A Home Cook’s Guide to Brooklyn Food
My corner of Brooklyn is killing it, food-wise. Best of all, we’ve put behind us for the days when fetching good ingredients or eating a first-rate meal meant a trip into Manhattan.
(The part of Brooklyn I call mine stretches west to Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights, east to Classon Avenue in Crown Heights, north to Clinton Hill, south usually only as far as 5th or 6th Streets but occasionally all the way down to Sunset Park. The best way to navigate all these ‘hoods is by bike.)
I write so much about home-cooked food here, with the obvious upshot that I don’t eat out a ton. But I do have to snack, shop, and eat ice cream. There’s international food to be eaten, food I can’t always replicate here, plus slices of pizza I buy when I don’t plan to make a whole pie, and fried foods I purchase since the smell of hot oil lingers for days in small apartments.
In case you’re visiting, or you’ve just moved in around here, or you’re a Manhattanite who wants to branch out into the boroughs, I’ve slapped together my Brooklyn food life onto this very page so that you, too, can visit the speciality food stores and fish shops and pizzerias and Thai take-out joints that make up my world.
If you live in South-ish Brooklyn, where do you shop and eat?
**A Home Cook’s Guide to Brooklyn Food**
Go to gawk, even if you can’t stomach buying tons of the expensive but delicious food. At the very least, treat yourself to a slice of the to-die-for pistachio loaf cake with lemon glaze and candied pistachios. IT’S SO GOOD. Other favorites include chocolate milk, lemonade, sandwiches, and fresh, mayo-less chicken salad. There’s a good cheese selection, plenty of olives, homemade ice cream, local products, and all the packets and jars of imported beans, pasta, anchovies, and spices you could dream of. (Pictured above.)
Brooklyn Larder, 228 Flatbush Ave., Park Slope/Prospect Heights
Grand Army Plaza Farmers’ Market
This market is one of the reasons I’ve lived in my neck of the woods for four years and counting. On Saturdays, I roll out of bed, cobble together an outfit, grab my tote bags, and make it to the market by 8:30am. Even in winter, there’s plenty to buy. I stock up on Tello’s fresh eggs year-round, plus the usual bounty of veggies, herbs, and bread. It’s not a huge market, but it’s got everything you need. Judging by the lines, my fellow Brooklynites swear by the fish at Blue Moon.
Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, Saturday 8am-4pm, at Grand Army Plaza, Park Slope/Prospect Heights
Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats
I rejoiced the day I heard that Fleisher’s, the Kingston, NY-based butcher that Julie of Julie and Julia introduced to me, was coming to town–specifically to my ‘hood. As reflects their quality, meats are pricey, but boy are they good. Normally, I opt for cheaper options like chicken thighs, brisket and beef stew meat, or house-made sausages, but I’ve splurged on steaks once in a while, too. Whenever I go, I try to stock up the freezer with meat as well.
Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats, 192 Fifth Ave., Park Slope
When Kate Wheatcroft, a friend of a friend, told me she and her husband were opening a bakery in Brooklyn, I had no idea it was going to be the best retail bread operation in the borough. Authentic European-style breads and pastries emerge from the downstairs ovens, and my favorite Christine Ferber jams line the upstairs shelves. I’m partial to the enormous Miche loaf.
Bien Cuit, 120 Smith St., Boerum Hill
I hate not having a fish shop in my immediate neighborhood, but a quick ride west gets me to Boerum Hill’s Fish Tales, where I can count on picking up some salmon or tilapia for dinner whenever we’re on a fish kick.
Fish Tales, 191 Court St., Boerum Hill
This mecca of Middle-Eastern goodies is a destination in itself. You can buy spices, nuts, and dried beans in bulk and pick-up hard-to-find ingredients like kasseri cheese for saganaki or great-quality frozen phyllo dough. The prepared hummus, spinach pies, and other delicacies at the counter in the back are delicious. Sahadi’s is closed on Sundays, a fact I’ve forgotten more than once, to serious disappointment.
Sahadi’s, 187 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn Heights
I stock up on bags of coffee beans at Gorilla so I can brew coffee each morning at home. Though the fragrant beans don’t come cheap, they do stay fresh for a while. I don’t have a grinder, so I have a barista there do the grinding for me. Though lots of freelancers sit around working on weekdays, I usually head out with the free cup of very strong coffee my bag of beans buys.
Gorilla Coffee, 97 5th Ave., Park Slope
FOR QUICK MEALS AND SNACKS
Ice cream! Seriously amazing ice cream with delicious mix-ins and funny flavor names. Most people adore the Salted Crack Caramel, though my favorite is the Peppermint Patty or Mint Chocolate Flake. Alex loves the dairy-free coconut-chocolate ice cream which is as ridiculously rich as if it were made with cream. Go – now – before summer ends!
