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.
Acme Smoked Fish30 Gem St., Greenpoint | 718.383.8585
In business since the '60s, this old-school, family-run operation has cracked the code on how to smoke fish in an all-natural way. Their line, Blue Hill Fish, is so popular that they've opened up a West Coast office to keep up with demand. If you can make it to Greenpoint on a Friday morning, you can snag smoked goods at half price until 1pm. Cash only.
Bakeri150 Wythe Ave., Williamsburg | 718.388.8037
A tiny café in the heart of Williamsburg, Bakeri is one of the original neighborhood hangouts in this ever-evolving slice of Brooklyn. All of the bread and pastries are made in-house, but locals also swear by the breakfast items, like organic Eggs Provencal, baked in tomato sauce and served with a side of sourdough rye, and the lunch salads, like grapefruit avocado with kale, red onion, fennel, pepitas, and sea salt. Most people take their food to go, but the main dining room is small, cozy, and highly recommended in winter, while the backyard is a shady, cool escape in the middle of hot, humid NYC summers. There are also outposts in Greenpoint and the East Village in Manhattan.
Bellocq Tea Atelier104 West St., Greenpoint | 347-463-9231
An industrial swath of Greenpoint isn’t the first place you’d think to find this charming curiosity shop dedicated to specialty teas, but the hidden, unexpected location is part of the fun (ring the doorbell for entry). Once inside, you’ll find a quiet retreat, with plants hanging from the ceiling and large canisters lining the purple-painted walls, filled with whole-leaf organic teas from everywhere far away: China, Japan, India, Nepal, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Malawi. The staff is passionate and knowledgeable about any tea-related question, and aside from tea itself, there are a handful of accessories for sale—sticks of Japanese sandalwood incense, Bellocq’s own line of candles inspired by various tea blends, and all thing tea-related.
Bien Cuit89 E 42nd St., Midtown | 718.852.0200
One of Cobble Hill’s favorite artisanal bakeries, Bien Cuit recently opened shop in Manhattan’s Grand Central Market. Husband and wife Zachary Golper and Kate Wheatcroft offer the same hits they do in Brooklyn, including the apple cardamom Danish (puréed apple, vanilla pastry cream, cardamom-almond streusel) and the orange, coriander and olive oil pound cake, made with fresh orange juice and ground coriander. After you’ve picked up a few baguettes to save for later, stroll around the market, stop by Murray’s Cheese and Spices and Tease (an Italian-American specialty spice shop), and remind yourself that yes, in fact, you are in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world.
Blue Bottle Coffee85 Dean St., Carroll Gardens
Blue Bottle is a top-notch coffee roaster and café with a sustainable ethos, in multiple locations throughout NYC. Our picks: The siphon filter and the New Orleans iced coffee. There's also a location in Williamsburg.
B’klyn Burro922 Fulton St., Clinton Hill | 718.622.8776
B’klyn Burro was operating out of food trucks and other kitchens before they landed in their permanent, order-at-the-counter spot in Clinton Hill. Their specialty is S.F. Mission District-style Mexican food. The menu is tight—of course there are burrito options, plus tacos, quesadillas, and suiza.
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.
Brooklyn Kitchen100 Frost St., Williamsburg | 718.389.2982
This incredible kitchen store will lure you in, but the classes will convince you to stay. Offering everything from Vitamix blenders and Pillivuyt roasting pans, to homemade ramen broth, farm fresh eggs, and exotic cuts of meat, the provisions part of the operation draws people from all over the city. Meanwhile, you can learn how to make homemade pizza with the Roberta’s crew, pickle with McClure, or take a class in doughnut or dumpling making.
Cook Space Brooklyn603 Bergen St., Prospect Heights | 718.230.8400
New York City—a metropolis obsessed with eating—isn't short on restaurants, but Cook Space offers a totally novel, modern alternative to the classic dinner out. This multifunctional space in Brooklyn's Prospect Heights hosts cooking classes, catering opportunities, workshops, and even classes for kiddos. Whether you're an accomplished home cook or a newbie in the kitchen, the roster has a little bit of something for everyone: paleo, Ayurvedic, and Whole 30 classes, alongside New Orleans cuisine, classic Thai, or even vegan for carnivores—the list goes on. The best part? The lesson ends with a meal in the loftlike dining room.
Dépanneur242 Wythe Ave., Williamsburg | 347.227.8424
Dépanneur is the general store we all wish we had on our block. Part café, part grocer the inventory ranges from the necessary (fresh-baked bread, newspapers, eggs, three types of yogurt) to the indulgent (a series of canned sardines, unusual grains, wildly expensive chocolate). The coffee is expertly made and always hot, the range of to-go snacks behind the counter is meant to satisfy every state of hunger with mini ham-and-cheese baguettes, croissants, and slabs of pound cake. Pick up a coffee or an obscure bottle of kombucha and sit at one of the round tables outside, perfectly placed for people watching.
