The Best Spots in Brooklyn
Brooklyn has changed so much since I was a kid, and parts of it are probably unrecognizable from when my dad was born at Brooklyn Jewish hospital in 1943. A lot of this has been good change in the form of art, culture, neighborhood-defining restaurants, shops and more. This week, we’ve gooped Brooklyn, rounding up some of the best spots for your perusal/exploration (or in case you need a bite on your way to the new Barclays Center). —GP
al di là Trattoria248 Fifth Ave., Park Slope | 718.783.4565
This homey, casual, and very popular neighborhood trattoria doesn't take reservations, but you can wait in their charming wine bar next door. The menu hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1998—it’s pretty much perfect Venetian fare, with particularly excellent pastas. They take reservations for groups of 6-10 only.
Blanca261 Moore St., Bushwick | 347.799.2807
Roberta's splashy little sister, which lives in a sleek warehouse right on the restaurant's grounds, is where chef Carlo Mierarchi gets to flex his culinary muscles. He serves a tasting menu of varied origins: The meal might kick off with Omakase-style Japanese appetizers, followed by pasta, and then an excellent cut of lamb or beef. There are only 12 seats, which face a massive open kitchen—while it’s a steep $195 a seat, the food is fantastic, the vibe is great, and it’s a wonderful experience. Reservations are a must.
Egg109 N. 3rd St., Williamsburg | 718.302.5151
For years, this little restaurant has attracted lines around the block for its unwaveringly delicious brunch. If you can go on a weekday, you'll have better luck sampling their spectacularly soft, eggy french toast, or their famous Eggs Rothko basically, the best egg in a hole ever.
Franny’s (Closed)295 Flatbush Ave., Prospect Heights | 718.230.0221
In addition to the pizza, Franny's has small plates of contemporary Italian, great cocktails, microbrew beer, and good wine. You'll definitely want to share plates here, as even the simplest salad elicits food envy. The setting is stark yet warm, and the comfortable vibe makes it a popular spot for weddings and rehearsal dinners.
Glasserie95 Commercial St., Greenpoint | 718.389.0640
Perched on the northern tip of Brooklyn, and housed in a former glass factory, this is inarguably Greenpoint’s most notable new opening—which says a lot, as it’s a burgeoning culinary scene. Chef Elmdad Shem Tov’s heritage influences the menu significantly, as flourishes from Israel and the Middle East dot the contemporary offerings.
Lucali575 Henry St., Carroll Gardens | 718.858.4086
Arguably one of Brooklyn’s best pizza joints, you’ll find rustic, wooden tables surrounding a brick oven here, which is the perfect stage for the pie-throwing theatrics of chef Mark Iacono. Lucali doesn’t take reservations, so get there at around six to snag a table—the thin-crust pizzas and calzones are absolutely worth the wait.
Marlow & Sons81 Broadway, Williamsburg | 718.384.1441
The waitstaff sit at your table and take your order, while cute guys shuck oysters behind the bar. What makes this cozy, friendly spot so unique and so well-loved is that these small gestures make you feel like you're just there hanging out with good friends over a bottle of wine and a few delicious small plates. Don't miss the deli at the front for great take-away sandwiches, meats, and specialty ingredients.
Mile End Deli53 Bond St., Greenwich Village | 212.529.2990
Hearty, meaty sandwiches and Montreal-style deli food (house-smoked meats, poutine, brisket, and more) are served here, deluxe. Make sure to get a pickle on the side and wash it all down with a good glass of wine. There's also a location in Brooklyn.
Pies ‘n Thighs166 S. 4th St., Williamsburg | 347.529.6090
Great fried chicken, end of story. Owned and run by three women who met while working at Diner, this is a super casual spot that offers an authentic spin on Southern food. The wonderful savouries are matched only by their sweet, down-home American pies. There's a new location on the Lower East Side.
Pok Pok NY117 Columbia St., Red Hook | 718.923.9322
People are crazy for this Thai via Portland import: Andy Ricker’s fresh takes on Thai classics are seriously good (and run on the hot side), from the signature charcoal roasted hen with lemongrass to the sweet, spicy salads. There’s also an awesome Thai-inspired cocktail menu (the Pok Pok Bloody Mary with Thai chilies is a serious kick in the ass) which you can explore on depth from the comfort of a seat at the bar.
Roberta’s261 Moore St., Bushwick | 718.417.1118
Roberta’s has been warmly flourishing for years. Camouflaged by an industrial, kind of uninviting exterior, this gem of a spot offers a succinct menu includes a few wonderful pizzas, plus seasonal veggies and pasta dishes. There’s an indoor, primarily communal seating area where you can watch the pizza-making go down in the open kitchen. The vibe is casual and the ambiance always lively, as it routinely draws big crowds. While you can expect to wait, it’s a good place to have a drink.
