Sometimes it can be fun to be a wide-eyed, unapologetic tourist, hanging off the side of a double decker bus while excitedly aiming your iPhone camera at towering city landmarks and the teeming masses below. We’ve even been known to behave this way as an ironic, cash-poor New Yorker, determined to make the most of our forced staycation by finally walking the Brooklyn Bridge, or visiting that Statue of Liberty we’ve heard so much about. But while we occasionally endorse adopting the kitschy itinerary of a visiting tourist, we would never, NEVER, condone eating like one. Not when our particular borough has so many exciting and exotic dining options to choose from. So leave Dallas BBQ and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for those clueless Manhattan visitors, and follow up your day of sightseeing with Brooklyn’s more unique, off the beaten path eats.
Botanic Gardens/Brooklyn Museum: The Islands
When we’ve heard suggestions for where to eat around the Brooklyn Museum/Botanic Gardens area (besides at the attached café’s — gag), they tend to center around places like Franny’s, which to us, is just silly. Don’t get us wrong, Franny’s itself is a totally solid (if not exactly venturesome) restaurant. But making the Frogger-like trek across various perilous intersections of Grand Army Plaza is something we rarely attempt ourselves, let alone something we’d blithely recommend to a crew of hapless tourists. Especially when the tiny and charming Caribbean spot, The Islands, is an easy three-minute walk from the Museum, and a straight shot down Washington Avenue from the Gardens. Feasting on jerk chicken, Calypso shrimp, curry vegetables and plantains will feel like a vacation within a vacation, and besides, you’ll be able to funnel all of the money you’ve undoubtedly saved on Franny’s towards various tchotchkes from the museum/garden gift shops.
803 Washington Ave., (718) 398-3575
Prospect Park: The Double Windsor
Yes, there are a wealth of yuppity Slope restaurants that would seem to fit the dinner bill after a long, sunny afternoon at Prospect Park. But honestly, most of the places we’d steer you towards are on Fifth Avenue, which all said, amounts to a pretty decent hike. That’s why we’re focusing on the Southwest corner of the park (essentially, Windsor Terrace), and its brilliant nearby neighbor, the beer and burger haven, The Double Windsor. Choose from over 14 tap brews, like Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break, and 10 esoteric bottles, like the 25oz. Beachwood BBQ Full Malted Jacket, accompanied by a medium rare Creekstone Farms patty on an Amy’s Bread bun — a reliable fixture on many of our “best of” listicles.
210 Prospect Park W., (347) 725-3479
The Brooklyn Academy of Music: Berlyn
There are so many corporate grotesqueries to be found around this area, so we beg you not to succumb to the questionable allure of Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar. Because, c’mon, the regional German restaurant, Berlyn, is right across the street. It may not have maintained the buzz of its Teutonic predecessor, Thomas Beisl, but in our mind, Duck Confit with lingonberry gastric, Wiener Schnitzel with potato salad, and Vegetable Strudel with poached eggs and goat cheese trumps Cheeseburger “Slammers” and Grilled Chicken “Buffalito’s” any day of the week.
25 Lafayette Ave., (718) 222-5800
Coney Island: Gargiulo’s
We have no problem at all with recommending the original Nathan’s Famous to tourists. In fact, we think it’s one of the very few guide book-approved destinations that actually live up to the hype. But if you’re looking for a white tablecloth alternative to griddled hot dogs and deep fried frog’s legs (does anyone ever actually order those?) get thee straight to the 100-year-old Gargiulo’s. Patrons of this seriously old guard Italian eatery know exactly how they want things…sauce=tomato, vegetables=fried, price point=low, portions=huge. And no counting calories here. Recipes for dishes like the pancetta and cream-laced Penne Pasqualina haven’t changed one iota over the years, in order to accommodate our health and diet-obsessed generation.
2911 W 15th St., (718) 266-4891
The Barclays Center: Kulushkät
Please lord, if you’ve already splurged on tickets for Beyoncé’s The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, don’t waste the rest of your hard earned money on obscenely costly food from the Barclays Center. Especially since many local restaurants rely on their proximity to the flashy new arena. Of course, eateries from as far away as Clinton Hill currently tout themselves as ideal pre-show options, so we’re narrowing our focus to spots that are actually within five minutes walking distance. And the gourmet falafel shop, Kulushkät, is about as tasty and healthy as fast food gets, with dishes like Chicken Shawarma, Eggplant a la Yafa, Israeli Salad and four kinds of falafel (go for the Gilly, with spinach and mushroom), all clocking in at around $6. Which is important, because you know you’re going to end up ordering at least one dearly priced beverage (ahem, water is $4.50), while shaking your jelly along with Beyoncé.
446 Dean St., (347) 799-1972
Brooklyn Bridge: Wild Rise
For every tourist that diligently treks their way across the Brooklyn Bridge, there’s an equal number obediently lining up for pizza at Grimaldi’s. Or is that Juliana’s? Either way, cuing for coal-fired pies at either of these places is akin to strapping on a fanny pack and unfolding your oversized subway map in the middle of Times Square. So if you must have pizza in the DUMBO/Brooklyn Heights vicinity, we’re sending you to Wild Rise. Situated on a quiet corner of Jay and Water Streets, this comparatively under-the-radar eatery specializes in authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas, made with wild Italian yeast, house-ground flour, hydroponically-grown basil, and salt mined from untouched primordial seabeds. How fricking Brooklyn is that?
68 Jay St., 718-260-8207