Here in New York City tough exteriors often yield to unexpected worlds. Follow a dark alley to one of the city’s most adored eating spots, knock on a back door to enter a first-class bar, or head up the stairs of an unassuming brick apartment building in still-scruffy Downtown Brooklyn to find a bed and breakfast so quirky you’ll think you’ve passed through some mysterious portal to Amsterdam.
3B is the latter jewel in the rough, a New York State B&B cooperative that hosts adventurous souls in an alternative, homey-urban vibe (that’s an experience in itself) serving them home-cooked vegetarian breakfasts (almost good enough to justify renting a room) sourced from Sang Lee Farms, city farmers’ markets, Sahadi’s and the Smith Street bakery Bien Cuit.
The operation was founded in 2010 by seven 20-something friends living in a sprawling second-story apartment wedged between office towers and the Fulton Street shopping corridor. When the floor upstairs opened up, they dreamt up their co-op hospitality model and, with the landlord’s consent, gave the third floor — whose windows were boarded over, presumably for sketchier enterprises than hosting European tourists — a total makeover.
Today there are uniquely decorated guest rooms with eclectic furnishings and endearing effects wherever the eye lands: Original artwork graces the walls and antlers serve as coat hooks, while dinosaurs and other miniatures play out whimsical dioramas in the occasional nook. (Rooms run to $184 for a sunlit private space.)
The seven co-op members (one for each day of the week) reside on the second floor, where they occasionally host supper clubs and other salons; new members buy in when residents have to move out. Most contribute between 10 to 15 hours per week on upkeep of the B&B — equity roughly equals hours worked. Daily work shifts include making breakfast or changing out rooms. Other chores include bookkeeping, marketing and shopping for food.
It’s an arrangement that purposefully permits time and financial resources for creative pursuits like fiction writing, furniture design or art. Hot dishes at breakfast, for example, are handled with cloths expertly hand-woven by resident Alayna Rasile, who also threw the B&B’s lovely ceramic bowls.
One morning, a flock of Aussie film students use those to eat founding member Matt Keesan’s shakshouka, served from North Africa and Israel to Turkey. In his version, caramelized onions, garlic and jalapeños meet tomatoes brightened with cumin and paprika, the bowl topped with pea shoots, feta and poached eggs with luscious sunny-yellow yolks. Homemade muffins, coffee and tea are also on hand.
“We have a hospitality tradition,” explains Keesan, who has lovingly adorned the dishes with a parsley sprig. “Two of us have professional chef experience, the rest of us are just trying our best.”
Have out-of-town guests? Send them on our Sunset Park dumpling walking tour.