For International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, we decided to highlight some of our favorite women-led restaurants in Brooklyn. Enjoy birthday cake and shots at Butter and Scotch, vegan wings at Modern Love, or fresh croissants at Simple Loaf Bakery, and continue to support the female industry community year-round.
545 Flatbush Avenue, between Lincoln Road and Maple Street.
Amy Thai Bistro may have only recently opened, but owner Karnchana Vongsawat, affectionately known as Amy, is no stranger to the industry. She is still an owner at the wildly popular Am Thai restaurant on Church Avenue, and has now branched out for an additional restaurant more suited to her style. The Amy Thai space was decorated entirely by Vongsawat, and she told Bklyner that it really represents her as a person. You can try dishes like tom yum soup, pad see ew, and basil fried rice in the intimate and cleanly furnished location, which is also one of the only Thai restaurants on Flatbush Avenue.
818 Franklin Avenue, between Union Street and Eastern Parkway.
“Fuck the Glass Ceiling,” “Madonna, Rihanna, Ilana,” “Fuck Gender Roles,”— all cocktail names at Butter and Scotch in Crown Heights, a dessert bar known for their strong political takes (see: sending impeachment cakes to senators) and their delicious baking since 2015. Wash down your birthday cake or hot fudge sundae with a round of Glitoris shots, and know that life is beautiful.
Owner Keavy Landreth has been in the industry since she was 17, and runs Butter and Scotch.
“One thing that we were very aware of when we first opened [was] that the cocktail community was still very masculine and very male-dominated. When we opened, we wanted our female voices to be heard, and to give a new kind of take on the cocktail scene and the cocktail bar,” Landreth told us.
The bar was shaped around its employees and clientele, who felt at home and able to express their femininity in the space.
“We really took that to a whole other level at the end of 2016 when we just changed the menus to be all about women and celebrating women,” Landreth told us. “It just naturally developed that way because we are women-run. Not only women-run, but very femme women, or femme-embracing [women].”
236 Underhill Avenue, between N. Service Road and St. Johns Place.
This iconic Prospect Heights restaurant opened in 2006, and has gone strong ever since. The chef and owner, Cheryl Smith, was previously known for her Food Network show “The Melting Pot,” and has cooked in restaurants like The Butta’ Cup, Sol’s, and Bambou. The menu at Cheryl’s Global Soul is well-rounded and both expected and exciting, with dishes like creole barbecue shrimp and split pea with smoked turkey, as well as Thai coconut curry mussels and Moroccan vegetable tagine.
239 5th Avenue, between Carroll and President streets.
Jenny Kwak has been in the restaurant industry for 28 years. She opened Haenyeo in 2018, and received glowing reviews, and has been nominated for the prestigious James Beard Awards. The Korean restaurant, named for the Korean female divers who free-dive into deep waters to collect seafood and seaweed, is truly a family-run place.
“It’s my husband who runs the front of house, and my mother is retired but she still comes and keeps me company. We’re not a corporate restaurant, you can still tell it’s a home-style kitchen. I definitely think we’re special because we’re woman-owned, of course,” Kwak told us.
Since Dok Suni, her restaurant with a similar cuisine in the East Village, Kwak and her mother have been involved in operations together.
“I come from a restaurant history of working with my mother, and I think people loved the fact that we were a mother-daughter team back then. I think it kind of carried over to this restaurant now,” she added.
You’ll find Kwak in-house around six days a week, on the line or overseeing the day-to-day. An order of the grilled oysters and seaweed butter and a cocktail at the bar are the things that very good dreams are made of.
317 Union Avenue, between S. 1st and S. 2nd streets.
Modern Love, a celebrated vegan spot in Williamsburg, opened in 2016. The restaurant has numerous women in leadership positions, including three owners, a general manager, and chef and manager Allison Kennedy.
“The last kitchen I was in was a Michelin star-rated kitchen and I was the only female there. It was very much more aggressive [with] name-calling and things very a part of the kitchen culture. One of the things I would have to do before every shift was listen to ‘Formation,’ by Beyoncé to get myself in my own groove,” Kennedy laughed. “I think that as far as what we’ve created here there’s more patience for having people grow and thrive.”
Modern Love serves dishes like buffalo tempeh wings, oyster mushroom calamari, and lentil walnut bolognese, all of which are totally vegan.
“I think that there’s a certain attention to detail and aesthetic quality that we bring as women, we’re not just flopping something on a plate I’m not saying that a man can’t do that,” Kennedy told us, “but I think our drive to keep things really fresh and innovative [and] aesthetically pleasing might have something to do with the fact that we’re a group of women that care about those things.”
930 Fulton Street, between Washington Avenue and St. Johns Place.
Otway, a bistro in Clinton Hill, has been open for five years, with Samantha Safer at the helm.
“I think that we tend to get a lot more female applications in both our front of house and back of house, because I think that people know going into it that the culture is going to be different. Something about it just has ‘no bullshit’ written all over it,” Safer told us.
“I think with having women in management and ownership, [people] know that if there is something going on it’s not tolerated,” she added. “We don’t enable and we don’t allow for that culture of harassment and schedule manipulation and things that happen in some larger restaurants.”
Otway is known for its experimental menu and neighborhood feel, with things like foie torchon, cavatelli with button mushrooms, and scallop chips on the menu.
Safer is at the restaurant seven days a week, and works in nearly every job with a constantly changing schedule. Sometimes, you’ll find her baking in the mornings, other days she’s on dishes or working brunch service.
“Leading by example in our restaurant is working the hardest that you can. You’re not going to ask something of these people that you’d never do,” Safer, who’s been in the industry about a decade, emphasized.
Simple Loaf Bakehouse is located at 310 Fifth Avenue, between 2nd and 3rd Streets.
It had long been a dream of owners Shari Call and Julissa Escobedo to open a Brooklyn bakery. Now, that dream is a reality, and the duo is serving freshly baked breads, pastries, and sandwiches to their neighbors in Park Slope. The spot regularly sells out, so make sure to get there early in the morning to have your pick of the litter. We recommend the croissants (both chocolate and original), the Park Slope Sourdough, and the cinnamon bun.
75 St. Marks Avenue, between Flatbush and Carlton avenues.
Sofreh is Nasim Alikhani’s debut restaurant at 59 years old, but she’s been cooking since she was young, and was previously in catering. The Persian restaurant serves dishes like herb kofteh, orange zest and carrot rice, and sharbat, a traditional Persian sparkling cooler. Neighbors know the restaurant for its minimal, tasteful design, with exposed beams on the ceiling and concrete floors. The restaurant opened in 2018.