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The Short Version: Singles and couples seeking an upscale yet casual café for breakfast or lunch dates can check out one of Butler’s four NYC locations. The restaurant serves sandwiches, granola, and salads alongside espresso and tea. The South Williamsburg location even has boozy beverages on the menu. Visitors can decide if they want to sit inside or outside at one of the eateries, or take their food to a nearby park for a picnic. Butler’s low-key, friendly vibe also makes it an ideal spot for a less-intimidating first date.
First dates can be intimidating. Singles often worry about making a good first impression and feeling confident enough to be themselves. Some may also want to ensure their dates don’t last too long — or cost too much money — if they don’t click with the person.
According to Science of People’s Vanessa Van Edwards, the first step is preparing a look that conveys how you want to be perceived.
“Whether it’s the words you use to describe yourself online, the pictures you post, or the way you dress, it’s important to understand the entire picture of what you’re putting out there. Is that picture truly your best self?” she wrote.
Next, singles should choose a date location that is casual enough so they can efficiently — and affordably — part ways if they don’t hit it off.
New York City singles looking for a casual date spot with many food-sharing options can turn to Butler, a breakfast and lunch spot that specializes in baked goods and espresso beverages. Butler has four locations in Soho, Brooklyn, and Williamsburg.
Hugo Murray, Butler Co-Founder, wanted to create an experience that mimicked the type of coffee culture that was popular in Australia.
“My business partner and I both grew up with, and love, Australian coffee culture – we were introduced through a mutual desire to re-create it in New York,” he said.
Butler’s casual atmosphere is perfect for first dates. Customers order at the counter and then find a seat to continue a conversation while waiting for their food.
The eatery also welcomes all guests, including members of the LGBTQ+ community. And each cafe is also wheelchair accessible.
“We hope that people from all races, religions, and sexualities can feel comfortable here,” said Hugo.
Guests dining at Butler can feel safe with the eatery’s COVID-19 precautions. Each location requires a New York state vaccination card for entry and offers extensive outdoor seating. Its staff members wear masks and receive regular COVID-19 tests.
Customers can also order Butler food and drinks to go if they don’t feel comfortable eating inside. The restaurants have walk-up windows so singles and couples can pick up coffee and pastries to go.
“All locations are near public parks which are great for strolling through with a coffee. So you have Domino Park on the waterfront in South Williamsburg and Lt Petrosino Square in Soho, McCarren Park in Nth Williamsburg, and the waterfront park by our Dumbo location. Those are good spots to grab a coffee and chill out,” Hugo told us.
Even pastry lovers with dietary restrictions can find something to eat at Butler.
“We have an evolved pastry program that has gluten-free and vegan options now. Head of Pastry Nicole Hamilton introduced that. We also have an extensive range of dairy alternative milks. We’re proud to be one of the first cafés in New York to introduce Oatly and, more recently, Táche Pistachio Milk.,” Hugo said.
Yelper Sarah B. shared her impression of Butler in an online testimonial:
“The coffee and pastries are rich, and the staff is very friendly. During non-COVID times, the insides are definitely a place you want to sit and sip on your latte for a while. Easy to bring a laptop to warm it up with a couple of friends. During COVID they’ve been good about having the outside pick-up window and some seats available. Anything you get here is bound to be delicious.”
Butler’s pastry menu was designed by Ryan Butler, a Michelin-starred pastry chef. Their current savory a la carte menu was designed by Executive Chef Christian Ramos who was former Sous Chef at Per Se .
“We try to find people at the top of their game to run each department or develop key menus, so we can offer the best in food and coffee,” Hugo said.
The eatery offers à la carte breakfast and lunch dishes, including granola bowls, toast, and salads.
One popular breakfast is a sandwich made with egg, smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, and truffle aioli on scallion brioche. Another is the Peach & Ricotta toast, a sourdough toast topped with mint, toasted almonds, and elderflower.
The Everything Cruffin is one of the eatery’s top-selling pastries. It is croissant dough baked in a muffin mold with a cream cheese and chive center.
In addition to its espresso bar, Butler offers beer, wine, and cider at it’s South Williamsburg location.
Couples who come in later in the evening for dates can choose from lighter-caffeine options as well.
“We offer a mushroom latte, a turmeric ginger latte, and a top-quality matcha program from Matchaful,” Hugo said.
Though the team has taken a hiatus from catering during the COVID-19 pandemic, it aims to resume service once local regulations relax and people begin throwing big shindigs again.
On any given afternoon, the tables at Butler can be occupied by colleagues holding business meetings or friends catching up. A few couples may also be there on a date. While the café likely has music playing, its vibe and energy are at a reasonable level so couples, friends, or colleagues can hear one another without shouting.
“We always have music playing to create ambiance — I’m sure if you’re on a date you don’t want someone next to you listening to every word of your conversation. People on dates are often sharing a lot about their life history. It’s nice to have your own bubble,” Hugo said.
The vibe in the eatery is relaxed, and none of its staff members take themselves too seriously. The Australian attitude behind the concept signals irreverent humor that is approachable. But Butler’s laid-back atmosphere retains an elevated flair, with its unique design and high-end finishes.
“Even though it’s a casual café setting, we like to think of it as fairly elevated. We would describe our point of difference as taking the techniques and skills of fine dining and translating it into the café setting,” Hugo told us.
Butler has four locations and plans to open more soon. Much of the restaurant’s current clientele are repeat customers, a metric that lets the Butler team know it’s doing something right.
“Quality is really important to us. We don’t want our culture, coffee, or food to suffer because we are trying to expand too much too fast,” said Hugo.
Singles and couples in the New York City area looking for easy date spots can look out for a new Butler location in their neighborhood.
Photos by Davina Tan.