Doughnut Plant245 Flatbush Ave., Prospect Heights | 212.505.3700
For many years Mark Israel’s plain glazed doughnut recipe was enough to draw crowds to this Lower East Side foodie destination, but more recent additions, like Mexican churros, house-made jelly filled doughnuts, and cake doughnuts have made Doughnut Plant legitimately legendary. You can find Doughnut Plant on the menus of many hotels and restaurants throughout NYC, and there's now a location in Brooklyn.
Fairway Market480-500 Van Brunt St., Red Hook | 718.254.0923
Beyond being one of the more perfect independent grocery stores around, Fairway is the perfect New York cross section: You'll see young families, old ladies in fur coats, students looking for good food at good prices, and just about every New York "type" you can think of. Beyond the cultural experience, the Red Hook branch in particular boasts the square footage, plus a frozen-foods department you can actually walk into (there are jackets you can borrow to go in), an amazing cheese selection, and a free parking lot.
Foster Sundry215 Knickerbocker Ave., Bushwick | 718.569.8426
Everything in this next-level grocery is fresh, local, and exquisite. The whole-animal butcher counter stocks a variety of meats, as well as incredible kale-chicken and other veggie-blended sausages (the gracious men and women behind the counter are quick to oblige your spatchcocking needs). The cheeses are stupendous, ranging from creamy Humboldt Fog to intense Von Trapp Oma, beautifully merchandised within a profusion of za’atar, fresh-milled local flour, handmade pastas, beautiful produce, nuts, small-batch chocolates, and some especially delicious potato chips. There’s a coffee bar and a full food menu that makes one of the most excellent brunches in the area. The Ham ‘n Honey Biscuit gives us chills: griddled ham, melty cheddar, and lush buttermilk bread made on premises.
Four & Twenty BlackbirdsBrooklyn Public Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Park Slope | 718.230.2210
The original outpost of Four & Twenty Blackbirds is a little out of the way (Gowanus), but the amazing pies justify the trek. We're thrilled to find them in a more accessible spot at the Brooklyn Public Library.
Gimme Coffee495 Lorimer St., Williamsburg | 718.388.7771
There may not be a lot of place to sit, but no matter: Gimme makes really great lattes and cappuccinos (in fact, you'll only find coffee a smattering of baked goods, and little else).
Homecoming107 Franklin St., Greenpoint | 347.457.5385
What started as a coffee and tea shop with flowers and small succulents for sale—what else?—has quickly become much more of lifestyle shop, carrying a mix of mostly local-made ceramics, books, magazines, and small design goods. Stop in for a Blue Bottle coffee, or a Bellocq tea—their studio is next door—and walk out with a couple of small indoor plants, a Postalco notebook, and a Grain Edit beeswax totem candle.
Hometown Bar-B-Que454 Van Brunt St., Red Hook | 347.294.4644
If BBQ lovers had their own paradise, this would probably be it. Hometown draws a steady line of people who don't mind that the Red Hook spot is out of the way, or that it might entail a bit of a wait. Or, rather, people who know that the food, which is ordered at the front counter and served on individual, butcher paper-lined metal trays, is worth it. While the brisket, pulled pork, and ribs get a lot of the attention, don't miss out on the sides (i.e. cornbread and mac 'n' cheese) or the banana cream pudding. Once you get your food, it's usually easy to find a spot at one of the long picnic tables in Hometown's expansive, warehouse-like space. There's also two bars inside, serving craft beers and whiskey (plus some wine and cocktails).
Little Skips941 Willoughby Ave., Brooklyn | 929.210.8101
At this point, Brooklyn could probably give Seattle a run for its money when it comes to the number of coffee shops per capita, and Little Skips is easily one of the best. It's especially great for those who like semiloud background music, as it's an undeniable part of the hipster package. Thai iced tea—an equally potent alternative to a latte—is on the menu in addition to all the usual suspects if you’re feeling adventurous. Fair warning: Outlets are a limited commodity here, so come fully charged just in case. The original outpost is on Willoughby Avenue.
Lucy’s Vietnamese Kitchen262 Irving Ave., Bushwick | 718.483.9837
There's a really great story behind this staple Bushwick lunch spot: Head Chef Johnny Huynh was actually raised right in this neighborhood by his grandmother (Lucy). The pared-down menu—there's just pho and banh mi—is an ode to her fresh, straightforward Vietnamese cooking style. They're open until midnight every day, and deliver for free within a mile radius.
Marlow & Daughters95 Broadway, Williamsburg | 718.388.5700
Andrew Tarlow’s burgeoning Brooklyn food empire (Diner, Reynard, Marlow & Sons) also includes this quality, nose-to-tail butcher shop. Besides house-made sausages and great cuts of steak, you’ll find all the fixings, from gourmet olive oil to mint sauce and side salads. The breads and sandwiches, courtesy of She Wolf Bakery, make this a favorite takeaway pit-stop, too
Mister Dips111 N 12th St., Williamsburg
Inside a 1970s Airstream trailer at the William Vale hotel, Andrew Carmellini (of Locanda Verde, the Dutch, and Lafayette fame) and team keep the vibe loose and delicious by churning out a simple menu of the ultimate comfort food. The burgers, wrapped in a wax paper sleeve, come with a mix of cheese and a special tangy-sweet sauce on a potato bun. (All the burgers are available as singles or doubles.) There's also a veggie burger, made of black beans and mushrooms, and waffle fries. Don't leave without a soft serve—especially the Berry Gibbs, with strawberry, Nilla wafer, and sweet cream, which lives up to all the hype. And yes, there’s a lot of hype.
