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In Brooklyn, there is a glut of destination restaurants—the type that makes people plan what they’re going to order days in advance, the type that everyone is talking about all the time (until they’re not), the type that allows you the opportunity to spend a week’s paycheck on one meal. And then, there are the places where people actually eat—the type where the food is reliably delicious, where you never need to look at a menu, where you know that you can get a filling and flavorful meal in a casual but vibrant setting. Our favorite example of this kind of neighborhood spot is the Islands in Crown Heights. This tiny two-story, Jamaican restaurant emits the mouth-watering aroma of jerk spices and buttery stewed vegetables all up and down Washington Avenue, drawing people from around the neighborhood to its bustling storefront. You can fill yourself on rice and peas, curry vegetables, and oxtail stew for just about $10 and easily feel as sated as if you had eaten at the trendiest restaurant in Williamsburg. There is nothing wrong with the highest of the high-end restaurants that Brooklyn has to offer, but those destinations won’t ever be more than an occasional place to visit. A spot like the Islands quickly becomes a second kitchen, serving up the kind of food that reminds you of childhood, even if your mother never cooked quite this well.
The Islands, 803 Washington Avenue
The Neighborhood Spot: The Islands