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Wildly Delicious, Worker-Owned: Brooklyn’s New Sandwich Shop, Sea & Soil

Check out their pop-up at Grand Army Plaza before the Carroll Gardens shop opens in July.

The Lena: oyster mushrooms with pesto and tomato, $8 to $15 sliding scale.

The Lena: oyster mushrooms with pesto and tomato, $8 to $15 sliding scale. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Technically, Sea & Soil, a cute-looking bakery and cafe on the western edge of Carroll Gardens, doesn't open until the end of July. Peek through the bars at 102 President Street and you'll see a bright, fun paint job on the walls, a boldly tiled floor, and, as of last week, not much else.

And yet, thanks to the magic of the pandemic-era pop-up, Sea & Soil is also one of my absolute favorite sandwich shops in all of New York City right now. Wild times!

Sea and Soil sneak peek on Saturdays at Grand Army Plaza (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Sea & Soil is a worker-owned cooperative started by Ridgewood residents Noah Wolf and Gaby Gignoux-Wolfsohn, two educators and hospitality alumni who, during that first weird COVID summer of 2020, had a lot of time on their hands, a lot of uncertainty about their future, and Wolf's 12-year-old sourdough mother in the fridge. Sandwiches, bread, and pastries felt like the future. 

"It's really hard to find a stable, well-paying, secure job," Gignoux-Wolfsohn told Hell Gate. "And we really wanted to be a part of shifting the power into the hands of the workers." A ton of experimenting, a bit of catering, and a few successful pop-ups convinced the duo that in order to live that worker-owned dream, they had to commit full time to pastry and sandwich game. And for that, they needed a storefront. 

"We happened to find this space on President Street that's owned by Maragret Palca, who's been running a bakery in the neighborhood for 40 years," said Wolf. "She's retiring at the end of June, and we feel honored to walk in her footsteps. She literally bequeathed us her equipment, so we'll be mixing with her mixers, and baking in her ovens. Being able to carry on that spirit in the neighborhood feels good."

Coming in late July: this colorful little worker-owned shop (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

And even though the storefront won't be open for another six weeks or so, Wolf and Gignoux-Wolfsohn are serving basically the entire Sea and Soil menu on Saturdays in Grand Army Plaza, setting up a table amid the bustle of the extremely popular greenmarket there.

Most of the early morning action here at Grand Army is focused on the cold brew from Plowshares and the piles of Wolf and Gignoux-Wolfsohn's pastries—the Saturday hours, are 9:30 a.m. until sell out—and the baked goods are definitely worthy of your attention.

Pastries on parade (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The croissants, both regular and vegan, are jacked to the size of hero rolls, and the pain au chocolat is equally enormous, just a ridiculously good, chewy, gooey, dessert-for-breakfast feast.

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

For something less in-your-face (but still very much in the treat category) get the anko pretzel bun, a soft, salty roll stuffed generously with a sweet and sticky red bean paste. The chefs' traditional caneles, with their crisp exterior and custardy insides, are also excellent.

Anko pretzel bun, $5 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

So, yes, the pastries are great, but it's the Sea & Soil sandwiches that really sent me swooning last Saturday. Both of Wolf and Gignoux-Wolfsohn's vegan creations are stellar, a funky oyster mushroom beauty called the Lena, all sloppy with pesto and chunky tomatoes, and the spicy Iz filled with curried lentils and chili crisp.

The Iz: curried lentils with chili crisp, $8 to $15 sliding scale (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The meat ones also pack a punch. The River stars a killer combo of miso pork, mozzarella, and wasabi aioli, and the Wren features some grilled chicken marinated until orange in cumin and paprika. As you would expect, everything from the sauces to the sourdough rolls are made in house by the worker-owners.

The River: miso pork, mozzarella, wasabi aioli, $8 to $15 sliding scale (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
The Wren: grilled chicken with cumin and paprika, $8 to $15 sliding scale (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The menu will change, both at their Grand Army Saturdays stand (there's lots of seating here by the way, at tables up near the entrance to the Brooklyn Public Library and, of course, in Prospect Park), and in the storefront proper once it opens later this summer. But an integral part of Sea and Soil will always be the sliding-scale prices, which right now are $8 to $15 per sandwich, pay what you are able. 

"Both of us at different points in our lives have taught food justice," said Wolf. "Knowing where your food is from, how it's grown, how the earth it's grown in is taken care of, how the food workers along the entire supply chain are treated... we're trying to make all those things line up as much as possible at Sea & Soil. And we want to make our food accessible to as many people as we humanly can. We have a policy that no one is turned away for lack of funds, and everything will be on a sliding scale."

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Sea & Soil will be at the Grand Army Plaza on Saturday mornings from now until their storefront opens (they're shooting for July 23) at 102 President Street, between Hicks and Columbia Streets. All updates can be found on their Instagram.

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