At 525 Dekalb Ave. in Brooklyn, N.Y., between Bedford and Stillman avenues, sandwiched between Tony’s Unisex Salon and a vacant store for rent, sits a cozy little restaurant with a glass front and the unlikely name Head Over Heels. It was opened in late August by owners Nadia Richards and Derek Corley. A billboard out front announces the restaurant’s name and presents the menu. Inside, there’s just enough room to accommodate 30 people, with tables for two, a couch and tall stools at a winding counter. On the counter, a radio plays and several newspapers await the reading crowd. Against the wall, two bookshelves filled with books offer more reading for patrons.
Richards reigns as chef in the kitchen, which is in full view, while Corley waits on the customers.
It is evening and Head Over Heels is cloaked in a romantic atmosphere, with candles on each table and low-lit chandeliers floating above. Still, there is a very subtle homey feel. “We want the atmosphere to be that of your living room, home elegance,” Richards says. “We have a movie projector and play movies when it gets dark, for a mature audience, on Tuesday nights. On Wednesday, we do photo slide shows because this is an artsy community. At Saturday and Sunday brunches, we have a Brazilian jazz band. People come here and just hang out. It’s literally like your living room,” she says.
Richards uses terms like “comfort food” and “new American” to describe the cuisine. It’s the kind of food “your mama might make for you on the weekends,” she says.
She and Corley, who met seven years ago, decided to open the restaurant in new-chic Clinton Hill because, they contend, none of the other venues in the area offered “home cooking.” It was an unusual choice of business for the two because neither had any formal experience in the industry. They both have a background in marketing and promotion, but Corley has additional experience in business development while Richards has experience in fashion and cosmetics as a business manager and account executive for such cosmetic companies as Bobby Brown. She has even done some modeling.
Both, however, have a singular appreciation for good food. Corley has been eating out for 15 years because of his busy schedule, so he knows the value of a restaurant you can go to for good food and relaxation. Richards, meanwhile, loves to cook, a skill she learned from her Jamaican mother and from her grandmother. She loves to mix spices and create new tastes.
New tastes are precisely what you get when at Head Over Heels. Popular dishes include “Daddy’s addiction,” a meal of southern fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, garlicky spinach and biscuit; coconut curry salmon; juicy burgers; “sliders”—highly seasoned mini burgers; and curried tofu, a vegetarian favorite. Prices are reasonable, starting at $5 for four sliders to $25 for a family portion of the curry salmon. Richards’ seasoning on such items as burgers and shoestring French fries remind you of New Orleans’ Cajun seasoning.
The partners invested their own money in Head Over Heels and their investment is paying off, they say. “We’ve gotten an amazing response. People clean their plates and come back with family members two to three times a week,” Richards says.
In October, the restaurant was chosen to participate in the Black Culinary Alliance’s Global Food & Wine Expo at world-famous Tavern on the Green in Central Park. It was the only Brooklyn restaurant featured at the glitzy event. The restaurant is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to midnight, Sunday through Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., Thursday through Saturday.