A Home Cook’s Guide to Brooklyn Food

Posted by on Monday Aug 20th, 2012 | Print

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**

FOR SHOPPING

Brooklyn Larder
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

Bien Cuit
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

Fish Tales
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

Sahadi’s
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

Gorilla Coffee
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

Ample Hills
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

Roma Pizza
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

Franny’s
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 

ChipShop
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

Mile End
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

Born Thai
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

James
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

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  • Erin Kennedy

    This is great! I have some Dumbo favorite spots too and I live in Bay Ridge which has some AUTHENTIC Italian. I just adore Brooklyn and your blog gave me some new ideas.

    Erin – ekcantcook.blogspot.com

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Thanks, Erin! Where do you eat in Bay Ridge? Would love to bike down.

      • Erin Kennedy

        Lot’s of places. Olla Wine Bar is a personal favorite (the chef is Sardinian so he has a very French & Italian approach). Also great is The Corner Kitchen (its new and awesome). And Bay Ridge has some of the freshest and greatest seafood. Anywhere on 3rd Ave from 69th Street to 90th is pretty great!

      • Dorre

        Bay ridge is a pretty excellent neighborhood for eats… there is an amazing and really really authentic Moroccan restaurant on 77 at the corner of 5th ave which is so worth the trip (just make a reservation ).

        • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

          Thanks! Can’t wait to check it out.

  • olga

    I have to add a few things to this list… Damascus Bakery makes the best hummus, baba ganjouj, and so on and their pastries are ridiculous! Also, La Vara for what might become the next worst kept secret in Brooklyn. I hope, selfishly, they remain my home away from home. Shelsky’s is not only awesome but the owner, Peter, is the nicest man! As for Bien Cuit is MY FAVORITE PLACE for a croissant – I can’t believe you know the owners!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Thanks, Olga! You know, I think I’ve eaten the hummus from Damascus at other people’s houses but never bought it myself. Definitely adding La Vara to my list (so much for secrets) and getting to Shelsky’s as quick as I can. And who knows, maybe we’ll bump into each other at Bien Cuit. :)

  • KSalty

    Hey Cara, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and this post couldn’t come at a better time for me. My bf and I are, fingers crossed, coming over from London to spend the Autumn working in NYC and are renting in Brooklyn. I’m a food writer here in the UK so these tips are fab. I’ve bookmarked and will be trying lots of them out when I arrive!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      So happy to hear this will be useful! Hope you have a blast spending some time in my city and my borough.

  • Jay

    If you have coffee ground and don’t use it within minutes of grinding, you are enjoying a very stale cup of coffee.

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Ha! I’ve heard that one before, but I’ve found it keeps amazingly well.

  • Danae

    There is no neighborhood called Washington Heights – I think you mean Classon in Crown Heights.

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      You’re so right – I was thinking of Washington Ave when I wrote that. Thank you for catching.

  • jbob187a

    Dont forget Patel Grocery in Sunset Park (4th ave btw 53rd and 54th) for the best Indian market in the borough. Everything you need to make an Indian meal from scratch,

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Sounds awesome. I’ll check it out.

  • VLM

    I love across the street from Roma Pizza, and it is singularly terrible. Tasteless sauce, undercooked trust, too much cheese. If you want a slice place, check out Antonio’s on Flatbush right near the 7th Ave. B/Q stop, and if you want something better, go to any of the other pizzerias in the neighborhood.

    • jbob187a

      Or even better Giuseppinas on 6th ave

  • george

    How did you manage to leave out al di la for a delicious sit down dinner?

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      I’ve never been! Adding to the wish list.

  • tanner

    Have you been to the farmer’s market on Smith St at Carroll on Sundays? It is smaller, but (and!) for produce has the Grand Army farmer’s market beat, if you as me. There’s a Korean farmer down at the far end who grows the best, gorgeous little produces — special lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, Asian veggies, etc, all in varieties hard to find elsewhere and all pristine, using organic practices. I still go to Grand Army for fish, because there is absolutely no better fish to be had in all of NYC than what you can get there from Blue Moon fish, though the fish guy at the Smith St. market is quite good, too, if I miss Blue Moon the day before…

    And speaking of fish, Fish Tales isn’t bad in a pinch, but if you haven’t tried the fish from Blue Moon, you are seriously missing out! Great prices, and everything is sashimi fresh, all caught the day before off the coast on eastern Long Island. To me, it is a relief to not have to worry about where the fish is coming from (and I can’t necessarily say that is so when I shop at Fish Tales).

