ap cafe by James A Tolley August 22, 2018
I’m not sure if it’s the look or if it’s the feel, but there is something special about AP Café. One thing I do know for sure is that their energy is one of a kind.
You’ll find the creative café tucked away in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn across from a mural of the Bardi Lisa. When you arrive you’ll more than likely be greeted by the general manager and vibe curator Nellie.
Nellie is a 25-year-old Park Slope native, who is no stranger to community activism and youth organizing. She and her team of fellow “creative chefs” put together an amazing assortment of food, drinks, and delicious desserts to grace your palate.
“While I was at school in Chicago I worked for non-profits that were geared towards giving the youth from the southside of Chicago a chance to learn valuable job skills, and be paid for the time they spent with us. It was what took me away from teaching, but the type of work that fuels my passion for building with my people.”
I pulled up to Bushwick to catch up with the young GM and the AP crew to find out more about how the café uses its creative space to help artists of all kind showcase their works.
OPENCANVAS 420 TROUTMAN @AP | FRIDAY 8/17 RSVP BIO. GUEST ARTIST: @elifola_ @simensez @djaqnyc @_djbrake_ & live art by @honorroller @anastasialovera hoested by @taj.alexander 📽 @nextstopfilms x @theopencanvas. . . OPENCANVAS@AP | #thirdfridays Friday 7/20 8pm – late . . . . #aplacecreative #420troutman #opencanvas #music #livemusic #dance #aplacetobe #bushwick #bushwickbrooklyn #blackownedbusiness #newyork
For starters, Nellie spoke about how she came to AP and how her vision finally came to life. Nellie had this to say about her first encounter with AP,
“Last September I walked in here as a customer, and it blew me away. Visually it really made me stop because it was everything I had drawn out on paper, and planned to get funding to pay designers to build. It was what I had in my brain but right in front of me.”
In October I found myself stepping into AP as a passer-by-turned-customer with no awareness of what was to transpire. In short, I found myself amongst a group of vibrant souls who share the same visions of communal accessibility and curation. Within a couple of days I joined the collective and have been here ever since. These past months have come with growing pains, sleepless nights, beautiful people, wild synergy, tribal feels, tangible progress and visible manifestation. Proud of myself, proud of my crew and honored to have been welcomed on with open arms. I know I have been hard to find – now you know! #managersbelike #aplace #aplacecreative #apcreative #apcafe #apcafenyc #brooklyncoffee #tobysestatecoffee #bushwick #bushwickcollective #native #brooklynnatives #buildyourown #growyourown #personallegend #universallanguage #womenempowerment #womenincharge
When you first enter AP Café you smell the amazing coffee, you hear the mix of bops their playing, and you feel the productive movement that’s in that space. When you look a bit deeper, however, you can see that AP has a higher purpose.
It isn’t just about the coffee, the pastries, or the delicious food, but it is a place where creativity arrives to flourish. You can see it and hear it with the people coming in and out, the conversations, and collaborations that are being put together.
THIGHS N’ CAKES @ AP [House fried chicken thigh, waffle, scallion, scotch bonnet alioli] free range chicken coming from our neighbors upstate. Plate by: @claybydf. . . . . . #ap #apcreative #apbreakfast #chickennwaffles #friedchicken #420troutman #bushwick #brooklyn #blackownedbusiness #newyork #apcafe
The space offers you something that you cannot get in any Starbucks, but only in a space carved out for ideas to flow. This place serves as a canvas for you to paint how you see fit.
Nellie took a moment to comment on AP’s focus,
“It’s like you said, when you walked in here, you felt welcome. That’s because this is a space for creatives of all walks. Not just painters and musicians, but for creatives in the community, event planners, and really creatives in any field. We want to put people on, and this space was built for creatives to come and do their thing.”
During my time at AP, the space began to take shape for an event that would be hosted in the back of the cafe that weekend. You could feel what was to come. Live dance performances, a showcase of musical talent, and some dope artwork to fill the gallery ready walls.
What truly makes AP a gem is how it stands as a symbol in a heavily gentrified neighborhood. The gradient of melanin that keeps this place moving, is what makes AP so special. It’s a place where the people who are still hanging on to the culture that once flooded the streets of Bushwick, can go to feel that sense of home.
On top of all that they do to help drive creative culture, their food is hands down, some of the best food I’ve eaten. Ol’Birdy Bastard, Thighs n’ cakes, and the avocado toast AKA “Toast Face Killa” all had my palette dancing. All of this love on a plate was provided by the head of the AP kitchen, Lee.
Lee is a 21-year-old Bushwick native, who has the culinary talent to shock all that try her food. Not only is the food delicious, but Lee doesn’t pull punches on the presentation. Lee had this to tell us about her passion for food. She told me,
“Honestly it came as I began this journey of motherhood. I became a mom really young and just like my mother cooked for me, I cook for my daughter. I learned how to cook from my mom, and put passion behind it for my daughter.”
We dove into how Lee stumbled upon AP, and where she was trained on some of the more technical parts of creating food and presenting it so beautifully. Lee said,
“Well I started working in different restaurants, and for various catering companies no one really saw my passion or my talent, until I came here and met Nellie. She gave me a trial run with one of the old cooks, and I loved everything about it. I feel like I’m with family, and that’s why I enjoy it here. In terms of formal training, I really learned everything from being in different kitchens and catering companies. I took everything I learned from each job and I’m applying it all here.”
Shouts out to Nellie, Lee, and the rest of the crew over at AP Café for showing love to Kulture Hub during our visit. Pull up to 420 Troutman for your next coffee, bite to eat, or to plan your next event.
Head over to their Instagram to check out more of what they have going on, show up to support, and to join the growing creative community.
Never forget, the only way to keep driving culture is to do it together. One love.