Yesterday, outside of Cafe de la Esquina in Williamsburg, you might have encountered something strange: 20 people, standing in line, waiting to enter the restaurant’s outdoor seating area, before noon. People love a Brooklyn brunch, but, typically, it is not enough to lure anyone, hungover or not, out of bed and into the public sphere before 2pm. And yet, there they all were. Was this Bizarro Williamsburg—i.e. Williamsburg in 2016—the new Normal Williamsburg?
Don’t worry, it wasn’t, and it’s not. Things are weird these days, but people still love to sleep in. So I asked some of those people what they were doing, and their answer made everything make sense: They were awake for puppies. New York City’s first ever puppy brunch—combining two of mostly everyone’s most intense obsessions into the same event—was being thrown by Jeremy Jacobowitz, better known as the popular Instagram handle brunchboys. The possibility of experiencing all-encompassing joy in this hybrid event was so great that not only had they gotten out of bed on a Sunday before noon, they had also arrived early.
I walked up to the first two women in line, Esther and Brittany. Brittany lived in Brooklyn—not a bad commute—but Esther? She lived in New Jersey. “I’ve wanted to adopt a dog for a while,” Esther tells me; she knew that Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue would be on site with a dog or two, with information about how to bring one of them home. But Brittany’s goals were even simpler. “Brunch food is amazing. And dogs are great,” she summarized.
Inside, the very real fantasy of untold thousands had materialized: bottomless mimosas, platters of Mexican breakfast dishes, waffles, sun, tables in the shade and, of course, dogs. Up to 20 to 25 of them, eventually, all hanging out, looking cute, yearning to be petted, and every one of them—human and dog—delighting in each others company in very close vicinity. Plus, there was a sick-ass cake in the shape of dog.
“This is my dream,” Jacobowitz told me, overwhelmed by what he had brought to life. “Puppies and brunch, this is what I dream about.” The first thing he needed was a space; a friend connected him to La Esquina and the restaurant, in turn, did not bat an eye. “They were super chill, super cool, I could not have found a better space.” Less than year ago, the rules changed in New York City so that any restaurant with an outdoor space could allow dogs to dine with their owners, pending the restaurant’s own approval—so an event like this, Jacobowitz said, has become much easier to pull off.
In the middle of talking, Cindy Lou Who—the lone Badass Animal Rescue dog on site—was kind of nuzzling with another little pup, and Jacobowitz stopped talking, overcome by what he saw. “Oh my god, look at them!” Jacobowitz didn’t have a dog of his own, but had grown up with one and missed her terribly, which might account for the degree of his obsession, he says.
We were standing on top of some astroturf that Jacobowitz had bought the day before at Home Depot. It served as a dog play pen, and inside of it there were also rubbery dog toys in the shape of hamburgers and pizza. On a round table next to it, was the cake: it was made by his friend in the image of Jacobowitz’s childhood dog. Suddenly, out of nowhere, part of the frosting had been wiped off.
“Oh no! How did that happen! The cake!” Jacobwitz lamented. “Who ate that? I woulda been so upset if I hadn’t gotten a picture of it first!” Luckily, his friend at Chelsweets, who makes a lot of cakes in the shapes of animals, was on hand with frosting to touch it up.
While most there—a crowd, easily, of around 100—just wanted to see some famous Instagram dogs and eat at the same time, others were interested in adoption. Badass Animal Rescue, however, intensely vets all future parents, so no one could go home with Cindy Lou Who that day.
Badass is an all-volunteer based organization, and all of their dogs come from high-kill shelters in the south. Cindy Lou Who had been hit by a car in Georgia in a hit and run. She’s fine now—calm and adorable—but walks with a little limp.
Kacey Byczek is the Badass foster coordinator, and was there with her own adopted dog from the shelter—an instance of what she called foster fail; taking a dog in, and loving it so much that you keep it. In its five year history, Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue had saved thousands of dogs. Just recently, said Byczek, they completed a big rescue of 30 more dogs down south.
At this point, famous Instagram dogs had shown up, and were really enjoying the lime light, being toured around by their owners, like cradled babies, and being the subject of many Instagrams. I walked up to one table that stood out a little from the others, a family rather than the single dog-obsessed set that made up the rest of the guests.
“Well, this was a surprise for her—it’s her birthday!” said Monica, a mom from Westchester, about her daughter Claire who had just turned 14 on Friday. “She loves dogs, so we grabbed [tickets] that day because they sold out right away.” Monica had seen the event publicized on Time Out New York.
Claire was sitting at the table looking very content between Monica and her dad Scott. I asked Claire if she had seen any of the Instagram famous puppies yet. “No!” said Claire. Her face lit up; she was overwhelmed with excitement. “I forgot to tell you that!” said Monica. Happy Birthday! We all yelled.
Sometimes teenage birthday dreams, and grown human dreams, really do come true, in the same place, and that place is Puppy Brunch.
All photos by Jane Bruce