Williamsburg

Lighthouse BK: A beacon of wellness in Williamsburg

June 23, 2023 Andrew Cotto
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WILLIAMSBURG — There is a tangible sense of kindness that emanates from the triangular storefront not far from the mouth of Willamsburg’s eponymous bridge. And true to the eatery’s name, Lighthouse BK beckons diners inside with its promise of warmth and comfort where the food equals the ambiance in elegance, inclusivity and well-being. The yawning space is full of light and wood in earth tones. Even the industrial touches — matte black beams, ceiling fans and fixtures — soothe. The source of everything positive that distinguishes Lighthouse comes, in large part, from its co-owner, a sunshine-to-the-square-inch woman who lives to nourish and sustain.

Naama Tamir was born in Israel and traveled to New York after completing her country’s mandatory military service. She enrolled in Hunter College to study philosophy and psychology. A career in academia was considered, but when her brother/best friend, Asaaf, moved to New York, they recognized that their adopted hometown’s restaurants lacked the purity of Israeli cuisine, the clean and satisfying, vegetable-forward effect of the Mediterranean diet. They decided to open a restaurant.

The spacious, welcoming interior of Lighthouse BK. Photo: Andrew Cotto.

Lighthouse BK opened in 2011 in the space previously occupied by a somewhat-disreputable dive bar. The other nearby establishments were of similar caliber. “There were shootings across the street, our equipment would get stolen occasionally,” Tamir explained. “But since the beginning, we’ve had the support of the community and neighborhood. We have used local artisans for as many projects as possible. Like Jimmy, who made our windows, has also played drums for us during many a happy hour.”

Mediterranean plates from the open kitchen at Lighthouse BK. Photo: Andrew Cotto

The approach of Tamir and her partner-brother, one of non-traditional roles and equity throughout the operation, inspires all involved to do what they love and explore their talents. This ethos extends to the food as well.

The menu at Lighthouse BK features small plates and big salads; shellfish is featured in oysters and shrimp cocktail; overall, the veggies and fish have the meats outnumbered five-to-one, all choices enhanced by sauces and spices and herbs that speak to the Middle Eastern kitchen with nods to the American palate with appearances of Asian flavors. House-made sourdough is featured with a tasting platter, respectively, of labne (also made in-house), tahini, feta, olives, hummus and carrots; the same bread, grilled, comes with burrata. Fish or chicken or steak come grilled on skewers. There’s a steak with scallion herb butter and roasted potatoes; mussels swim in sake coconut milk with cilantro, scallion and serrano. Fries are cut by hand, as opposed to the ubiquitous frozen variety served at most NYC restaurants.

Naama Tamir, co-owner of Lighthouse BK, with her dog Pappi. Photo: Andrew Cotto

Yes, the food is locally sourced from upstanding, socially responsible farmers, but Lighthouse BK distinguishes itself in the sphere of sustainability by not only caring deeply about where their food comes from but also about where it goes after the plates are cleared. Tamir is an evangelist for sustainability in all respects, and she has spearheaded efforts to not only vigorously practice composting and recycling at Lighthouse but to advocate for it among her fellow restaurateurs, neighbors and government officials. It’s also common knowledge that the restaurant owners who return oyster shells to the water and separate avocado skins and corks and carrot tops also happen to be humane employers who advocate for the quality of life of their employees as well.

It’s this overall combination of care, for the community and the environment and the sharing of food, that makes Lighthouse BK a beacon of positivity and optimism in our borough.

“We want to be an example — a leader in the industry for better practices. We want to show how you can run a business with community in mind, humans, animals, the environment in the forefront,” Tamir said. “It’s not just thinking about the experience of the guests but also the staff, your farmers, etc. Everyone has a seat at the table and a voice.”

Andrew Cotto has been eating his way through Brooklyn for 25 years. As an author, the food of our borough has been featured extensively in his novels and journalism. In his new column for the Daily Eagle, Andrew will tell the tales of Brooklyn eateries, from the people behind the food to the communities which they nourish.


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