Ample Hills, 623 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights
All the NY-style pizzeria pizza is fine here, but the white zucchini slice takes the pie. If you don’t want to stuff your face (but you do want garlic breath), opt for a smaller square of the grandma pizza.
Roma Pizza, 85 7th Ave., Park Slope
Kai Feng Fu Dumpling House
You know how in Manhattan’s Chinatown, you get 4 dumplings for $1? Well in Sunset Park, Brooklyn’s Chinatown, that buck buys you 5 luscious fried pork-and-scallion dumplings, a perfect snack, or a lunch if you add on any of the noodle soups or some scallion pancakes. (If you’re venturing down to Sunset Park, you should check out Serious Eats’ Mexican food crawl suggestions here.)
Kai Feng Fu Dumpling House, 4801 8th Ave., entrance on 48th St. between 8th and 9th Aves., Sunset Park
Olde Brooklyn Bagel Shoppe
Having a bagel store up the street is the ultimate New York City luxury, especially if a bagel’s half-life is really only half an hour. Get what’s hot when you go. Everything and Poppy are my favorites.
Olde Brooklyn Bagel Shoppe, 645 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights
Bark Hot Dogs
It was only a matter of time before hot dogs went gourmet, and a couple of years ago, right here in Park Slope, they did. The delicious hot dogs are made from great-quality, locally sourced meat. Fries are good; onion rings are phenomenal. Ketchup and mustard will have nothing to do with organic: they’re Heinz and French’s. After 9pm or so, there are great deals on hot dog and beer combos.
Bark Hot Dogs, 474 Bergen St., Park Slope
FOR SIT-DOWN MEALS
By the same owners as Brooklyn Larder, though it was open first, this place is the worst-kept secret and always has a wait. Alex and I have recently begun to brave said long waits though, and now that we’re committed, we’re obsessed. We tend to split a couple vegetable dishes–the greens are always, always amazing–a pizza, and a pasta or sausage or fish dish. Flavors are perfectly balanced between pungency and richness, and everything is super fresh. Franny’s is moving down the street this fall, and hopefully the waits will get shorter.
Franny’s, 295 Flatbush Ave., Prospect Heights
I adore fish and chips, and I occasionally pine for the best-ever plateful of them, which I ate a few years in Borough Market on a visit to London. Stateside, and more specifically, Brooklyn-side, the best fish and chips I’ve eaten is at ChipShop. You can also try other British staples on the menu, or you can end your meal with a second trip to the deep-fryer if you’re fearless enough to want your Snickers or Twinkies rendered crispy.
ChipShop, 383 5th Ave., Park Slope, OR 129 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn Heights
Locanda Vini e Olii
A reader recommended we try this Clinton Hill restaurant, whose atmosphere evokes a Roman trattoria, for the brutti ma buoni cookies. It took us a while to get our act together and visit, but now we can’t stay away! On regular nights, we order the house wine and some pasta–the Saffron Guitar Strings “con Le Sarde” is fantastic. If there’s baccala (salt cod) on the menu, definitely get it. For special occasions, we eat like Italians and share a first course, pasta, a main, and dessert–the nutty-chewy-caramelized brutti ma buoni.
Locanda Vini e Olii, 129 Gates Ave., Clinton Hill
I’ve never had pastrami like this, and if you haven’t been to Mile End yet, neither have you. I love sitting at the bar to watch the cooks chip away at blocks of the cured meat before they load it onto sandwiches. I’ve yet to try the poutine, but it looks decadent. (There’s now a Manhattan location as well.)
Mile End, 97a Hoyt St., Boerum Hill
When I moved out of the delivery range of Song, my all-time favorite cheap, filling, Thai restaurant, I was devastated. Even food bloggers order in sometimes. But when I discovered that the pad thai and curries from Born were pretty awesome, I felt justified in picking up the phone to order in again. (Only every so often, since technically I can make pad thai and pad see ew at home.)
Born Thai, 293 Flatbush Ave., Prospect Heights
Go to the bar and order one of the burgers and a beer. The fries are salty and excellent. (Other menu items are also good, but they’re pricey.) Burgers are a great bang for your buck and the best way to enjoy this small but atmospheric joint.
James Restaurant, 605 Carlton Ave., Prospect Heights
ON MY WISHLIST
(updated with recommendations from the comments)
Gran Electrica, 5 Front St., Dumbo
Petite Crevette, 144 Union St., Carroll Gardens
Bar Corvo, 791 Washington Ave., Prospect Heights (ate here! it’s awesome!)
Kaz An Nou, 53 6th Ave., Prospect Heights
Pok Pok, 127 Columbia St., Cobble Hill
Shelsky’s Smoked Fish, 251 Smith St., Carroll Gardens
Al Di La, 248 5th Ave., Park Slope
La Vara, 268 Clinton St., Carroll Gardens
Patel Grocery, 5303 4th Ave., Sunset Park
Tanoreen, Bay Ridge