There’s no plate like home.
An unemployed Esca waiter has opened a pop-up sidewalk cafe on his brownstone-lined Hancock Street block dubbed “Little Armenia Cafe.”
Hours are limited, signage is just a handwritten flyer plastered on a lamppost and the $20 prix fixe menu is cooked, served and cleaned up by just one man: proprietor Ararat El-Rawi.
“It’s just like throwing a party every weekend,” the 57-year-old El-Rawi told The Post of his weekend-only al fresco eatery.
“People are sitting there with big smiles on their face, everybody leaves happy and nobody’s complaining.”
El-Rawi warmly greets guests before listing out the day’s specials, pouring them seltzer from a 2-liter bottle and then bringing out complimentary hors d’oeuvres such as flaky pastry-encrusted prosciutto or asparagus with mixed cheeses.
Walk-ins are welcome, though reservations can be also made via text or Instagram direct message. There are a smattering of tables with checkered cloths, an oddball assortment of tableware and Armenian rugs and paintings for decor.
A recent menu included dishes such as Armenian tabouli; stuffed grape leaves; a steak sandwich with horseradish cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and mushrooms; plus baklava for dessert.
Need to use the facilities? El-Rawi will escort you to the loo inside his fourth-floor walk-up, where he hustles back and forth serving customers. Payment is made via cash or Venmo.
After the pandemic put El-Rawi out of work, he decided to take matters into his own hands.
“I saw something nobody else did,” El-Rawi told The Post of his enterprise.
After initially operating as a takeout stand, his secret Bedford-Stuyvesant staple has become popular through word of mouth and his Instagram page.
Born to Armenian parents who immigrated to Iraq and later the Midwest, El-Rawi’s relationship with food began at a very early age as he would follow his mother around the kitchen.
“To me, she was Big Armenia and I was Little Armenia,” he said, noting the inspiration for his eatery’s name. He says it’s also a nod to “her expertise and what she taught me.”
In his 20s, El-Rawi worked as a kitchen manager for celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern at Cafe Un Deux Trois in Minneapolis. He considers Zimmern a mentor who helped foster his love of food.
“Each place I worked, I would learn how to make their style of food and keep getting better and better,” said El-Rawi, who hopes to become a private chef through his growing network of customers.
“Even if my job wasn’t in the kitchen, I found a way to learn.”
Until he fully realizes his culinary goals, locals seem content with the unique experience he offers at his summer project.
“The reception has just been unbelievable,” he said. “It’s unusual in the restaurant business that everybody leaves happy. And it proves me right for doing this.”