Roman’s243 Dekalb Ave., Fort Greene | 718.622.5300
Andrew Tarlow and team have a tight grip on the Williamsburg dining scene, and so they've finally made their first foray deeper into Brooklyn. At Roman’s, the short menu of simple Italian dishes changes daily, making it the kind of neighborhood joint you can hit on repeat. As the food is delicious, there’s always a crowd—if you’re looking for a quiet meal, opt for earlier on in the week.
Vinegar Hill House72 Hudson Ave., Vinegar Hill | 718.522.1018
This restaurant redefined its namesake neighborhood. Here, the cozy, low-lit décor is as appetizing as the solid, well-prepared, seasonal menu. We love their brunch, especially the sourdough pancakes and Bloody Mary’s.
BKLYN Larder228 Flatbush Ave., Prospect Heights | 718.783.1250
From the Franny’s gang comes this small gourmet grocery shop with great specialty and pantry items, including an excellent cheese and salumi selection from small-batch producers. Their yummy comfort-focused prepared foods (turkey meatloaf, roast chicken) are a great alternative when you don’t feel like cooking, plus they also do great cheese classes and gift boxes for the holidays.
Diner85 Broadway, Williamsburg | 718.486.3077
Operating out of a renovated 1920s train car, this quirky little spot from Andrew Tarlow has served Williamsburg since the late 90s. In the past 20 years, it’s lost none of its appeal, thanks to a seasonal and daily menu of American classics, from one of the best burgers in Brooklyn, to a solid roast chicken on any night of the week. The atmosphere gets downright rowdy the later it gets with scores of hipsters rolling up for late-night eating to a soundtrack of old-school hip-hop. The restaurant sticks to a strict no-reservations policy, so expect to wait for a seat. Luckily, you can get a strong drink at the bar to tide you over or head next door to Marlow & Sons for a glass of wine.
Frankies Spuntino457 Court St., Carroll Gardens | 718.403.0033
Whether you head to the Carroll Gardens original or the West Village outpost, you can expect a home-style Italian meal in a casual, neighborhood setting from Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo. We love their vegetable-centric offerings, house-made pasta, and hearty Meatball Parmigiana, which is pretty great for lunch.
Ample Hills Creamery623 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights | 347.240.3926
The specialty here is handcrafted ice cream and sorbet done in small batches—made extra-delicious by the fact that Ample Hills gets its cream and eggs from local farms upstate for the freshest (and most sustainable) product possible. Offering 24 flavors that change with the seasons, they also do really delicious and beautiful custom ice cream cakes. This fall, the creamery is offering a trio of Roald Dahl-inspired flavors (Mr. Fox’s Scrumdiddlyumptious Crunchy Cider Caramel Cream, Nonna D’s Oatmeal Lace, and Sweet as Honey) which you can get in-shop or shipped right to your door .
The Pines284 3rd Ave., Gowanus | 718.596.6560
This lovely Gowanus spot keeps the atmosphere casual, with an artfully shabby, worn-in dining room, and larger garden in the back, but the menu is decidedly ambitious with an Italian bent (think cavatelli with duck heart) with lots of interesting seasonal salads and antipasti.
Isa348 Wythe Ave., Williamsburg | 347.689.3594
As the latest restaurant from designer Taavo Somer (Freemans, etc.), Isa is, unsurprisingly, very cool. The food is simple yet innovative, focusing on the flavors of the quality ingredients with frequent hints of smoke from the wood-burning oven.
Lilia567 Union Ave., Williamsburg | 718.576.3095
It’s still pretty hard to nail down a reservation at Chef Missy Robbins’ first solo venture, an Italian restaurant set up in what used to be an auto garage. Pasta is the move here, but people also love the grilled seafood—the menu is separated into big fish and little fish, but the truth is, they’re all standard mains size-wise. Should you find yourself in this part of Williamsburg during the day, go to the takeaway Lilia Caffé attached to the main dining room for strong espresso and house-made pastries in the morning, and delicious soft serve gelato and focaccia midday, both good for a quick refuel. Photos: Evan Sung
Olmsted659 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights | 718.552.2610
Olmsted, which opened last summer on an unassuming block of Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, is one of those restaurants that people talk about months after visiting. (GP says she had her best meal of 2016 here). Chef Greg Baxtrom (formerly of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Alinea), teamed up with horticulturist Ian Rothman to create a veggie-centric menu (there’s even a 25-seat garden out back) of kale-and-crab rangoon, charred onion chawanmushi, and a sweet pea falafel that is wonderfully light. There’s a solid selection of wines under $40 a bottle, too. When the check arrives, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how full-in-a-good-way you feel, and how reasonably priced it is. Photos: Evan Sung