People are always asking me for tips on places that they should go and eat when they travel to cities to which I have been, so for New York I decided to take a bit of extra time and catalogue some of the food highlights to create a post that I can refer people to when they ask me where to eat in Brooklyn.
I expected that New York would become one of my favourite cities in the world, and I was right – it’s a truly amazing place – and it’s deep and varied food scene is just one of its many facets. There is a real focus on fresh, seasonal, local produce and supporting independent and local businesses which is great.
Prices range from cheap $, to medium/affordable $$, to expensive $$$.
85 Broadway, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Diner is a [really] small bar in that serves food that is anything but typical for a small bar. The ingredients are fresh and local, and the menu ever changing and very innovative. It is literally an old refurbished diner caravan on a street corner. As the menu changes daily, I can’t search back to find out exactly what it was that I ate here, needless to say it was all great.
Some kind of ravioli with a bacon broth. I don’t usually go for bacon in these sorts of dishes as I find the flavour overpowering however the balance was just right in this dish, and the bacon flavour was very subtle and balanced with the rest of the dish.
Again, I can’t remember the specifics, but it was essentially slightly salty beans with flaked razor clam and buttered toast. This was amazing.
Grilled duck heart on buckwheat salad. The heart was extremely tasty and the chewyness of the buckwheat added an amazing texture to the dish. I cannot remember what the sauce on the side was. This was my favourite dish of the night.
Blue Bottle Coffee
160 Berry Street, Brooklyn
New York, in recent years, has really started to take its coffee seriously. Sure there are Starbucks everywhere, but more and more as the years go by, are lots of great independent cafes. One of the best is Blue Bottle, which have a handful of locations around the US, with the Williamsburg outpost being our ”local”. They roast coffee on site and have an obsession with their technique and equipment. The end result is, unsurprisingly, amazing coffee.
We went here three times, but on this occasion got a Bench Maji (Ethiopia) filter drip and a FB80/MP Blend macchiato. The pastries all looked amazing but every time we went we couldn’t go past the Brooklyn Bootleg S’mores which was just amazing. It is made from Mast brothers (a chocolate factory literally up the road) chocolate, house made Graham crackers, and Kings county distillery bootleg marshmallow. You seriously have to try this thing.
Update, Jan 2013: Blue Bottle have expanded their New York operations to include 3 Manhattan location, which is great news for those of you who can’t get out to Brooklyn. There’s one at Chelsea (450 West 15th Street), The Rockefeller Centre (1 Rockefeller Plaza, Concourse Level, Suite D) and TriBeCa (102 Franklin Street)
18 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn
This was a place we just stumbled across in the Greenpoint part of Brooklyn. It had a great vibe and the food was really tasty. Below looks like just a great burger, but the fries are actually truffle fries. I don’t know why I haven’t seen anyone do this before – French fries and truffle oil are very tasty match!
Only while eating and looking up the place did I find out a very interesting fact about this venue – it turns out that Heath Ledger (from Perth like me!) lived in this area and he, along with his close friend that taught him how to skateboard, were going to open a bar on this corner. After Heath Ledger died, Heath’s dad got involved and the bar was opened as intended. Here is a really interesting article about it (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/30/a-new-restaurant-in-heath-ledgers-memory/).
138 Willoughby Street, Brooklyn
Shoddy photos I know, but the DeKalb market is essentially bunch of shipping crates and some tables, which is home to various food stalls, shops and the occasional free performance. We went there quite late and everyone seemed to be there for the performance, with most of the shops closed down for the day (I went again a few days later during the day and it was much busier but I didn’t take any photos).
Update, Jan 2013: I’ve just been made aware that DeKalb Market closed late 2012 and will be replaced with a branch of Austin’s movie theatre/restaurant chain Drafthouse in 2015. Really sad to hear, as it was a great spot doing some great things for the local food, art and music scene. Alas, I suppose it would be naive to expect a prime piece of land in a fast changing part of Brooklyn to remain undeveloped for too long.
Southern style fried chicken with hot sauce. The sauce was actually really interesting – both spicy and sweet (and tangy) at the same time.
A local band, with the singer being from New Zealand. There’s even an independent radio station that broadcasts from one of the shipping crates here!
Roebling Tea Room
138 Roebling Street, Brooklyn
Started by one of the original chefs from Diner, Roebling tea room is in the similar vein food wise, although in a clearly much larger space. The food and ingredients are all top notch. The menu is an interesting mix of American cooking with a definite French influence. This is another venue with an ever changing menu so again you’ll have to excuse the less than detailed descriptions!
This was probably my favourite dish here. Miniature crab and corn cakes with Chipotle tartar sauce.
Salmon and something – all I know is that it tasted great.
Mac and cheese. Simple, but excellent with the best ingredients used. Needs to be eaten while hot though as it’s not as great once the cheese starts to solidify!
Cockaleekie – Breast and Drumette / Dark Meat Chicken Meatballs / Lavender / Dates / Corned Beef / Champ
The above dish came with a side of Mashed potatoes. Really generous servings here – neither of us could finish our meals.
