Early Bird Café Rises in North Riverdale

by Jilleen Barrett, A&E Editor & Managing Editor

Heather Kim and Katie Mayer needed a pick-me-up place to diversify food and drink options in North Riverdale. So, they took matters into their own hands and created the Early Bird Cafe.

“We are two women from the neighborhood, and Katie’s lived here her whole life and I moved here several years ago,” Kim said. “And you know, we became friends and one thing that we always said and that we’ve always heard from our group and other people that there should be a coffee shop in the neighborhood. A place that people can go get great food, get coffee … it’s kind of like a cheap thrill, it makes you feel good, it comforts you and it’s, you know, two bucks. So, you know, but we also wanted to be good coffee and a comfortable seat.”

In addition to coffee, their menu lists smoothies, bowls, avocado toast, tea and baked goods. They have an assortment of baked goods, which are outsourced from several bakeries in the tri-state area. 

In addition to coffee, their menu lists smoothies, bowls, avocado toast, tea and baked goods. 

“You’ve got to get in early to get the baked goods,” they said. “The baked goods fly out of here.”

They get gluten free, dairy free and kosher products from ByTheWay Bakery and rave about the bundt cakes from Dutch Baby. Mayer says the donuts from Donut Plant barely last two hours and the scones from Balthazar Bakery, despite being sugar reduced, are well-enjoyed as well. 

The business partners’ favorite thing to eat in their cafe, however, are the acai bowls. They have several types of bowls, including acai, green and chia, and all come with fruit and granola toppings. Kim and Mayer love to have them with nut butters.

“You can’t get [acai bowls] in the neighborhood, but I actually think that ours is superior to even places where they do make them all the time,” Kim said. “You know it’s just like the right mixture of the acai and granola and strawberries, blueberries and toasted coconut, it’s not over done. It’s just the right amount.

“We wanted some name, a word that signifies a coffee shop without calling it, coffee, or a cafe or a coffee shop,” Kim said. “So we thought, ‘Early Bird’ was kind of like, you immediately think, ‘Oh that’s a coffee shop,’ without it saying coffee.” 

Kim and Mayer are looking to hire, and encourage college students to apply to work in their restaurant.

“You can have an early morning shift, you know, be here for a few hours, and then start class at whatever time,” Kim said. “We have a few students here.”

They also added that they do special events and want to see more students come.

“We also do special events, we had a Gun Hill Brewing Company pop-up here. So it was so much fun and basically we took over the sidewalk, and in the shop and it was just like a really interesting vibe,” Kim said. “So I’m on the lookout for [another] special event, because we definitely want to, you know, for the students to come by and enjoy, you know, everything we have to offer.”

Early Bird Cafe can be found on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook @earlybirdbx.