The Brooklyn Guide
At this point, Brooklyn is really a city unto itself. The transformation started with Williamsburg, which is what put Brooklyn on the map for this generation of New Yorkers, though each neighborhood has its own little personality and ecosystem—Cobble Hill and Park Slope are great residential neighborhoods for young families, Boerum Hill (which has some excellent shopping) offers beautiful walks among the brownstones, and Bushwick still has a plenty of reliable mom-and-pop type stores nestled in with the trendier businesses. Needless to say, this is a guide that will continue to evolve and expand, as new, exciting spots are popping up at lightning speed.
12 Chairs342 Wythe Ave., Williamsburg | 347.227.7077
Despite identifying as a primarily Israeli spot, the menu at 12 Chairs is fairly broad, meaning that you’ll always spot something you want. The Hummus is a must-order—smooth, tangy, garlicky and served in a giant bowl topped with even more chickpeas and a side of crunchy pita. On weekends, the chefs make Jachnun (a Yemenite bread spiked with complex date honey, cooked overnight, and served with a jammy boiled egg), the stuffed cabbage is available every day, as are the pillowy pelmeni—overall, really good comfort food that feels light and fresh. The wine selection is a thoughtful list of several Israeli labels amongst others. The place does pack out daily without fail, but the wait is never too long.
1 or 866 S. 2nd St., Williamsburg | 718.384.2152
We're not prone to sweeping declarations, but it's pretty unanimous that this is the best sushi spot in Williamsburg. The sleek interior has a sophisticated air to it that's perfect for a date night when you want to break out the heels.
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.
Bunker99 Scott Ave., Bushwick | 718.386.4282
You can’t go wrong at this vibrant Vietnamese street-food restaurant that serves incredible banh mi, pho, and mouthwatering meat, fish, and veggie vermicelli plates. They’re devoted to vegetables and heritage meats from local farms, and their pure ethos is reflected in the dishes, which explode with lemongrass- and turmeric-infused goodness. The place is a patchwork of colors, and the vibe is casual and breezy, with mismatched chairs and tables.
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.
Dover412 Court St., Carroll Gardens | 347.987.3545
Unlike its sister restaurant Battersby, you can also order à la carte here. This is a boon as you'll want to sample as many of these New American dishes as possible. From a hamachi with homemade ponzu, radish, and sesame, to cauliflower topped with raisins, pistachios, and colatura, to a garganelli with duck ragu and wild ramps, the dishes are excitingly creative, seasonal, and tasty. The pale wood and small tabletops feel a bit casual for the sophistication of the dishes and the price point, but we like that it's so low-key.
El Cortez17 Ingraham St., Bushwick | 347.599.2976
Tasty Mexican food and tiki cocktails meld seamlessly at El Cortez, a casual, laid-back spot that’s perfect for a one-on-one date or a pack of friends. The décor is colorful with a slight retro-diner feel, a fitting match with the piña coladas and incredible rum punch. There’s an upstairs with an outdoor patio that’s particularly popular in warmer months, and one night of the week is devoted to karaoke. The menu is fantastic—especially the fish tacos, which come battered, fried, and enveloped in a gloriously crisp shell—and the meat is free-range and organic. The tacos, burritos, tortas, chimichangas, and enchiladas are very much the real draw here, but we’re not mad at the cheeseburger and fries, either.
Emmy Squared364 Grand St., Williamsburg | 718.360.4535
Pretty much everyone we know gives the Detroit-style pizza at Emmy Squared in Williamsburg rave reviews, although there’s a nice line-up of Italian sandwiches here, too: spicy meatball, spicy chicken, and chicken parm, all served on pretzel buns. The restaurant was unveiled this spring by the same couple behind Emily, the duo’s original, widely loved pizza-centric spot in Clinton Hill.
Five Leaves18 Bedford Ave., Greenpoint | 718.383.5345
While Five Leaves is tucked into a particularly cute corner of Brooklyn, it mimics the café culture of Paris to really good results. The tables outside are packed, no matter how cold it is, with friends sipping on wine, coffee, and splitting orders of perfectly crispy fries. This is not a get-in, get-out kind of place—you’re here for the long run. Get the spicy coconut broth mussels and finish with the rosewater Pavlova. We also like to drop in alone for an affogato at the bar—the most perfectly creamy caffeinated snack to tide you over until dinner.
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.
