Imagine a stylish, elegant restaurant whose menu comprises gourmet meals based on Guyanese and Caribbean cuisine. Add the experience of being surrounded by huge photographs of sexy fashion models in new-designer outfits and by the designers themselves in person, and you have JRG Restaurant, Bar and Fashion Café. Owned for the last three years by Guyanese husband-and-wife team J. R. Giddings and Karen Pompey, the Fashion Café is located at 177 Flatbush in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“The Fashion Café is not only a place to get food, it’s a place where you can meet a designer and get an outfit. So you may say to yourself, ‘I’m going to go to Fashion Café to have dinner, maybe I’ll see a designer and he might be able to get me something that would work for me for an occasion,” says Giddings.
The restaurant takes up both floors of the building in which it is housed. The interior is designed by Giddings himself, who has a background in interior decorating. Giddings also has first-hand experience in entertainment. “I grew up seeing and feeling and being a part of entertainment,” he recalls. His father, Fitzgerald Giddings Sr., was a pioneer in the Caribbean entertainment community, opening one of the first Caribbean nightclubs in New York City, “In On The Park,” in Brooklyn.
The ground floor is cozy, with soft lights, an inviting wooden bar and a chic lounge. Here the walls are adorned with the creations of new designers, as well as with framed photos from the Fashion Mix Series that Giddings has organized for the past eight years. Giddings became interested in fashion 10 years ago when he first visited New York City’s Fashion Week, the huge annual industry expo. “I really fell in love with everything that surrounded it—the glamour, glitz and technique,” Giddings says. “We started to do the great Fashion Mix Series, which are two events that we host in March and November in various Brooklyn locations. We duplicated ‘7th on Sixth’ by working with some of the Fashion Week event coordinators. After doing all of these successful events the people involved wanted more events more often, and that’s how Fashion Café came about. We decided to fuse the fashion and the food.”
A fashion preview is held at the restaurant on the second and fourth Thursday of every month, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. “After the show you can meet the designers and the models and mingle,” Giddings says. Designers and models come from all over the tristate area. The designers can include better known names like Michelle Cole, Roger Gary, Moshood, Courtney Washington and TBA (To Be African).
The restaurant has 3,000 square feet of space, split evenly between the two floors. The furniture is mostly thick, smooth wood. Upstairs is a dining area, a smaller semicircular bar and an open patio that offers a stunning view of Downtown Brooklyn and the Brooklyn skyline. Signature dishes include Shrimp@The Bar, which consists of succulent grilled (or fried) shrimp in mango and jerk sauce. A popular entrée is the mango-and-sorrel-roasted salmon, which is grilled to perfection and served with fresh mashed potatoes, seasoned spinach and tasty plantain slices. A signature dessert would be the bread pudding, the recipe for which, Giddings says, has been in the family for generations. It is served hot with warm whipped cream on the side and cold vanilla ice cream on top. Pompey is the restaurant’s executive chef.
Three large-screen televisions and a cultural music mix that can include works by Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Sparrow or Tito Puente add to the ambience.
Type in the ZIP code 11217 at the Web site www.restaurant.com and you’ll get the complete menu, beverage selections, prices and a virtual tour of the restaurant. Exemplifying its slogan “Where Food and Fashion Collide,” the Fashion Café is open every day except Tuesday, from 4 p.m. to midnight. There is a special deal on Mondays: a three-course meal for $19.99 per person. Reach the Fashion Café by phone at 718-399-7079.