Chez Ma Tante, Where Falafel and Kedgeree Live in Harmony

All the things I love about the pancakes at Chez Ma Tante, near the Greenpoint waterfront in Brooklyn, are things that normal chefs would try to fix. They are a little too tall and too big around. The outside is nearly black in parts, and crunchy, which American pancakes almost never are.

What they most closely resemble are the pancakes I’ve made on camping trips, from a mix, with about a quarter-stick of melted butter in a smoking-hot pan over a fire. Each one is the size of Frisbee because too many people are waiting for breakfast for any space in the pan to be wasted.

Assuming my campfire pancakes were to catch a chef’s eye, the standard way of turning them into a brunch dish would be to refine them. The heat would come down so they’d cook to an even golden-brown. My quantity of butter would seem insane in a professional kitchen, so it would be cut. The batter would probably be thinned to make the pancakes shorter and more elegantly rounded.

Rounding out the rough edges is, in a broad sense, one of the main things chefs do. They may not always do it consciously, any more than a copy editor consciously corrects typos. It’s supposed to become a reflex, which is the point of the sign on the kitchen wall at Eleven Madison Park: MAKE IT NICE.

This is just what the chef Aidan O’Neal at Chez Ma Tante does not do to the pancakes. Rising up from a small flood of maple syrup, they look and taste as if they’d been made in the woods. I will gladly admit they’re better than mine. At weekend brunch, they are on virtually every table.

Mr. O’Neal and his chef de cuisine, Jake Leiber, do not lack skill in the kitchen, but they know when to resist cheflike impulses and think like hungry campers. Their healthy disregard for refinement spills over to the dinner leather menu covers, which recently expanded to seven nights a week from five, just as the restaurant is approaching its first birthday.

To start, you might smear a gob of chicken liver pâté on a tangy slice of miche charred over the grill, or some head cheese, a spreadable pink composite of meat not quite held together by drippy pork goo. The most rustic thing you can eat there at night, though, has to be the thick steak carved out of a pork shoulder, rubbed with mustard and maple syrup, and striped with wide, dark grill marks. Smeared over the top is a salsa verde made from fresh parsley and other herbs that were whole about three or four slashes of a knife ago. Stewed Puy lentils spill across the rest of the plate. The look may say it was thrown together, but the full, lasting flavors tell you it wasn’t.

It is hard to say exactly what kind of food Chez Ma Tante serves, apart from the consistently good kind. The website calls it “food that can only be described as European.” This isn’t particularly helpful or specific; I’ve never eaten anything there that seemed Finnish, say, or Bulgarian.

If the menu covers have a theme, you won’t guess it from the dining room. A collection of brown chairs and black tables on a black floor in an undecorated white room, it is as austere as a Shaker chapel, although one with a long, well-populated bar against the wall.

No hints are forthcoming from the cocktail list, either, which plays it close to the vest with daiquiris, Negronis, Cosmopolitans and so on. It is the first cocktail list I’ve seen in a long time on which I recognized every drink.

Other writers have described Chez Ma Tante as a neighborhood spot, a homage to certain well-known London restaurants, a gastro pub and a “French-Canadian bistro.” This last must be a reference to Mr. O’Neal. Raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, he cooked at Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal under Martin Picard, the grinning scoutmaster of the hungry-camper troop, before moving to New York to work at the berserk Québécois outpost M. Wells, in Long Island City, Queens. (He met Mr. Leiber a few years later when they worked together at Café Altro Paradiso in SoHo.)

The name Chez Ma Tante was borrowed from a stainless-steel slot of a place in Montreal known for its steamé, a steamed hot dog in a steamed bun. An “all dressed” steamé, meaning it’s loaded up with mustard and coleslaw, is a new feature on the brunch menu in Greenpoint. Apart from that and a recurring maple motif — the jugs of syrup on a shelf outside the kitchen are not just for show — the Québécois influence is minimal.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe Signs Franchise Agreement To Open First Locations In Idaho

Atlanta, GA ( Tropical Smoothie Cafe, the leading fast casual cafe concept known for its better-for-you food and smoothies with a tropical twist listed on their cheap menu covers or custom menu covers, announced today that it has signed a franchise agreement to open four restaurants in Idaho, with the first cafe slated to open at 8925 Overland Road in Boise this June. The new restaurants will mark the brand’s entry into the state and will be owned and operated by KMP TSC, LLC, comprised of longtime entrepreneurs and husband-and-wife team, Kory and Michelle Pukash.

