Tink’s Will Serve Comfort Food With Dominican and Arabic Twists

tinksDaniel Maurer

Isabella Aqel grew up in a house where her family ate Arabic and Dominican meals, so it was only natural that she bring the cuisines to Tink’s, which she’ll open on East Seventh Street in about four to six weeks.

“My father is from Jordan, my mother is Irish[-American], and we had a Dominican nanny growing up while my parents worked,” she told The Local. “We’ve been cooking since my mother could sit me on the counter.” With a laugh, she described her family as “ethnically confused.”

Adding to that, Ms. Aqel, 24, who studied pastry-making at the French Culinary Institute and graduated about a year ago, said her cooking would also have a French spin.

isabellaCourtesy of Isabella Aqel

“I’d like to sell comfort food with a twist,” she said, citing an Arabic dish, maklouba, that she makes with lamb, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, sour cream and toasted pignoli nuts. A “Middle Eastern pizza” will feature za’atar, feta, olive oil, and black olives. “When my mom was pregnant, that’s all she ate,” she said. “It’s half of who I am, so I said it’s got to go on the menu.”

Much of her inspiration comes from family travels, including trips to Syria and Israel. She may serve her father’s hummus and baba ganoush, and plans to offer Dominican rice-and-bean dishes, plantains and yuca, and, for dessert, an Arabic rice pudding with walnuts, cinnamon and coconut.

The cafe’s name comes from her parents’ backgrounds. “My father is a sheet-metal worker, and my mother is Irish and told me stories about the ‘tinks’ there.” Irish travelers (subject of the documentary “Knuckle,” which premiered at Sundance last year) were once known as tinkers.  Many now consider the term derogatory.

Tink’s will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and be open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Lunch dishes will cost around $7, and dinner plates will cost around $10 or $12.

Tink’s, 102 East Seventh Street, between First Street and Avenue A.