The Four Horsemen295 Grand St., Williamsburg | 718.599.4900
A passion project of LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, the Four Horsemen is one of our favorite places for natural wine not just in New York but anywhere. Show up early for a seat at the bar or make a reservation ahead of time—this teeny spot packs out every night. The by-the-glass section is tightly edited, while the wine list itself is akin to a small leather-bound novel. The staff is really good about making suggestions if you don’t know where to begin. The food menu is short, concise, and unapologetic—they don’t do substitutions here, but you probably won’t want any. To warm up, split an order of the beurre-blanc-saturated carrots. Then get the pasta with Meyer lemon, bottarga, breadcrumbs, and parsley for yourself, and the budino for dessert. The good vibes are a testament to a loyal crowd of regulars who are comfortable in the space and enthusiastic about the food.
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.
Ichiran374 Johnson Ave., Bushwick | 718.381.0491
Known throughout Japan for its delicious tonkotsu (a Japanese broth made from eight- to twelve-hour simmered pork marrow), Ichiran opened in Bushwick with lines around the block. (There’s also a location in Midtown.) Beyond the umami-bomb tonkotsu itself, which comes in a variety of intensities, and the fresh noodles, the full experience involves sitting in school-desk-like individual booths for dining, which is weird but fun. Especially after a matcha beer or two.
Junior’s386 Flatbush Ave., Fort Greene | 718.852.5257
Palatial old-fashioned entrees (tuna melts, grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken fingers) and a whole lot of legendary cheesecake round out the offerings here. (The cheesecake really is where it's at.) There are two city-centric options (one in Times Square, one in Grand Central), but if you have time, head to the original on Flatbush in Brooklyn, which still retains its 1950's aesthetic—red booths and banquettes, formica countertops, old-school uniforms, the works—and its friendly, neighborhood feel.
Kings County Imperial20 Skillman Ave., Williamsburg | 718.610.2000
In the year since it opened, Kings County has become known for its pretty perfect spin on classic Chinese dishes. The fun back garden patio and the excellent cocktail list also help the cause.
La Vara268 Clinton St., Cobble Hill | 718.422.0065
Go to La Vara with a few friends, because you’re going to want to order everything on the menu, starting with the fried chickpeas and working your way through everything that looks good—it all is. Chef Alex Raij serves up southern Spanish cuisine with Jewish and Moorish influences, so house-cured salt cod is served with citrus, olives, egg, and pomegranate, and a half chicken is served with spiced onions and cumin.
L&B Spumoni Gardens2725 86th St., Bensonhurst | 718.449.1230
This South Brooklyn institution has been slinging their Sicilian-style "squares”—red sauce-smothered pizza with the Mozzarella cheese baked right into the fluffy, crust-y dough and sliced into, you guessed it, squares—since 1938. The only menu item that eclipses the pizza is the spumoni: a rainbow of vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio ice cream served old school, in a paper cup, and best enjoyed on the bustling outdoor patio. The L&B Italian ices (the lemon is a summertime essential) are slightly lighter than the spumoni and definitely worth sampling.
La Superior295 Berry St., Williamsburg | 718.388.5988
Expect Mexican street food specialties like "esquites," tacos of every kind imaginable, and delicious guacamole. Go with a few friends and order lots, as portions are snack-sized.
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
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.
MeMe’s Diner657 Washington Ave., Prospect Heights | 718.636.2900
This unpretentious neighborhood joint zeros in on comfort food—meatloaf, chicken cutlets, patty melts, stove-top mac ’n’ cheese. Brunch is epic, too, with its frito migas and an everything bagel babka. (This is New York, after all.) Together, co-owners Libby Willis and Bill Curtis, who first worked together at Brooklyn vegan bakery Ovenly, have gone out of their way to create a warm and welcoming space geared toward the LGBTQ+ community, but it’s the kind of spot where you want to hang out no matter your sexual orientation. MeMe’s is named for Curtis’s grandmother, and the entire space has an all-in-the-family vibe: The leather banquettes were designed by Willis’s brother, who lives in the Hudson Valley, and the quirky oil paintings were done by her grandfather. Photos: Noah Fecks
Mile End Deli97A Hoyt St., Boerum Hill | 718.852.7510
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 Manhattan.
