goop Hometown Guide: Not the Brooklyn You See on TV
If you’re not paying attention, you might think Kate Wolfson had always lived beach-side in Santa Monica—her platinum locks, plus her encyclopedic knowledge of all things Malibu, contribute to an unmistakably California glow. But take a peek at her Spotify playlist, or listen to her wax poetic about a Jewish deli, and there’s no mistaking she’s a Brooklyn girl through-and-through. Though she went to high school at the opposite end of the Belt Parkway, Kate says Sheepshead Bay has always felt like home—and while the neighborhoods have changed since she moved West, there are some hometown classics that have stood the test of time. Case in point: The Roll ‘n Roaster, where Kate says she “used to hang out when I was an unruly teenager—they still have the best hangover food ever.” She’s also turned us on to her favorite childhood pizza joints, L & B Spumoni Gardens (“Just as packed now as it was when I was ten—those square slices!”) and Totonno’s (“For some of the best pizza in Brooklyn, order the pepperoni. Trust.”). There are also some new additions she’s been happy to welcome, like Glasserie, which she describes as “technically not in my neck of the woods but such a favorite,” and Cherry Hill Gourmet, which she says is “the mother of all Russian grocery stores, with a dessert case that just won’t quit.” Below, the full list of Kate’s picks. For the complete Brooklyn guide, which was also compiled under her knowledgeable direction, click here.
1901 Emmons Ave., Sheepshead Bay | 718.616.1900
While I’ve never met a gourmet grocery store I didn’t instantly love, Cherry Hill is truly special. In addition to all the traditional Russian-food staples—smoked fish, killer beet salad (sounds weird but it’s actually delicious), and what feels like fifty different pickled-veggie varieties—they have excellent produce and a bakery section that looks like something out of a fairytale.
2725 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.
2901 Emmons Ave., Sheepshead Bay | 718.769.6000
Come for the roast beef (it’s expertly roasted in-house; choose between medium or well-done and ask for a side of fries-n-cheez), stay for the authentic, old-school Brooklyn vibes. This place has been a treasured neighborhood staple since the ’70s, and the retro decor and rows of banana-yellow booths are a testament to the decade.
Ocean Ave. & Mackenzie St., Manhattan Beach | 212.639.9675
Significantly less hectic than nearby Coney Island (though both the beach and the boardwalk are worth a visit), Manhattan Beach is an excellent option if you want the sand-and-ocean experience without having to go too far outside the city, to say, Fire Island or Asbury. There are basketball courts and lots of space for picnicking and barbecuing—plus, there’s usually a Mr. Softee ice-cream truck parked at the entrance. Keep in mind that it’s a bit of a walk from the Sheepshead Bay Q-train station, so pack as light as possible.
2710 Emmons Ave., Sheepshead Bay | 718.769.3322
As the nautical-themed interior suggests, this place is all about the fresh-caught seafood. Try to get a table on the canal-facing patio and order a Turkish Ezme salad and at least one whole-grilled fish (the Branzino is bomb) for the table. What’s special about the kitchen here is that every dish is kept simple to best maximize the taste without overpowering it with fancy preparation methods.
Prospect Heights | 718.965.8951
The Prospect Park Zoo is one of those kid-centric activities that parents really get a kick out of, too. The residents of the beautiful and meticulously cared-for enclosures run the gamut from tamarins and baboons to otters and sea lions—and so many more. Many of the exhibits are interactive, so kids pick up a lot of educational stuff without even realizing it. The week-long summer camps are a dream come true for budding zoologists.
95 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.
2017 Emmons Ave., Sheepshead Bay | 718.615.0010
The menu at this casual Sheepshead Bay standby is massive and revolves around seafood-centric Italian food. There are clams (duh), mussels, lobster–and so much pasta. Whatever your order, make sure it’s smothered in the famous red sauce.
1524 Neptune Ave., Coney Island | 718.372.8606
While Di Fara in Midwood is the undeniable OG of Brooklyn pizza, Totonno’s in Coney Island has been around for over a century and is right up there for most locals. The Neapolitan pies are all baked in a coal oven to perfect, crispy-crust, cheesy-middle results. Keep in mind the cash-only policy and that the Thursday-through-Sunday opening hours are flex (they’ve been known to call it a day after the pizza dough runs out).
157 Smith St., Boerum Hill | 718.797.0675
One thing I’ve never been able to shake is my teenage obsession with sneakers. Though the days of waking up at the crack of dawn to wait in line for the latest Jordans to drop are long gone, I’m still a sucker for a limited edition. Rime in Boerum Hill does a great job of stocking the best Nike, Puma, and Adidas collaborations. Even more impressive: They make it a point to buy deep into women’s sizes, too.