Tumi Café would be one of those Brooklyn restaurants that would be a not-so-secret secret, staked out by the foodarazzi. All the elements are there: The restaurant was opened by friends Cheryl Cervay and Marci Clark—neither of whom have any significant restaurant experience—as a four-table cash-only spot that closes by 8 p.m. on weekend nights, serving Peruvian food learned from a native, redefined by removing all oil. There’s the requisite green component with compostable to-go packaging. The decor is part flea market (a real traffic light, ’60s decals, mismatched furniture), part craft bazaar (knitted dog scarves, painted glassware), and a showcase of Peruvian culture with photos of llamas and a large Tumi (ceremonial knife) hanging on the door. Place an order at the counter—which is a loose definition for the divide between you and the cooks, who may be dishing up a spicy chicken stew (aji de gallina) served with salsa criolla (onions, aji peppers, lemon, and vinegar), a garlicky chick pea and chicken soup (inchicapi), or pulled pork from a line of chafers and slow cookers. Fill a glass jar from a jug of chicha morado, a groovy purple beverage made from purple corn, pineapple juice, and cinnamon, that’s not dissimilar to Nehi Grape, and nearly as sweet (some added lemon juice helped cut the sweetness). Cervay, a Mt. Washington resident and community activist, and Clark, a concert violinist, created Tumi to fill a void: they believed their community needed a live music venue, and a “nice little café with a little bit of flair.” That’s an understatement.
Tumi Café, 2061 Beechmont Ave., (513) 624-8864
Prices: $1.50–$6.95. Lunch and dinner Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri & Sat.
Originally published in the June 2011 issue.