Momo Sushi Shack43 Bogart St., Bushwick | 718.418.6666
The lighting is dim (great for date nights), the vibe is casual (the long communal tables are a striking flourish with lots of room to stretch out), and the sushi, hand rolls, and maki are out-of-this-world. The handmade vegan gyoza are succulent little dumplings stuffed with oyster mushrooms and chives, while the heritage pork buns and Japanese fried chicken explode into all sorts of heavenly flavors. The Philli maki—a roll made with salmon and tofu cream cheese—balances the Spicy MC Bomb. (Bombs are beautifully crafted dollops of sticky rice topped with any manner of fish, tempura flakes, and wasabi creams). The veggie, meat, and seafood noodles are also an excellent option here. But really, you can’t go wrong.
Okonomi150 Ainslie St., Williamsburg | 718.302.0598
We love this pretty little spot for Japanese home-style breakfasts and lunches. It’s worth waiting for a seat, as the chef sets the menu daily, and then serves the beautiful offerings on traditional ceramic dishes. On Mondays and Tuesdays the team behind the legendary Yuji Ramen (two ex-Roberta’s alumni) set up shop as a special treat. The fresh seafood—all of it sourced locally, never imported from Japan—is a major part of the pre-set Sansai meal, which can include anything from egg omelets to uni noodles and always miso soups and rice.
Peter Luger178 Broadway, Williamsburg | 718.387.7400
For many years—well before Williamsburg was hip—New Yorkers flocked to this 100-year-old steakhouse for its famously perfect cuts of meat, which, along with the excellent service, have earned it a Michelin star. The space is old-school, with dark wood paneled walls and bentwood chairs. Many come just for the atmosphere and the “Luger-Burger,” which is one of the best in the city—it also happens to be a steal at lunch. Famously, they don't take credit cards (though they do accept debit).
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.
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.
Sunday in Brooklyn5124, 348 Wythe Ave., Williamsburg | 347.222.6722
This is the closest you’ll come to SoCal in BK. The avocado toast, the breakfast sandwich, the quinoa bowl—they’re all here. There are also malted pancakes served with brown butter and seared mushrooms and ramp kimchi atop flaky grilled flatbread, so something for everyone. The interior is minimalist Scandinavian with blonde wood, pretty ceramics, and lots of greenery, but warmed up by a terra-cotta tile floor, chic marble-topped tables, and a wooden bar that wouldn’t look out of place in a ski chalet. There’s not a bad glass on the entire (all natural, all delicious) wine list. If you can’t handle the weekend crush, pick up the perfect flat white from the to-go hatch out front.
Saltie378 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg | 718.387.4777
Caroline Fidanza—opening chef at Diner and well-versed in Brooklyn’s restaurant scene—opened this nautical/Moby Dick-themed take-out counter. It's a quick walk between the G train and the Williamsburg Bridge, and it serves up delicious little sandwiches on focaccia, as well as soups, and egg bowls. Their desserts range from quick bites like cookies, Eccles cake, and brioche, to ice cream, chocolate mousse, and fruit coolers. In addition to coffee, try their turmeric tonic with lemon, honey, and cardamom, which makes a great immune-system-booster. Note: There’s little room to sit if you want to hunker down (a few stools and a narrow bar), so this is more of a quality grab-and-go stop than a dine-in experience.
Selamat Pagi152 Driggs Ave., Greenpoint | 718.701.4333
Nestled along a busy street in Greenpoint, Selamat Pagi is Indonesian by way of the Van Lueewen brothers (those of ice cream fame). The atmospheric laid-back vibe alone—high ceilings, natural wood, neon-pink signage, and luxurious potted plants—is worth the trip, be it for breakfast (turmeric tonic, sambal scrambled eggs, coconut-toasted kale) or dinner. Every dish explodes with flavor; there’s lots of lemongrass, galangal (part of the ginger family and a mainstay in herbal medicine), turmeric, coconut and chili oils, and kaffir lime. The curries come in fish, beef, and delectable vegetarian options; everything from the fritters and deviled eggs to the short ribs and rice noodle bowls is crafted with the freshest, local, sustainable ingredients. The drinks menu, too, is next-level: The non-alcoholic Kaffir Limeade is tangy and refreshing and the alcoholic cocktails are all spiked with soju, a Korean alcohol made from rice or barley, and uniformly delicious. (The Kaffir Limeade mixed with a dash of soju—omg.)
