We kind of have a love/hate relationship with Dine In Brooklyn, this year's installment of which kicks off today. At its best, it’s an opportunity to eat out at some of the borough’s top restaurants for a fraction of the price ($20.13 for three courses at lunch, $28 for dinner). At its worst, however, you can actually see and taste the chef’s contempt for the entire proceedings — and by association, for you, the presumably cheapskate diner — on a plate. We still haven’t forgiven Blue Ribbon for our meal of steamed asparagus with bloodless winter tomatoes, cafeteria line catfish with mashed potatoes, and yawn-inducing scoop of vanilla ice cream. Really, Blue Ribbon? Really?
That’s why we’re helping you weed through the list of over 200 participants, to determine which restaurants actually offer real bang for your buck. But you better make those reservations soon.
For all the talk about Talde (much of which we’ve contributed), it’s easy to forget that there’s another Top Chef in town. So take a moment during Dine In Brooklyn to reconnect with New Zealand native Mark Simmons (who also competed, along with Talde, during Season 4 in Chicago). The offerings at his genial Union Street eatery are truly unique — at least around these parts. We’re talking about delectable Kiwi-inflected fare like venison and abolone mushroom pie with tomato jam, manuka and marmite braised baby back ribs with squash puree, and raspberry lamingtons…tender sponge cake coated with coconut and filled with raspberries and fresh cream. 847 Union St, (718) 230-3682
Andres Rodas, the chef/owner of Fragole in Carroll Gardens and Piccoli in Park Slope, has an elegant new Italian spot, right outside of the Clinton/Washington Ave subway station in Clinton Hill. Rodas has retained the homemade breads and pastas (pappardelle with honey-braised short rib ragu, squid ink spaghetti with blue crab and Calabrian chili), and meal-worthy salads (shaved Brussels sprouts with roasted marcona almonds, mozzarella with wild mushrooms and roasted butternut squash), that he popularized at his other of places, many of which will be on offer during Dine In Brooklyn. 860 Fulton St, (347) 799-1230
The Saint Austere
This Grand Street spot tries not to take itself to seriously (although, who are we kidding, this is Williamsburg after all.) Still, it’s a great place to relax with a glass of impossibly hip orange wine, paired with plenty of cut-above bar bites. Especially when they’re selling for reduced price, Dine In Brooklyn rates. Try a plate of pork belly croquetas with chicken liver dipping sauce, a tumble of grilled octopus tentacles with capers and fingerling potatoes, or larger feeds like roasted organic chicken, with pearl onions, shitake mushrooms and giblet gravy. 613 Grand St, (718) 388-0012
One of the many Red Hook restaurants to take a beating during Sandy, this seafaring eatery is finally back on its feet. And if you show your support during Dine In Brooklyn, you’ll be rewarded with a menu featuring many of their greatest hits. Chef/owner Kevin Moore often goes fishing and clamming himself for the shellfish in his dishes, like shrimp corn chowder, pan-seared rainbow trout, and Basque-style paella with littlenecks, mussels and chorizo.277A Van Brunt St, (718) 596-8335
This Middle Eastern eatery was the first to draw discerning diners out to Bay Ridge, so you better believe the tables will fill up fast during Dine In Brooklyn. Hurry and make a rezzie if you want a shot at chef/owner Rawia Bishara’s home-style dishes, like baked Mediterranean eggplant, whole fried porgy, lamb kibbie, and pomegranate molasses-drizzled cauliflower salad.7523 3rd Ave, (718) 748-5600
With Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill’s constant adulation as the premier foodie nabe, we’re not quite sure why this Court Street spot continually slips under the radar. They happen to make one of our favorite burgers (lamb, with feta, sundried tomato ketchup, and rosemary fries), and are experts at anything seafood. Try the oyster sandwich with cabbage apple slaw or the trio of mini lobster tacos. We’d usually consider obscuring the luxurious seafood in crispy corn shells as utter sacrilege, but somehow, they really make it work.270 Court St, (718) 855-2105
- Photo by Samantha Suthcliffe
Farm on Adderley
The crown jewel of Ditmas Park when it comes to fine dining, it’s a worthy spot to spend your bucks during Dine in Brooklyn. They’re only offering lunch, but it’s bound to be tasty — think kale salad with celery root, French Dip sandwiches with housemade roast beef, and farm burgers on freshly made English muffins and hand cut French fries. And, now that the weather’s just beginning to warm, you just might be able to snag a table in the sunny garden out back. 1108 Cortelyou Rd, (718) 287-3101
Not to take anything from Lokal, but Greenpoint joints are notably absent from Dine In Brooklyn this year. So show your thanks to the lively Mediterranean spot (which has also been on the front lines of the ballyhooed “War on Brunch,”) for participating, by packing their front tables for a cut-priced feast of brioche french toast, pinto bean and mushroom burgers, and spinach and egg white omelets. 905 Lorimer St, (718) 384-6777
Water Street Restaurant and Lounge
Poor, poor DUMBO. Even before Sandy, the eating options were few and far between, with a decreasing number of businesses able to sustain the rising rent prices (longtime tenant, Jacques Torres, will be transferring his chocolates to a Sunset Park facility before long). Thankfully, L mag staffers in search of an elegant meal during Dine In Brooklyn can still hit up the Water Street Restaurant and Lounge, which will be offering dishes like spiced salmon tartare on wonton ribbons, Pat la Frieda burgers on pretzel buns, and crisp duck steak with wilted arugula and duck confit egg rolls.66 Water St, (718) 625-9352
Both southern-fried Bed Stuy spots, Peaches Kitchen and Bar and Peaches Hothouse, will be offering two-for-one dinners during Dine in Brooklyn. That’s considerably cheaper than eating at home — especially if your regular spread includes baked grits with short rib, Low Country shrimp boil with andouille, and pan roasted salmon with butter beans and collards, and not peanut butter sandwiches, Top Ramen, and Hamburger Helper. 393 Lewis Ave, (718) 942-4162