New York City’s Hottest Jazz Club Serves Vegan Mediterranean Dishes

If someone hears you’re spending an evening out in Bushwick, chances are, they’ll start rattling off venues that showcase a litany of EDM- and techno-centric programming. Unsurprisingly, most are unaware that the city’s hottest jazz club is nestled within this eclectic Brooklyn neighborhood.

The lives of co-founders and couple Rie Yamaguchi-Borden and Mitchell Borden revolve around jazz. In 1994, Mitchell opened Smalls in a basement where he charged a $10 cover and offered no alcohol; the West Village club quickly began fostering fledgling acts. Six years later, he opened the more mainstream Fat Cat, just a stone’s throw away on Christopher Street.

In 2019, the pair moved to Bushwick, where Rie started playing gigs at their local bar. Soon thereafter, the pandemic hit, shuttering New York City at large and all of its music venues. Mitchell and Rie swiftly established Gotham Yardbird Sanctuary, a non-profit organization offering free-to-all live jazz performances in various venues around the city.

A year or so later, Mitchell and Rie took over the beloved neighborhood hotspot Bodeguita and converted it into the ever more darling Ornithology Jazz Club. Drawing inspiration from Charlie “Bird” Parker and one of his most popular compositions, the duo’s esteemed reputations in the jazz scene guarantee top acts each week. Intimate environs mean capacity is limited, though people have no problem queuing down the block to get their spot and a craft cocktail.

Those in search of a post for the duration of the evening need not venture too far––Mitchell and Rie opened Cafe Ornithology right next door in late 2023. 

Credit: Megan Shelton

Make all the jokes you want––“vegan dishes and mocktails” may ring as parodical of Portlandia proportions, but we assure you jazz saxophonist and Head Chef Adam Frumkin’s curated menu of Mediterranean plant-based dishes is delectable. Start with Oven-Baked Chickpeas or Hummus and Pita, then take your pick of pizzas such as Eggplant & Tahini or Chef Adam’s off-menu Matbucha Pizza featuring Moroccan tomato jam. Plus, the dishes are as delicious as they are affordable. A cup of coffee is just $2, and the most expensive dish on the menu is $16.

Credit: Megan Shelton

The cafe is open daily for lunch, though things kick into high gear around 6 pm, as people make their way inside before cover is charged at 6:30 pm. Reservations can be made up until 10 pm, and the evening festivities typically wind down around midnight. Naturally, jazz music plays at all hours; there are typically two live performances each evening.

For a top-notch jazz experience that will not break the bank, look no further than Ornithology Jazz Club and Cafe Ornithology. 

Top Takeaways

Location: Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York

Address: 1037 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11221

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Price Point: $

Takes Reservations: Contact [email protected] to secure a reservation. Reservations are accepted from 6:30 p.m. through 10 p.m.

The vibe: This low-key hotspot beckons younger and older crowds alike. Two up-and-coming local jazz acts perform each evening while Mediterranean dishes are served around the dining room all night long.

Our favorite thing on the menu: Everyone is sure to love the Hummus and Pita and any of the pizzas, though the best is arguably the off-menu Matbucha Pizza featuring Moroccan tomato jam.

The attire: Casual

Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner: Daily Lunch: 1 pm – 4 pm; Sunday Brunch: 12 pm – 4 pm; Nightly Dinner: 6:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.

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