Southern-inspired seafood is not typically available around the Little Caribbean area of Brooklyn. Other southern restaurants are a few miles away, yet there’s something special about having this cuisine in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Sweet Catch—owned and operated by Kawana Jefferson, who opened the place in September 2022—brings a unique edge to the neighborhood as the only southern food establishment on the block.
Jefferson owns a corresponding lounge, Sweet Brooklyn Bar on Nostrand Ave. in Crown Heights, that showcases up-and-coming and high-profile DJs as well as other entertainment. The concept of brunch service at Sweet Brooklyn Bar inspired a restaurant atmosphere, leading to the conception of Sweet Catch. “I really love food,” said the Virginia State University graduate.
Sweet Catch once only offered dinner and now offers brunch service every Saturday and Sunday. It will eventually give customers a patio dining experience during the summer.
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Jefferson describes herself as a people person due to her background as a school psychologist for seven years. “I’m at a point now where I’m learning so much more of my culture and my ancestry; that desire peaked when I had my [two] boys,” said Jefferson. Being a mother encouraged her to understand the importance of ancestry and legacy, especially being of African descent. Jefferson wanted a place of business that was meaningful, resonated with her spirit, and where she could share her South Carolina culture.
For the decor of Sweet Catch, Jefferson wanted the atmosphere and menu to complement each other. The light, refreshing country aura is reflected through tiles that mimic water and the teal color of the seats. Jefferson said this intended ambience was created to replicate “cracking crab legs in South Carolina by the ocean.” The combination of brick and wood with decorative plants enhances the feeling of being away from New York City. “We wanted to teleport [our visitors] to someplace else, outside of Brooklyn, even though you’re on Nostrand Ave.,” said Jefferson.
Jefferson believes food is the central part of any culture. “You live it every day and you need it to survive.” Her favorite item on the menu is the signature boil. “It’s really meaningful to me,” she said. “It’s really the core of the inspiration behind this space; we initially started off wanting to be strictly a boil restaurant.” Jefferson patronized many seafood boils and felt there was little representation of them in NYC. She wanted to change the lack of seafood boil places owned by people of color. “I love boils and…I wanted to do a business that I love and a cuisine that I enjoy.”
While seafood boils are associated heavily with New Orleans and Cajun food, Jefferson believes there’s even more depth to this dish. She also didn’t want her second business to have limitations, and determined that having a variety of items on the menu would boost her business to success. Menu choices such as Holy Trinity, which is candied yams and collard greens with macaroni and cheese, are highly recommended. “This essentially ended up being a seafood restaurant tied into soul food,” said Jefferson. Sweet Catch has suggestion cards that Jefferson said receive positive feedback from customers.
Jefferson originally planned to open Sweet Catch in Harlem, a neighborhood that has established southern cuisines. Fate would have it for Sweet Catch to open near its sister venue. “We took the opportunity with the pandemic, and with us getting so much support in Brooklyn, we diverted and ended up in this location,” said Jefferson.
Wade Appleton, born in Toronto, Canada, and raised in Florida, has bartended and helped Jefferson with other staff duties since day one. Appleton said he feels the southern vibes while working. “There’s definitely a lot of southern influence here; you can see it and feel it,” he said.
Appleton has a great amount of respect for Jefferson as a Black woman entrepreneur. She is one of his favorite bosses he’s ever had because she’s understanding and down to earth. “She knows what she wants and has great vision. I respect that,” he said.
Jefferson is a powerful believer in ending up where you’re meant to be. She is also pleased to provide Little Caribbean with this southern food experience. “This neighborhood deserves [Sweet Catch], and people are really excited to have something that feels like it could be in the city or Park Slope—and it’s right around the corner.”
Jefferson has learned how to navigate the business world, especially the workload attached to owning a business. She anticipates franchising on the East Coast. In addition, “Ms. Sweet Catch” will provide a learning environment to aid future entrepreneurs. “It’s important to do something that you love in business because you’re going to work; it takes time to build a legacy,” Jefferson said.
For more info, visit www.sweetcatchbk.com and follow the business on IG @sweetcatchbk.