Ruby’s Cafe 00:00
When you came here twelve years ago you did not see one Australian. We were such a novelty it was kind of crazy.

Ruby’s Cafe is more than a restaurant. The Mulberry Street hangout is the original hub of so called ‘Little Australia,’ and at any hour of the day, expats, yanks and tourists can be found smashing flat whites, signature Aussie brekkie and burgers, but most importantly, sharing good vibes.

We caught up with Nick Mathers and Lincoln Pilcher, the duo that founded Ruby’s to talk about the good old times in Nolita and the origins of their restaurant. Disclaimer: the two go back far enough that they can actually complete one another’s sentences.

CONVICTS

Hey Nick, hey Lincoln. So tell us about the space that Ruby’s is in. It’s not too big…

LINCOLN

This was John Gotti’s little beatdown room.

NICK

Downstairs, that’s where the blood was.

CONVICTS

What about the concept for the restaurant, where did that originate?

NICK

When we got here had was no real intention to do a cafe. We were just like “We need good coffee they don’t have good coffee in New York.” So we decided to just do a coffee shop.

CONVICTS

Way to wing it. Why did you boys settle on Nolita?

NICK

It felt like the closest thing to home. Back in the day, it was different, it really was like a little Paddington with cute little houses. It was much more neighborhoody and quiet. That was something that we were attracted to.

LINCOLN

It had smaller kind of stores and smaller streets and was less commercial than SoHo. It’s definitely changed a lot over the years.

Everything is so curated now. Back when we started, everything wasn’t so contrived, we weren’t trying to do something, we were just doing what we did and it worked.
CONVICTS

Has the change been positive? Tell us about that?

NICK

When you came here twelve years ago you did not see one Australian. We were such a novelty it was kind of crazy. Then you’d go to Eight Mile Creek and there were four Australians there and it felt like home, because you miss that when you’re in the big city and pretty far away from your family and friends.

CONVICTS

Have you seen things change in the city beyond the scope of Nolita? Would Ruby’s be a different restaurant if it opened in 2015?

LINCOLN

Everything is so curated now. Back when we started, everything wasn’t so contrived, we weren’t trying to do something, we were just doing what we did and it worked. It evolved and here we are. We didn’t have instagram we weren’t all like “Did you take the picture of the coffee with the fork in it that’s going to go on our feed!”

CONVICTS

Love to hear that. Can you tell us about the early days of Ruby’s?

NICK

You could only fit like ten people in the room. We had hair down to here, blonde hair like surfer dudes and it was very unusual to see.

LINCOLN

It wasn’t as trendy back then.

NICK

People would walk past like ‘What on earth is this place?” So people would just come in to see what it was and half of them would just want to come and hang out with us and they’d literally sit for hours and we’d serve them a coffee and they’d leave us twenty bucks.

LINCOLN

They fell sorry for us and left money. I don’t know how we pulled off what we did, really. There was days when there was forty people in there, and we could only seat twenty. Every single person would be disgruntled.

CONVICTS

Rough. Any funny stories from those early days?

NICK

I’ll never forget the day that Lincoln and I – we were young, so we had a very large night out (you can edit that out) and we had to open the restaurant. Lincoln and I came up and opened it it was packed and this was on no sleep. I’m like “Oh my god i’m making coffees and we don’t have milk. Linc – you gotta go grab some milk i’ll make the coffees,” and he’s like “Yeah I got this.” He ran out to get the milk, never came back, left me in a packed restaurant for one of the busiest days I’ve ever had. I was livid.

LINCOLN

I never said I was sorry for that.

In a way, everyone has this equal playing field on the streets of New York.
CONVICTS

That’s good stuff. What about the hard times? Starting a business in New York is no short order.

LINCOLN

There were some really long January and February nights sitting against the wall of the restaurant. I remember just staring at what used to be a car park and it used to flash this red park sign, and i was thinking please someone walk in, watching the sign just going ‘park park park.’

CONVICTS

Are there any particularly legendary dishes from Ruby’s?

NICK

The creamy chicken pasta. We used to call that the ‘ultimate hangover cure.’ People would walk in at ten, eleven A.M and get creamy chicken pasta.

CONVICTS

How would you describe the menu at Ruby’s?

NICK

What mama cooks. Some of our recipes are from our mums or our grandmas or our friends. It’s kind of eclectic and it’s been refined a lot, but i think it’s all about the people. We rely on personality and we are evolving which is good, but personalities are what made this place.

LINCOLN

Good people are the best advertising, too. Word of mouth.

CONVICTS

Little Australia has such a communal vibe, and you guys were so instrumental in beginning the scene…

NICK

Not that we thought about it, this community evolved organically.

CONVICTS

You kept some struggling Aussie models and travelers alive too…

LINCOLN

The staff was big, my sister was here your sister was here, lot of family.

NICK

Miranda Kerr served here Jess Hart, we had the Tozzi girls, and along came Jamo who brought some color. If we fast forward a little bit there’s Ben Doss, who did an amazing job. In the beginning it was Tom and Morgan, Morgan was working as a model booker at One Model Management, so we loved him. I think that was one of the reasons we stayed.

CONVICTS

What does New York mean to you guys?

NICK

There is a lot of inspiration. In a way, everyone has this equal playing field on the streets of New York.

LINCOLN

I moved here when I was 19. It’s an intense place to grow up. You have to grow up fast. You have to grow thick skin. It’s concrete so when you fall you always graze yourself.

CONVICTS

But you also don’t grow up…

NICK

Haha, I can attest to that.

LINCOLN

Everyone thinks they are Peter Pan.

NICK

New York doesn’t put you in a box and that’s what I love about it.

CONVICTS

Who is Ruby?

NICK

You’ll never know. I can tell you one thing that it’s not named after a girl…