A shop dedicated to mayonnaise? Yep, it’s a real place. Thanks to Empire Mayonnaise, an artisanal mayo shop in Prospect Heights, the formerly mass-produced, oft-overlooked, and hastily smeared condiment has taken on a new (shelf) life as a rich and flavorful foodie fave.
Founded by Brooklyn native and designer Elizabeth Valleu and chef Sam Mason, Empire Mayonnaise occupies a modest storefront on Vanderbilt Avenue. However, the shop’s humble retail space belies an efficient operation where each mayonnaise flavor is crafted by hand using only premium, local ingredients. Batches are made individually, and with Empire’s extensive menu of flavors—Bacon, White Truffle, Lime Pickle, and Smoked Paprika, to name a few—you can imagine meeting demand takes a bit of time. Drawing on his pastry chef background, Sam fills every jar using a pastry bag. Even the labels are applied by hand.
While the business opened to grumblings from those who lamented the shop’s arrival as a sign Brooklyn had gone irrevocably hipster, a laudatory piece in The Wall Street Journal from Spring 2013 points out Empire Mayonnaise’s remarkable success. In addition to selling 850 jars a week, the Brooklyn-branded mayo can be found in over 70 retailers, including Whole Foods and Dean & Deluca. Both Elizabeth and Sam have a sense of humor when it comes to their critics, and the pair isn’t afraid to poke fun at themselves. “We’re like a Portlandia skit,” Elizabeth said.