‘Twas a dark week in the kingdom of Veggie Castle – formerly a White Castle converted to a vegetarian eatery on Church Avenue in Flatbush. First because someone got shot in their parking lot Thursday morning. But more importantly (and totally unrelated): They announced their imminent closure after a 10-year run.
The demise of this rare vendor of jerk tofu, porridge, elaborate juices and “Ital Jockey” – a brew of sea moss, bee pollen, Chinese herbs and cashews, among other things – shall be felt not only by the nabe’s Rastafarians and Caribbean residents, but by all those herbivores from Park Slope and beyond who have trekked southeastward to sample their steaming buffet that has been called, “a rite of passage” for serious vegetarians.
The end of a 10-year lease is to blame, according to Cindy Bernard, daughter of owner Viburt Bernard. She said the landlord wanted to sell the lot to someone who plans to tear down the building and develop a new commercial space. In the meantime, “distraught” describes the mood among her regulars.
“It’s terrible,” said Cody, a 63-year-old resident of East New York who drives down every day for two orders of porridge. “There’s no place like this, for me it’s been tremendous.”
Across the street at Brooklyn’s Finest Haircutters, Inc., barber Mark Parris sees Veggie Castle’s closing in the context of rising rents throughout the area. “There are changes goin’ on in this neighborhood,” he said. “If you’re not holding your own out here, you’re not gonna make it.”
Bernard said that there’s still another Veggie Castle on Liberty Avenue in South Richmond Hill, but the Church Avenue location was the first, and she and her staff have grown attached to the clientele. “We all have a really strong bond with our customers,” she said. “Right now, I’m getting’ tearful.” She then did indeed get tearful.
Veggie Castle will be closed by Christmas.
2242 Church Ave. (just east of Flatbush Ave.), 718-703-1275; hours for Sat-Mon. are 10am-10pm
Photo by Nicholas Phillips