Edwin Drakes has a piece of advice for first-time restaurant owners: Follow your heart, but also, hire a consultant.
Luckily, the native Bostonian took his own advice with his new Latin-American restaurant, Beso, located at 370 Lewis Avenue, in Bed-Stuy, which will celebrate its grand opening in January 2012.
Edwin’s wife Donna is co-owner of Beso, which means "kiss," in Spanish, a name she chose to evoke an invitation for love. However, coming up with a catchy name was the easy part: This is the first restaurant venture for the husband-and-wife team, so during the early stages of the restaurant’s development, the Drakes admitted they caught a classic case of you don’t know what you don’t know.
And so eventually, they hired a consultant.
“Initially, there were a lot of challenges just trying to get the business off the ground,” said Edwin. “For example, immediately, we wanted to change the storefront. But because this is a landmark area, we couldn’t; we had to first go Landmarks to get their approval. So you need to know things like that in advance, because it slows things down a bit.”
The restaurant's official opening will be in early January, at which point it will join the SOLA crew (Shops of Lewis Avenue) as one of the latest and greatest restaurants, alongside of and , both of which already have set the bar high for food guaranteed to be prepared with loving hands.
Beso will serve “nuevo Latino-inspired cuisine,” a contemporary, Americana-infused blend of Latin and Caribbean fare. The 800-square foot restaurant seats 40 people, eight at the bar, and during the summer months, it will open its large courtyard in the back for outdoor seating.
“I’m very excited about it. I hope we please everybody, because a lot of people have been waiting patiently for us to open up,” said Donna, who also owns Little Footsteps Daycare on Bainbridge Street. “This is a learning process for both of us.”
The Drakes – who have lived in the neighborhood for ten years – first conceived the idea for opening a restaurant in Bed-Stuy two years ago, despite the fact that they do not cook nor do they consider themselves foodies. So why did they decide to open a Latin Restaurant? Their answer to the question: another question, “why not?”
“I don’t cook; I don’t go out much, but I saw a need in the neighborhood,” Edwin said. “We just thought that a Latin Restaurant would add more diversity. An opportunity came up when this space became available. So we negotiated with the landlord, and here we are.”
The owners have secured their liquor license, hired servers, cooks and other staff. A few items on their “working menu” (which they tested out last week at a soft opening) include Arepas, an appetizer made of South American corn cake, topped with beef, seafood, chicken or salad; Southwestern grilled shrimp, another appetizer accompanied by cilantro remoulade; grilled chicken salad with Jicama toasted peanut, mixed greens, cilantro and sweet chili vinaigrette; grilled hanger steak Chimmi Churri with zucchini fries; sea bass in chile lime sauce, roasted Serrano apricot-glazed chicken with dirty rice; and for dessert, pineapple or banana empanadas with vanilla ice cream.
A few drink specials also emerged as favorites at the soft opening and pre-tasting, including “The Beso,” made of raspberry vodka, cointreau, pineapple juice, cranberry juice and cava to float; “The Forbidden Dance,” made of Malibu rum, lime juice, strawberries and whipped cream; and “Mi Cielo,” a blue drink made of tequila, triple sec, lime juice and blue Curacao.
The interior of the restaurant has a decidedly neutral vibe and feel, with wall art that hints at life south-of-the-border. The restaurant’s tin ceiling is accessorized with four charming chandeliers purchased at a hotel auction-- a hotel formerly owned by real estate magnate Leona Helmsley.
If you can’t wait to experience Beso, don’t worry, you don’t have to wait long: Bed-Stuy residents can get a sneak preview of the restaurant on December 31, at a New Year’s Eve Party, from 9:00pm – 2:00am. For $50 in advance or $75 dollars at the door, the Drakes will host a DJ dance party with complimentary champagne and all you-can-eat hors d’oeuvres.
For more information on Beso, visit its website.