New York The Cevallos brothers have made signs for Yellow Rose, Ore Bar, Rubirosa, Cafe Habana, and more.
The Cevallos brothers have been designing signs for decades, mostly in Queens, but social media has ushered in a whole new generation of fans (and customers)
Carlos and Miguel Cevallos’ colorful, handmade signs can be found at countless businesses throughout the five boroughs: taco trucks, diners, restaurants, and dives. For decades, the siblings have operated in New York largely through word of mouth, mostly working with businesses in Queens. But over the past two and half years, since joining Instagram, the Cevallos brothers, as they are often collectively referred to, have found a new generation of fervent fans that has put their work in the spotlight.
These days, commissioning work by the Cevallos brothers has increasingly become something of a rite of passage for restaurant and bar owners. New, buzzy spots like El Pingüino, a sleek Greenpoint Spanish-themed bar with seafood towers; Yellow Rose, a funky Texas-leaning East Village joint; Macosa Trattoria, a Bed-Stuy Italian spot; and Nightmoves, the club attached to Four Horsemen, are just a few that have recently commissioned them. Other more established food businesses in town have also sought their creative consultation: Soho bagel spot Baz Bagel, Nolita Italian hit Rubirosa, the lively East Williamsburg bar Ore Bar, dive bar Marco’s, the downtown sandwich purveyor Regina’s Grocery, burger go-to JG Melon, comfort food mainstay Pies ‘n’ Thighs, Nolita grilled corn favorite Cafe Habana, and even the beloved Brooklyn micro grocery chain Mr. Mango have collaborated with them.
Their handiwork is charming for its cheeky details, nostalgic lettering, and general lack of interest in perfection. “It’s affordable art, each piece unique and [..it’s] really reminiscent of folk artists like Daniel Johnston and Henry Darger,” says Nick Padilla, co-owner and chef of El Pingüino. “There’s a really great childlike quality to their work, and I love that it’s kind of a local thing to have one in your place.”
A sign made for Cafe Habana. Cevallos brothers
Prior to the pandemic, much of the Cevallos brothers’ work came from a more low-key, less affluent restaurant scene in Jackson Heights and Corona. Lesser-known spots like Tacos Guerrero, Puebla Seafood, and the annual momo crawl in Jackson Heights have all hired the brothers.
In the early days of COVID, the duo found themselves looking for other ways to keep working as restaurant openings came to a halt and businesses started cutting back on expenses — including any costs associated with aesthetic details — particularly in areas of Queens ravaged by the virus.
With the help of a younger, more tech-savvy friend — who acted as a representative for the brothers, helping translate email and phone interviews with Eater, and asked to remain anonymous in order to keep the focus on the brothers’ work — the duo launched its Instagram account in 2019. A few months later, the streetwear company Neighborhood Spot reached out to team up on a shirt that raised funds for a community fridge in Jackson Heights.