acceptable reservation for Valentine's Day Dinner at the Sunshine Co. on Washington Avenue.

"We’re taking reservations, but if you don’t have them you can still pop in on a whim — you don’t have to be a couple to come," said the restaurant's Tsipora Nemes. "We want to do a fun Valentine's Day, not solemn, serious, everyone proposing."

The intentionally unfussy Washington Avenue restaurant, a cousin of Vanderbilt brunch-spot Milk Bar and the East Village's Bluebird Coffee Shop, opened just before Christmas and debuted its dinner menu last week, complete with infused wine cocktails and salmon roe on creme fraiche. It's among a crop of new local eateries offering a more subdued take on Feb. 14.  

"I think accessible is a big thing for us. We’re not trying to be hoity-toity on Washington Avenue," Nemes said of the menu, which will substitute for a $45 prix fixe for its usual $18 entrees on Feb. 14. "We use as much local and seasonal ingredients as we can, but we’re not necessarily about talking about it as much as we are about doing it."

Three-week-old Park Place Cafe to the east has few seats to spare and no reservations to speak of, but its case of Belgian chocolates handmade in Brooklyn make it an obvious choice for locovore sweethearts.

"When my friend brought me out here, he brought another friend with him and she makes chocolates," said co-owner Lior Kobi. "She's going to be making special boxes for Valentine's day."

In addition to its array of sweets, the kosher coffee house has many locals excited that they no longer have to travel to Kingston Avenue for their Cholov Yisroel latte. By catering to old residents and newer ones at the same time, Kobi hopes to compete in the already crowded coffee-house market along Franklin Avenue. 

"Slow by slow," Kobi said of his business. "It takes time, but we're starting to see more new faces."

Like Park Place, Sunshine is hoping a mix of old and new will will help it thrive in on a diverse and changing block.

"This place has been gutted for four or five years, but it still had the sign up that was here from the store that was here beforehand, and it was called Sunshine," Nemes said. "It's a tribute to the original name."