The co-owners of Lil’ Deb’s Oasis will be joined by chefs Angela Dimayuga, DeVonn Francis and Gerardo Gonzalez at the bash.
If you were to describe Lil’ Deb’s Oasis as art project meets restaurant meets Tulum meets tiki, you wouldn’t be too off the mark. Improbably located on a quiet street in Hudson, New York, the brightness of the restaurant’s defining neon decor is surpassed only by that of the food: Ceviches that pop with citrus and cilantro, whole-fried fish perked up with lime.
Somehow, this tiny spot has managed to capture the energy of Tulum—co-owner Hannah Black, 30, cooked at the now-mythical Hartwood restaurant there—with the nostalgia of tiki, and the transportiveness of both. Black and her co-owner Carla Perez-Gallardo, also 30, started Lil’ Deb’s Oasis as a food/art pop-up in the same space it’s housed in today.
The versitility of the space is fitting with their backgrounds: Black studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design; co-owner Carla Perez-Gallardo studied studio art at Bard.
Today, what started as a weekly art/food pop-up has cemented into a brick and mortar serving “tropical comfort food:” flavors by way of Thailand—the chorizo larb is reportedly delicious—Ecuador, where Perez-Gallardo's grandmother is from, and a few places in between.
The co-owners describe how, every week, they’d go into the space—then a diner called Debbie's Lil' Restaurant—and completely transform it with oilcloth tablecloths and gel sheets over the lights. “It would be totally ‘other,’” says Black. After the dinner was through, they’d take down all their decorations, and do it again the following week. When the former owner, Debbie, was ready to retire after running her restaurant for nearly three decades, Perez-Gallardo and Black signed a rental lease with her blessing. Today, the name nods to the establishment’s history.
On March 31, close to two years after officially launching, the two co-owners will be hosting a slash-filled event to commemorate the anniversary: a commitment ceremony/gala/fundraiser to raise funds for the restaurant. “We opened without any investors at all, and that’s really rare,” Black tells Food & Wine. “We’re hosting this to raise money for operating costs and equipment, things most restaurants would have done early on.”
The event is being positioned as a wedding of sorts: the co-owners officially wedding themselves to the spirit of their idea. To be held at Hudson Elk Lodge, cocktails will be poured by Arley Marks and collaborating chefs include Angela Dimayuga, formerly of Mission Chinese in New York, DeVonn Francis and Gerardo Gonzalez.
Tickets start at $50 to attend the ceremony, and that buys free drinks for the entire night. Dinner tickets start at $150 and include an extravaganza of dishes. Other tickets are sliding scale; $20 buys you access to the event and a drink. “If you don’t have $20, you can still come,” says Black. “Hudson as a community is really diverse, our friend group is really diverse, and so our M.O. is to be really accessible.” The co-owners will also be launching a Kickstarter in the coming weeks as part of extended fundraising efforts.