Bedford-Stuyvesant bistro bounces back from newbie woes

Donna Drakes, who co-owns Brooklyn Beso Restaurant with her husband, poses with a plate of their tapas — one of their most popular dishes.
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

Meet the owners of a vibrant bistro based in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

An unfortunate fire and an onslaught of mixed online reviews almost placed Brooklyn Beso’s future in an ambiguous state. But six years since it first opened, the owners of the Bedford-Stuyvesant bistro are proud of what their business has turned into despite early hardship.

Brooklyn Beso is a relaxed eatery inspired by the cuisines of Latin America and the Caribbean. Its Caribbean-American owners, Edwin and Donna Drakes, opened their first venture into the restaurant industry in 2011, when they observed a lack of restaurants in the neighborhood catering to the young and lively crowd of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“We never saw something like it in the community, and we wanted to offer the community something different and that’s why we decided to open,” said Donna Drakes, co-owner of the restaurant.

The restaurant‘s menu offers fusion dishes that are influenced by the cuisines of Venezuela, Colombia, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic to name a few. Patrons can find everything from seafood, vegetables, chicken, fritters, and flavorful drinks. But their most popular dish are their tapas — fried appetizers that come with a different flavors, such as one made with cod fish that is a kitchen favorite.

“We are known for our bacalao tapas — they are very tasty and we have a variety on menu,” said Drakes.

A busy day usually includes people coming in to relax, but during the summer they are the busiest, said Drakes. Guests come in for the 3 for $18 meals and to wind down to music. Brooklyn Beso has found its groove, but business started out tough. In the early stages of business, crowds of customers were enjoying the food and coming in, but the negative reviews on their customer service started to shadow everything else, said Drakes, who said it was a tough love realization.

Inside the restaurant is a fully-loaded bar.
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

“Our customer service was going through growing pains — every night I was seeing nasty comments left and right,” she said. “But it did help me. If people are constantly saying your service sucks but they like the food, it means you leave the food alone and work on service.”

But in 2013 a fire forced the restaurant to close for repairs. During the temporary closure they lost some business, and possibly some new customers after being featured on a reality television show on the Food Network, which aired the day after the fire. But Drakes said she used the time to go back to the drawing board and create new plans for the restaurant.

“It did make us pause for a minute and when something comes on television an influx of people usually start coming in, but we were closed for six weeks,” she said.

When Brooklyn Beso Restaurant reopened, Drakes said she revamped how they would conduct business, seeking out efficient employees and emphasizing service. She is now confident of the restaurant’s new outlook, and has the clientele to show for it.

“I have invested so much and once you invest a lot it shows in my pride and I succeed at what I do,” she said. “People are supportive — some people waited until we were open again. I even would overhear people talking about the restaurant, not even knowing my husband and I created an environment that was needed in the neighborhood — we’re grateful.”

Beso Restaurant [370 Lewis Ave. between Macon and Halsey streets in Bedford-Stuyvesant. (347) 915-2900, www.brooklynbeso.com. Mon.–Fri., 3-11 pm. Sat.–Sun, 11 am–11 pm.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]local.com.
Brooklyn Beso Restaurant is situtated in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant, giving their new and old residents a fun and hip environment to eat in.
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

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