St. Anselm355 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg | 718.384.5054
This is the best new-wave steakhouse in the neighborhood, as evidenced by the fact that it's usually at capacity by 6pm. It's worth the sometimes two hour wait (we leave our number and head next door for a drink) for an insane aged steak for two or four, not to mention a perfectly-dressed bibb lettuce salad, lush truffle oil mashed potatoes, and delicious, seasonal options from the grill.
Suzume545 Lorimer St., Williamsburg | 718.486.0200
Soul-warming noodle bowls and spicy butter wings are expertly balanced with crisp salads, addictive fish tacos, and out-there, but always worth ordering, snacks like Spam musubi (popular in Hawaii, it’s a slab of grilled Spam perched atop a block of rice) and perfect blistered shishito peppers. The bar/restaurant is cozy yet somehow never cramped, even though it’s in a buzzing area of Williamsburg blocks from McCarren Park. Do not leave without ordering Ginanjuice, an infusion of just-juiced carrot-beet-apple-ginger, gin, and Lillet that tastes healthy and bracing, but is also stronger than you think, so pace yourself.
The End522 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg | 347.987.3954
Half coffee shop, half wellness center, the End is known for its incredible healthy lattes, like the healing Unicorn, which combines ginger, Blue Majik spirulina, and maca into a frothy, bright-blue tonic topped with organic flowers. The dragon-fruit-and-collagen Mermaid and the bright-purple Amethyst are made with antioxidant goji berry and tocos. In the evenings, there are sound baths, tincture-blending classes, and spectacular rising-moon celebrations.
The Good Fork391 Van Brunt St., Red Hook | 718.643.6636
Regulars of chef Souhi Kim’s Red Hook spot will tell you to start with the homemade pork dumplings—they don’t disappoint. While there’s plenty to choose from as far as mains go, her other specialty is the steak and eggs, served Korean-style with kimchee rice cakes. (You can sub in tofu for the steak.) The same warmth that Kim puts into her cooking is palpable in the space—the dining room is vaguely maritime, with a curved wood ceiling and small booths that feel cozy. Go on a Wednesday for ramen night. Trust.
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.
Xixa241 S. 4th St., Williamsburg | 718.388.8860
The name of this restaurant is actually pronounced "shiksa," a nod to (Jewish) chef Jason Marcus's (non-Jewish) wife Heather Heuser, with whom he owns the restaurant. Located under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in a cozy, dimly-lit space scattered with several bar-height tables, the casual vibe is a bit deceiving, as this is a serious foodie destination. While the menu is somewhat Mexican-inspired, Marcus takes a lot of liberties, with dishes like grilled carrots "elote," a corn flan "tamale" with blue crab and poblano-garlic cream, and grilled quail with cantaloupe, pomegranate-walnut salsa, herbed yogurt, and arbol chile. It's the kid of place that's worthy of a trek from Manhattan.
Fausto348 Flatbush Ave., Prospect Heights | 917.909.1427
Fausto had big shoes to fill when it opened on a busy block of Flatbush Avenue in Park Slope last year. The space was formerly occupied by Franny’s, a much-loved neighborhood pizza place that had been a staple of the area for almost fifteen years. Luckily, Fausto was equal to the task. It quickly became a new favorite, thanks to chef Erin Shambura’s house-made pastas (like buckwheat rigatoni with shiitake mushrooms, dandelion greens, and Parmesan), and a clean-lined, sophisticated mid-century modern dining room. The wine list is as close to flawless as a wine list can be—which makes sense given that it was conceived by sommelier (and co-owner), Joe Campanale, the restaurateur behind popular NYC Italian spots Dell’Anima and Anfora.
PilotPier 6, Brooklyn | 917.810.8550
When Grand Banks opened on a 142-foot wooden sailing ship on the Hudson River in 2014, it became an instant warm-weather hit, as much for the novelty factor as for the oysters and lobster rolls. Last summer, the same team (brothers Alex and Miles Pincus) brought their concept to Brooklyn, on a 140-foot 1924 schooner docked just off Brooklyn Bridge Park, with views of the famous bridge and all Lower Manhattan. Like its sister ship across town, Pilot offers everything you’d expect: In addition to the oysters and the lobster roll, there is a softshell crab po’boy, a tomato and watermelon salad, and a big selection of refreshing cocktails. Try the Life at Sea, a house cocktail of vodka and bitter lemon syrup.