Momofuku Milk Bar360 Smith St., Carroll Gardens | 347.577.9504
While working at Momofuku in its early days, Christina Tosi—office manager at the time—started baking the occasional treat for the team; her insanely sweet, totally novel confections quickly took off. Soon, she had her own shop next door (and now many more all over NYC) where she and her staff crank out ridiculously complex layered cakes, the aptly named Compost cookies, and unusual soft-serve flavors—all simultaneously nostalgic and unlike anything you've ever tasted.
Poppy’s243 Degraw St., Cobble Hill | 646.459.2716
Poppy’s has long been a favorite catering spot—everything is good, seasonal, and thoughtful. On the weekends, it opens up its café doors to the neighborhood, serving up Poppy’s beloved sweet treats (chocolate babka, carrot pistachio cake), plus tartines and grain salads. There’s a weekend lunch box, too, that’s great if you’re in a rush or want to take something to nearby Carroll Park.
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.
Smith Canteen343 Smith St., Carroll Gardens | 347.294. 0292
This grab-and-go café and coffee bar is tucked into an old pharmacy from the turn of the twentieth century (tile floors and original shelving that now displays indie journals). It also happens to be run by Cherry Bombe's Kerry Diamond. The team whips up their own fresh almond milk daily, and the turmeric latte is the thing to order; there’s also a solid menu of green, black, and herbal teas, plus the standard espresso drinks you’d expect from a spot like this. Their new baker, Gabi, is known for her strawberry, basil, and quinoa muffins—they’re usually sold out by 9 a.m. Photos: Naian Gonzalez
SmorgasburgEast River State Park, 90 Kent Ave.
We’re big fans of Sunday’s Smorgasburg on Pier 5, where vendors like Dough (the ideal doughnut), bigBao (little rice pancakes stuffed with South Asian goodness) and Takumi (Mexi-japanese tacos) roll out their wares. Situated right on the water facing downtown Manhattan, this is the perfect family pitstop thanks to plenty of seating and multiple playgrounds.
Sweatshop232 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg | 917.960.7232
Australian cafés have been popping up all over Manhattan in the past several years (Two Hands and Ruby’s being two of our favorites). Now Brooklyn is getting a few of its own—including Sweatshop, which was opened on a busy stretch of Williamsburg’s Metropolitan Avenue in 2014 by Melbourne natives Luke Woodard and Ryan De Remer. The menu is full of Aussie classics (including a killer flat white and Vegemite-enhanced sandwiches), and their version of avocado toast is done with chunks of ripe avocado mixed with feta, citrus, and herb oil on a thick slab of sourdough, topped with flaky sea salt and chili flakes.
The Greene Grape767-769 Fulton St., Fort Greene | 718.797.9463
This beloved neighborhood grocer attracts locals for excellent provisions, great coffee and a snack during the day, and wine and craft beers at night. We love its light and airy design (it's helmed by two Domino magazine vets), and its wide span (there's a wine shop, a provisions store, an ice cream parlor, and the café, Annex. All are arranged along Fulton Street.
The Vale Collective113 N. 7th St., Gowanus
Vale can't be described as any one thing since it is a perky boutique, art gallery, coffee shop, and backyard garden all in one. What's really special though, is that it does all four things really well, particularly the coffee shop part. Grab a cup of Birch Coffee and pick between a street-facing window seat or the aforementioned garden (the Wi-Fi totally holds up back there).
Toby’s Estate125 N. 6th St., Williamsburg | 347.586.0063
This is one of few places around that roasts their own beans, which are responsibly sourced from all over the globe. Meanwhile all four Toby’s Estate locations (the other three are spread out between Flatiron, the West Village, and Midtown) are consistently simple and comfortable in design—think communal tables, couches, and excellent lighting. Yes, it’s a great set-up for work, but also worth stopping by on your day off for a simple and hearty lunch. (They also offer a random assortment of classes in everything from art to cupping.)
Van Leeuwen81 Bergen St., Boerum Hill | 347.763.2979
Whether you’ve had Van Leeuwen on the streets of Brooklyn or parked up on Abbot Kinney, it’s instantly recognizable by its sunny yellow truck. They’re particularly famous for their vegan ice cream, a combination of cashew milk, coconut milk, cocoa butter, and carob beans that’s incredibly creamy and indulgent (and a major victory for the dairy-sensitive). They’ve got a few locations now: Greenpoint, Boerum Hill, and Williamsburg in Brooklyn; the East and West Villages in Manhattan; and the Arts District and Culver City in LA. You can always track their many food trucks on their website.