  • tanner

    Some of my favorite under-the-radar places a little deeper into BK:

    Gia Lam vietnamese in Sunset Park. Two locations on 8th Ave, one at 49th and one at 56th. Some of the best vietnamese food in NYC (and I’ve tried a lot). For sure, some of the best cooked-from-scratch food for cheap.
    Spartan greek restaurant in Bay Ridge on 8th ave at 68th. Only good Greek food in the Borough, as far as I can tell. Best I’ve had in NYC (though I haven’t tried much in Queens). Super, super killer gyros, hand cut fries, great salads, and a whole slew of things I haven’t tried there, everything always fresh and delicious. The owner is ALWAYS behind the grill, and they are always incredibly friendly. Crazy cheap, too, and enormous portions.
    Best spinach and meat pies (beats Damascus, in my opinion): Hayat Caterers on 6th Ave at 65th in Sunset Park/Bay Ridge. It is a catering place, but during normal business hours you can walk in and buy spinach and meat pies, Lebanese style (lemony spinach or meat in closed triangle pitas, or open faced meat pies). So good!! Always incredibly fresh. Mini size or regular size. Yum!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      These are awesome – thank you for sharing! I can’t wait to check out Gia Lam (what do you order there usually?) and Hayat.

      • tanner

        At Gia Lam, seriously everything is good. The standards are all really good:
        *spring rolls are fried perfection.
        *Pho (noodle soups). The one with “eye of round” is the most basic; that just means slices of lean sirloin, nothing crazy. I always get the grilled pork chop or grilled chicken; both are marinated and grilled perfectly. I think the grilled chicken pho might not be on the menu, but you can ask for it.*Bun (noodle salad) rice noodles, topped with lettuce, bean sprouts, and your choice of meat. Again, the grilled pork chop or grilled chicken are my favorites. If I’m super hungry, I’ll get the grilled pork/chicken PLUS spring rolls.
        *if you’re with a few people, get the Bahn Hoi with your meat of choice. It’s kind of like decomposed Bun — you get a platter with all these different parts and you put it all together into little lettuce/rice thread/meat wraps. Fun to share and delish.
        *And the classic cheap dinner plate lots of Asians get is the rice plate with your choice of meat.

  • Becca

    Brunch at Applewood is a must (Park Slope, 11th St. between 7th & 8th Aves.) and PurBird is also a go-to for me (6th Ave. and St. Marks). And I know there are BareBurger’s all over the city and it’s not a uniquely Brooklyn thing, but the grass-fed beef always hits the spot (7th Ave. and 1st St.).

  • Guest

    We’re neighbors! I also live in ProHeights (and yes — we have been killing it lately). Most of those hot-spots are certainly on my list and the rest, I’m itching to try (along with Bar Corvo, LV and ADL). I’d venture to add “The Islands” for an authentic Caribbean experience, “The Vanderbilt” for that perfect nouveau American kick (love that porkbelly), “Milk Bar” for their Counter Culture Coffee & almond croissants, “Pete Zaaz” for super-cheap-yet-still-artisan pizza and “The Glass Shop” for hands-down, the best iced latte ever. Also, if you want to stretch the comfort zone, head to Franklin Ave for Chavellas (my fave Mexi place in BK) and Barboncino for a Franny’s-esque experience.

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      I’ve never heard of The Islands or Barboncino – checking them both out! Isn’t Prospect Heights the best? I love it (and not just the food).

  • http://twitter.com/adubs adubs

    My neighborhood! Stinky Brooklyn on Smith is great if you want to throw a great happy hour at home. Cheeses, cured meats, spreads and crackers. Also great ice coffee and doughnuts from Doughin Bed-Stuy!

    Hanco Bahn Mi on Bergen near Smith is a great quick meal, with tons of vegetarian options! And Rucola on Bergen and Bond is some of the best restaurant food I’ve had in Brooklyn!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Awesome recommendations – I do like Stinky and am putting the rest on my list to try. Thank you!