“Tropical Smoothie Cafe experienced tremendous growth last year and that momentum has carried into 2017, which is due in part to our incredible network of franchisees who believe in our brand wholeheartedly,” said Mike Rotondo, chief executive officer of Tropical Smoothie Cafe. “We’ve had our sights set on Idaho for quite some time and are thrilled that Kory and Michelle will be leading the expansion efforts in the state. We’re confident that their deep-rooted experience in the business arena will only propel our growth, and we look forward to seeing where they take the brand next.”Tropical Smoothie Cafe Signs Franchise Agreement To Open First Locations In Idaho

Entrepreneurs Kory and Michelle bring a wealth of small business knowledge to Tropical Smoothie Cafe. The pair has owned a variety of businesses throughout their career, including BloodyFine Foods LLC, which sells Bloody Mary mixes; and KMP Companies LLC, an IT staffing company, both of which they still own today. Following the development of their first restaurant on Overland Road in Boise, the Pukashs will target additional markets throughout the state for further development. They are currently scouting sites in Eagle, Nampa, Caldwell, Twin Falls, Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Spokane.

“It was important for us to find a concept that delivered a consistent brand promise to its customers. We found just that with Tropical Smoothie Cafe,” said Michelle. “There is a rising demand for an excellent quality of life in Idaho and an immense opportunity for constant recreational activities. Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s better-for-you food and smoothie options truly match the active lifestyle goals of the health conscious Idahoan and we’re confident that residents are going to love what we have to offer.”

Over the past three years, Tropical Smoothie Cafe has sold over 450 franchises nationwide. This expansion into Idaho was fueled by Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s accelerated development plans in 2017. On the heels of one of the strongest years in the company’s 20-year history, the award-winning brand successfully propelled its expansion and grew its presence in key markets nationwide, including Charleston, South Carolina; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Dallas, Texas; and Southern California.

This year, the food and smoothie franchise plans to open 100 restaurants nationwide and currently has franchise opportunities across the U.S. in markets such as Indianapolis, Nashville, Houston, Dallas, Cincinnati and Minneapolis, among others. By 2020, Tropical Smoothie Cafe plans to have 1,000 stores open across the U.S.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe is looking to add qualified franchisees to its growing brand. Candidates should have business experience; $125,000 in liquid assets and a minimum net worth of $350,000; and an initial investment of between $198,050 and $478,550. The healthier fast food franchise currently boasts an average unit volume (AUV) of more than $634,000 — the highest in the company’s 20-year history — with the top 50 percent reporting an AUV of more than $806,000.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s aggressive franchise growth is backed by the entrepreneurs at the BIP Franchise Accelerator, a division of venture capital firm BIP Capital, which invested in the brand in 2010. BIP Capital has invested more than $250 million in emerging, high-growth brands across the franchising, software, and technology and consumer products industries. BIP Capital created the BIP Franchise Accelerator to leverage its leadership team’s deep franchise experience to help emerging brands accelerate their growth. In addition to Tropical Smoothie Cafe, the BIP Franchise Accelerator’s portfolio includes Tin Drum Asian Kitchen, which has grown to 11 locations in Georgia.

About Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, Tropical Smoothie Cafe is a fast-casual restaurant concept inspiring healthier lifestyles across the country, with over 550 locations nationwide. With snack and meal options for any time of day, Tropical Smoothie Cafe serves better-for-you smoothies, salads, wraps, sandwiches, and flatbreads. The rapidly growing franchise has received numerous accolades including being ranked on Entrepreneur’s 2017 Franchise 500, 2016 Fast Casual Top 100 Movers and Shakers, Franchise Times’ Top 200+ and Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2016 Top 200. Tropical Smoothie Cafe is seeking qualified franchisees to expand throughout the United States in markets such as Indianapolis, Nashville, Houston, Dallas, Cincinnati and Minneapolis, among others.

About the BIP Franchise Accelerator

The BIP Franchise Accelerator is a division of BIP Capital, an Atlanta-based venture capital firm with over $250 million invested in over 26 companies in emerging, high-growth brands across the franchising, software, technology and consumer products industries. BIP Capital created the BIP Franchise Accelerator to leverage its leadership team’s deep franchise experience to help emerging brands accelerate their growth. The BIP Franchise Accelerator not only provides investment capital, but also uses proven strategies to help companies evolve into mature, thriving brands. From fast casual and QSR concepts to service brands and healthcare and education concepts, the BIP Franchise Accelerator has invested in emerging brands driven by people with an entrepreneurial spirit that have a great growth potential. Its current portfolio includes Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Tin Drum Asian Kitchen and BIP Franchise Finance. For more information on BIP Franchise Accelerator, visit

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