Every once in a while, there’s an NYC spot that opens up that you just can’t stop thinking about. Like a high school crush, you stalk their Instagram and excessively talk about how much you love it to your best friends. And even though this feeling normally fades away for most foodie crushes, for Butler, that is definitely not the case.
There is something special when it comes to this Williamsburg bakeshop and espresso bar. Between the modern-industrial design and the drool-worthy menu, you can tell even the subtlest detail has been carefully thought out. The masterminds behind Butler — Ryan Butler, Rod Coligado, and Hugo Murray —pride themselves in providing quality service, tasty ingredients — and let’s be honest — a damn near-perfect Instagram-worthy interior. Honestly, to us, Butler can do no wrong. And while we could swoon over their pineapple-covered bathroom walls or their selection of top-notch baked goods, their hospitality really take the cake. You can count we’ll be writing Butler’s name all over our planners for years to come, because this infatuation is not going to fade anytime soon. Meet the dream team after our teenage hearts, Ryan Butler (middle), Rod Coligado (left), and Hugo Murray (right).
Hugo: Sydney, Australia
Rod: Victoria, BC, Canada
Ryan: Carmel, Upstate New York.
Hugo: Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn
Rod: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Ryan: Bushwick, Brooklyn
Sweet or savory:
Rod: Savory all day. Sweet after midnight
Best way to beat the winter blues:
Rod: Aire Ancient Baths, FIDI
Ryan: Tulum Beach
Favorite dish on the menu:
Hugo: Breakfast Brioche. It’s a decadent version of a Bacon & Egg sandwich. Ryan’s house-made Brioche with sautéed potato and chives baked into the bun. A very thick slice of bacon, a fried egg, melted cheddar and truffle aioli.
Rod: Herb and Chili Scone. This has been my favorite pastry of Chef Ryan’s for years. Light and buttery pastry with a hint of chili and fresh herbs. Mmmmmm delightful!
Ryan: Morning Glory Muffin. Made with carrots, pineapple, coconut, topped with passionfruit & cream cheese icing.
First thing you do in the morning:
Hugo: Take my dog, Yolanda, for a walk and grab a coffee.
Rod: Gym then Cortado
Ryan: Rock my newborn son, Lennox, back to sleep. Then try and get a few more winks myself.
Name one dish you could eat for the rest of your life:
Hugo: The Guohua Street Salad at Win Son — a Taiwanese place in Bushwick I’m addicted too. It’s with grilled shrimp, peanuts, persimmon and smoked tofu.
Rod: Lomo Saltado, Llama Inn, Brooklyn
Ryan: Double cheeseburger at The Anchored Inn.
NYC bar for a nightcap:
Rod: Loosie Rouge
And the rest:
Tell us your roles and how the idea of Butler came about.
Ryan: I’m the executive chef — responsible for designing and executing the menu with our kitchen team, including the talented Roxana Velez. I’ve worked as an Executive Pastry Chef in venues across New York from Piora, to Double Crown, Whitehall, Django and Gramercy Park Hotel — like most people in this industry — I’d always wanted to open my own place.
Rod: I handle operations — in charge of staffing, inventory, and finances. I’d previously owned bars/cafes in Sydney, Australia, and after working with Ryan in New York at Highlands — I was inspired to launch something here with him. I’d always been blown away by his creativity and his passion — pastry chef’s of this standard are few and far between. We had a third partner on board who unfortunately had to pull out, so as we were searching locations, we were also on the look out for a third business partner.
Hugo: I handle a mixed bag of roles: interior design and construction, marketing, branding, PR, wholesale accounts, events and future growth of this location and any future opportunities. My background is in advertising and I restore Brownstones on the side — so I was lucky this role allowed me to bring two random skill-sets together. I’d always dreamed of opening a venue and when a mutual friend introduced me to Rod & Ryan — and they told me what they were planning I was immediately intrigued.
While Butler’s aesthetic is breathtakingly beautiful, its menu really takes the cake. Is there a story you’re trying to tell through your pastries and main menu? What’s the process like when initially coming up with the menu for Butler?
Ryan: When I developed the menu, I wanted to bring together different cultural influences and techniques that I have learned in my tenure as a pastry chef in NYC.
Rod: New York has so many great cheap + fast eats, we wanted to continue that trend but step it up on quality — both with the ingredients Ryan uses and the techniques he and the team employ to prepare them. Whenever we try new menu items, it’s always the balance that Ryan achieves in the dish that makes us nod with approval and lots of “mmmmmm” noises.
Hugo: We try and make sure each dish is unique. New York doesn’t need another croissant or au pain chocolate. I am proud to have achieved my dream of becoming a paid taste-tester.
Hugo: The interior design of Butler is seriously amazing. How did you come up with the aesthetic and did you have this vision before you found the space? What would you say was the most difficult part when it came to making the modern-industrial design and brand come to life?
I’ve always loved the classic style of French Bistros and since France is the birthplace of great pastry, it made sense to look there for inspiration.
But much of the look is specific to the space and many of the design features were solutions to design challenges. For instance, the back-of-house kitchen was the size of a closet — so we thought, why not bring Ryan and his team front and center behind the counter? Watching dough being hand-rolled is mesmerizing (and appetizing).
Conversely – the bathroom is huge (for ADA compliance) so we thought, let’s make that into a feature.
With no basement – we were starved of storage space, so taking inspiration from the tight-quarters of ships, we designed banquettes with storage underneath.
What do you think is the key to thrive in such a competitive industry?
Ryan: Quality at every step.
Rod: Nailing both food and coffee. Not focusing on one and letting the other be an after-thought.
Hugo: A unique point of difference. And little black cats on our coffee cups.
Rod: Being an industry veteran has probably given you the experience you needed to effectively open up Butler without too many hiccups. What kind of advice would you give to someone to keep in mind who’s hoping to open their own cafe/restaurant?
Have a clear sense of direction of your business. Choose business partners wisely and be passionate about your business. Hospitality is a true “labor of love”.
Butler really seems to take their service and food to a whole other level. Why do you believe it was important to incorporate fine dining techniques into the casual cafe world?
We’re New Yorkers – we want quality but we want it fast!
Ryan: After working in restaurants for 17 years, what pursued you to work in a cafe environment this time around?
I wanted to create a place that could produce elevated pastry and cafe fare in an approachable and fun environment. We’re easy-going guys and wanted to create an easy-going atmosphere.
Where do you have to see Butler in the next few years?
Rod: We’d love to open another location in Brooklyn or the city. But for now, the focus is making South Williamsburg perfect.
Words of wisdom for future entrepreneurs?
Rod: Make a plan. There’s no crystal ball when you launch a business but at least if you have a goal and a contingency plan, you can keep your cool when things go wrong.
Hugo: Think long term. Set big, audacious goals.
Ryan: Enjoy it. This is the time in your life you’ve always dreamed of.
Written by Raven Ishak
Photography via Vanessa Granda