Whenever I see construction in my neighborhood of Sunset Park, my first thought is, I hope it’s a bookstore/café. When it’s close enough that I can still pick up my wireless network, that amplifies my hope that it will be something great. For months, I peered in the windows and thought of the Tom Waits song “What’s He Building?” Then in June, the sign went up: Slimák, with an image of a snail design on a cup of coffee.
Every new detail thrilled me: wooden tables that evoke a European bistro, bright red bar stools, a pressed-tin ceiling — and then, one morning, the smell of coffee.
I went in on opening day and met the friendly couple from Slovakia who run the place, Jan and Andrea Balascak. Andrea is also the café’s executive chef. Before opening Slimák, they were part-owners of Newsbar on University Place in Manhattan. Now they have their own place (in addition to staying on with Newsbar), in a neighborhood Andrea describes as “like a vacation” compared to that one near Union Square.
“We want to bring the neighborhood together,” she told me. “We are very personal with the customers, and become a big family and friends. It’s mostly regulars who come here.”
Slimák is the Slovak word for snail, and also the last name of Andrea’s grandfather, who watches over the café from a framed photograph on the wall. She wants customers to feel like they are family, too.
I’ll admit: I’m not the most gregarious customer. I often want to be left alone to read and write with coffee at a well-lit table. But I look forward to saying hello to Jan and Andrea. They notice my Beavis & Butthead Doc Martens, and help me out when I’m running late for work and in need an extremely quick and delicious sandwich.
I’m also particular about food. I tend to order like Meg Ryan’s character in When Harry Met Sally, full of substitutions and special requests, and I thought I didn’t like eggs until graduating from college. (My policy was that eggs should stay in cakes and cookies, where they belong.) That’s when I learned I do like them—as long as the yolks are well-blended and well-done, the opposite of how most of the world’s egg-eaters prefer them. And Andrea can make the (cage-free) eggs just right, whether you’re a weirdo like me or not. I have a special love for the chicken apple sausage hash off the weekend brunch menu, which comes with two eggs any style and a choice of toast (all for $10); the steak and eggs and the smoked salmon hash are also can’t-miss.
I go to Slimák less often on weekdays, but when I do, I like to enjoy a coffee with a croissant; theirs are perfectly flaky, served with a small container of softened butter. For the coffee, they have a variety of milk options, and I usually go luxe with half-and-half (they also have soy milk if you ask for it).
Since Slimák opened, a bulletin board behind the counter has promised, “Wine & Beer Coming Soon!” The owners say that they will begin serving alcohol in a few weeks. I’m looking forward to testing out every wine on the menu as I incessantly suggest Slimák as a perfect place to meet up with friends: a new neighborhood addition that feels like it’s always been there.