Café Le Jardin, Brasserie Spin-Off from June BYOB, to Open in Audubon


Richard and Christina Cusack will return to her hometown with an unfussy lunch, brunch, and dinner concept in the former Smoke BBQ location on Merchant Street.

By Matt Skoufalos | February 16, 2022

Cafe Le Jardin logo. Credit: Cafe Le Jardin.

After a little more than a year of operating in downtown Collingswood, the family behind French eatery June BYOB is poised to open a second location in nearby Audubon.

Café Le Jardin, which translates to “the Garden Café,” will be a brasserie-style eatery that Chef Rich Cusack said is designed to be “super-approachable,” and welcoming to families with children.

With a menu that includes classic French dishes — steak frites, trout almandine, beef au jus sandwiches, mussels, and charcuterie — the Cusacks want to help introduce the neighborhood to European cuisine in a casual environment.

“I want people to come in, sit down with their family, hang out, and get some good food to eat at a reasonable price,” Rich Cusack said.

“I spent two-and-a-half years at Parc Rittenhouse, and that’s where I got the idea and inspiration from,” he said. “I liked the atmosphere; anybody could walk up and get whatever they’re comfortable with.”

The 48-seat restaurant is targeting a spring opening in the former Smoke BYOB restaurant at the corner of West Merchant and East Atlantic Avenues in downtown Audubon.

Diners will be seated first-come, first-served, and the restaurant won’t accept reservations. The décor will be simple, but vibrant; Christina Cusack said she’s taking her style cues from the garden motif, as well as from the lively corner cafes of France.

“I want people from all walks of life to feel very welcome, whether it’s for dinner or a cup of coffee,” she said.

To emphasize freshness of ingredients, the menu will be built around the Cusacks’ relationships with the South Jersey farmers who provide them, like Rob and Alex McKeage of The Potato Homestead of Woodbine, and Todd Kostka of Brigantine Oyster Company.

Rich Cusack has hopes of bringing some of their products directly to customers through the café. With seating for 30 guests on the spacious, onsite patio, he envisions possibly hosting farmers market pop-ups, or special al fresco events to showcase his growers.

“I want to help out other businesses,” he said. “If my farmers are going to do well, then I’m doing well.”

For Christina Cusack, the project is a homecoming. As an Audubon native who’s looking to move her family to the borough this year, Café Le Jardin is “our endgame,” she said.

“I’m excited to be in Audubon,” Christina Cusack said. “I think it’s a great town with great people. They’re going to really enjoy the spot, and we’re going to enjoy being there.”

Chef Jay Shipp. Credit: Cafe Le Jardin.

The kitchen at Café Le Jardin will be headed up by Chef Jay Shipp, Rich Cusack’s right hand at June BYOB, and a seasoned kitchen veteran, even at 25.

Shipp’s resume includes time at Kitchen 519 in Glendora, Iron Hill Brewery in Maple Shade, Porch and Proper in Collingswood, and Denim and Wanda BYOBs in Haddonfield.

“The South Jersey dining scene is fun,” Shipp said.

“It’s underrated, and it’s very homey.

“I feel a connection with the customers is more in-depth and more in-tune than working in the city,” he said,

Shipp, who adopted French cooking techniques, recipes, and ingredients after coming to work at June, said he wants to bring something different and innovative to downtown Audubon.

“I think it’ll be fun for the community there,” Shipp said. “It’ll be something they’ve never had before. Let your taste buds do the talking.”

Rich Cusack said Shipp was his pick to helm the kitchen at Café Le Jardin because of his serious culinary mindset and strong work ethic.

“It’s hard to find people with those characteristics,” the chef said. “Jay’s come along in my life and helped me. He’s an excellent choice.”

Front-of-house manager Hannah McLean of Collingswood said she’s looking forward to helping create the café as “the kind of place you can hang out every day.

Hannah McLean, Cafe Le Jardin manager. Credit: Cafe Le Jardin.

“Parents can feel comfortable taking their kids and introducing them to it,” McLean said.

“It’s a nice, casual experience to start getting into the French world and tastes that they can definitely look forward to in more in-depth meals over at June.”

McLean said she enjoys the rapport among the staff at June, and will work to cultivate a similar environment at Café Le Jardin.

“It’s really nice working with [Rich and Jay] because they feed off each other’s ideas and banter in the kitchen,” she said.

“It’s a nice, warm, friendly environment.”

Taking on the Audubon property does, however, scuttle the Cusacks’ plans for a vegan café in Collingswood.

Despite having been “extremely excited” for that concept, Rich Cusack said he had to shelve it for the time being due to circumstances beyond his control.

“Christina and I are talking right now about how to do more for vegan customers here in Collingswood,” he said.

“I appreciate the community, and I’m working to refine my techniques.”

The restaurant is hiring for all positions. For more information, follow Cafe Le Jardin on Instagram.

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