210 Court Street, Brooklyn
Another one of this city’s great little cafes. We came here for the coffee, but the pastries are really nice too. The coffee is roasted at Stumptown Roasters up the road (if you see a place in New York advertising that they sell Stumptown coffee, it means they care and most of the time you’ll be assured a decent cup of coffee) and the milk is local and organic.
Cappuccino and Macchiato to drink. Buttermilk Biscuit (like an English scone, but softer on the inside and crispier on the outside) and Olive Oil Cake.
As an aside, the owners of this place also own a place called Frankie’s Spuntino which is known for it’s seasonal, light, traditional Italian food. I didn’t get to try it out but did grab a copy of the cookbook which looks like the kind of thing that I can use on a daily basis, being full of modern, fresh, simple, healthy, easy to prepare Italian recipes.(http://www.merlinmerchant.com/product_p/manual.htm)
91 South 6th Street, Brooklyn
I didn’t actually know what to expect from this place, which can best be described as Texas BBQ meets South East Asia. Odd yes, but boy does it work. These guys are really obsessed with their technique, and have a smoker out the back which they use to work magic when BBQing their meat. The South East Asian touches – a bit of chilli here, a touch of citrus there, are all used for a reason. For those who don’t want to go across the river to Brooklyn (your loss!) a second outpost has just opened up in the West Village in Manhattan.
Smoked Brisket Sandwich with garlic butter, fresh cheese, salted chili, mustard greens.
The Smoky Johnson – Local grass-fed beef, sheep’s milk cheese, mustard aioli, b&b pickle, bacon.
Mile End Delicatessen
97a Hoyt Street, Brooklyn
This place is described as “A Montreal Jewish Delicatessen In Brooklyn”, and that’s what it is. Traditional Jewish food, spruced up and done to perfection.
A few places sell sodas from the “Virgil” brand. They are really good sodas.
Smoked Meat Sandwich – Cured & smoked beef brisket, rye, mustard.
The Ruth Wilensky – Smoked beef salami, mustard, onion roll. This was a real highlight. It was so tasty.
Caracas Arepa Bar
291 Grand Street.
I’d never tried Venezuelan food before, so decided to try this place I’d heard about. They do a few different things, but the main menu item is the Arepa, which is a kind of cornflour pita which is baked and grilled as to have an ever so slightly crisp outside and a soft, fluffy inside. They are filled with a variety of flavours. It was a really good meal and quite different to what I’d expected.
Tinto de Verano – Sparkling wine based cocktail, similar to Sangria.
De Pabellon Arepa – Shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese and sweet plantains.
Reina Pepiada Arepa – Chunky chicken and avocado mix salad.
261 Moore Street, Brooklyn
Roberta’s is a very interesting place. In some ways it’s two types of venue. You can go there for great beer and pizza, or you can go there for some really innovative food. We went for lunch so the beer and pizza option was what was available. Roberta’s is in a really odd location – it’s literally a shed on a side street in a super industrial part of Brooklyn behind some warehouses/factories. Definitely not a place you can just stumble across but very cool and very popular.
Beer has also been caught up in the trend we noticed in this city, and Brooklyn, and New York (and well the USA in general) is full of great micro-breweries producing a multitude of really great beers of all varieties. For example, this pumpkin ale. Pumpkin is really popular in America – in cakes, lattes and everything else you can think of, there always seems to be a pumpkin option. If you’re the kind of person who likes cinnamon (also hugely popular in the USA), carrot cake etc., then you’ll love the pumpkin based stuff.
Lamb, cucumber and mint sandwich. A tad on the greasy side, but very tasty nonetheless. The lamb was slow cooked to perfection.
Guanciale & Egg Pizza – Tomato, mozzarella, guanciale and egg. Very tasty pizza. Although not at the same level as Keste and Co., still excellent with a really great wood fired base.
657 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn
Chinantla doesn’t have a website, or much to indicate that it exists. You wouldn’t go out of your way to eat here, but if you’re in the area it’s a great option. The hotel that I was staying at wasn’t really close to anything of note, and one night I decided to walk up and down a few blocks to find something to eat for dinner. On Myrtle Avenue, was a small convenience store. I popped inside, with the intention of getting just some fruit if they had some, and noticed some noise coming from the back as well as a small menu. Odd, I thought, as wasn’t this just a convenience store? Turns out it wasn’t.
Walk to the back of the store, where the fridges are and you’ll find a door, walk through that and there is a tiny restaurant. Greeting me was Mexican TV, Mexican music playing, a table with some Mexicans and a rather large collection of empty Corona bottles, and the smells of some amazing food.
Everything at Chinantla is made on the premises, it’s very clearly aimed at locals, and you can get a very decent feed for under $10. Some of the best, most authentic Mexican food I have ever eaten.
Mast Brothers Chocolate
105A North 3rd Street, Brooklyn.
You’ll see the chocolate that these guys make pop up at a few places around New York and for good reason. The guys are obsessed with producing excellent chocolate, and it tastes amazing.
East River Waterfront (between North 6th and 7th Streets)
This has now closed but will be reopening for the summer/autumn next year. Basically a lot of the great food places in Brooklyn set up stalls here for a huge outdoor food market. It was a great way to see a lot of great stuff in one spot, with a view of Manhattan from across the river.
For more great food tips click here to check out my Manhattan Food Guide.