I’d like to think that Pok Pok is opening a Brooklyn branch (at 127 Columbia Street, in walking distance from my apartment) because I wished really hard for it. So, as I impatiently await the opening of the restaurant I willed into being, I’m making a list of 10 more restaurants – with original locations across America -- that could be wildly successful if they opened new branches here in Brooklyn. Feel free to your favorite far-away restaurants in the comments, and let’s hope that the Power of the Internet makes all our wishes come true.
Ad Hoc Yountville, California
Napa Valley’s Ad Hoc offers the Thomas Keller experience at bargain prices. At Per Se, the cheapest meal you can order costs $185 for 5 courses, but at Ad Hoc, the 4-course family-style menu costs $48 per person. The 4 courses change every day (you have to sign up for a daily email to find out what’s for dinner), but you’re always guaranteed casual fare made at French Laundry standards. It’s the kind of place where you can have the best fried chicken of your life beside the freshest salad you’ve ever tasted. Sure, we’ve got plenty of locavore joints here in Brooklyn, but we don’t have anything quite like this.
Hot Suppa Portland, Maine
Hot Suppa in Portland, Maine is known for their simple, wholesome breakfast fare – which they start serving around 7am every day. Besides buttermilk waffles with Maine maple syrup, corned beef hash and breakfast burritos, they’ve got this amazing seven-grain organic porridge – a steamy and creamy blend of wheat, oats, corn, rice, rye, millet and barley served with brown sugar, milk and fruit. It would make a great heart-healthy alternative to the breakfast sandwiches of Brooklyn, but at the moment, you just can’t get a bowl of porridge in this town.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Columbus, Ohio
Sure, we’ve got plenty of gourmet frozen treats here in Brooklyn, but that doesn’t rule out our need for Ohio-based mini chain, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. I’ve sampled mail-ordered pints of their hand-made flavors like Whiskey & Pecans (made with booze from the small-batch Middle West Spirits distillery) and Salted Caramel (which is so ridiculously rich you can only savor a spoonful or two at a time), and it’s the creamiest ice cream around.
Faidley’s Baltimore, Maryland
Brooklyn is home to a couple of lobster roll joints and the great clam shack, Littleneck, but not every shellfish has been represented yet. Wouldn’t it be nice to have Baltimore’s Faidley’s pushing their softball-sized crabcakes right in our backyard? The original location is tucked into Lexington Market, which you might recognize as the maze of fried chicken from the episode of the Wire where McNulty sends his kids to trail Stringer Bell. It might not be the same, eating crabcakes in the safety of brownstone Brooklyn, but I wouldn't complain.
Photo by Jennifer Yin
I've been wishing for Austin-style breakfast tacos for years, and now Jeff Bailey, a member of the band Phosphorescent, is serving them at his new coffee bar, Whirlybird. The deluxe breakfast taco there is called the Waldorf, named after the head of Phosphorescent's record label, Phil Waldorf. Phil argues that there's still room for Austin's classic breakfast taco and migas joint, Tamale House, here in Brooklyn: "My favorite breakfast tacos (at 85 cents a pop). And the vibe is pretty hilarious too, as there's a sort of Soup Nazi feeling about it (don't ask for substitutions, or really any questions at all, and you better know what you want at the front of the line). Tamale House would really stand out in NY as something special and unique."
Photo by Paul Joseph
Papalote San Francisco, California Whenever I’m in San Francisco, I spend a lot of time wondering why the burritos are so much better on the West Coast. It doesn’t seem like rocket science to import burrito-making technology to Brooklyn, and yet, tacos and burritos just aren’t the same here. Why can’t somebody open a Papalote (http://www.papalote-sf.com/) in my neighborhood? A friend once told me that when she eats their salsa, she just wants to rub it all over her face. This is the only way to describe it. It is that good.
Photo by Victor Escobedo
Melt Cleveland, Ohio
The grilled cheese sandwiches at Cleveland’s Melt don’t even make sense. When I visited, I ate a belly-buster that was piled with pimento cheese, collards, fried chicken and cornbread. There was bread on the outside, but then there was cornbread in the sandwich. It ruled. The current sandwich-of-the-month at Melt, the "Hungry Hungarian Paprikash," involves pulled roasted chicken, huge homemade dumplings, creamy paprikash sauce, and Provolone cheese. There’s also a vegetarian version available. What! Also, they have a crazy beer selection, and it’s kind of a sports bar. We need this in our lives.
Kuma’s Corner Chicago, Illinois
You’ve got to get in a touristy line to snag a table at Chicago’s no-reservations heavy metal burger joint, Kuma’s Corner, but it’s worth the wait. The juicy 10-ounce patties are served on pretzel rolls with an array of fixings that the Brooklyn burger scene has yet to offer. For instance, the Slayer is a "pile of fries topped with a 10 oz. burger, chili, cherry peppers, Andouille, onions, Jack cheese and anger. " I sampled the kinder and gentler Lair of the Minotaur, with caramelized onions, pancetta, Brie and bourbon-soaked pears. Round things out with their house-made potato chips and a pint from the well-curated draft list, and you may find yourself pricing out apartments in Chicago.
Photo by Robyn Lee
Tartine SanFrancisco, California
Sure Brooklyn has plenty of bakeries, but there is no bakery in the land quite like Tartine. No trip to San Francisco would be complete without one of Tartine’s dreamily light gougères or the simple pleasure of Humboldt Fog goat cheese spread on their hot-pressed, crusty walnut bread. Their heavenly lemon meringue cake, layered with caramel and lemon cream and topped with toasted peaks of meringue is a taste of heaven. A Brooklyn branch of Tartine would save me so much money on cross-country airfare that I could justify eating there several times a week.
Photo by Chad Robertson
Grit Athens, Georgia
For goodness sakes, why do I have to go all the way to Athens, Georgia for Golden Bowl? It’s just fried tofu over rice, but at the Grit, it’s a magically delicious, stick-to-your-ribs treat. At this vegetarian home cookin’ spot (which is owned in part by Michael Stipe), there are so many hugs and high fives getting passed around that it’s impossible to figure out who is working there and who is just hanging out. Thus, service can be real slow, but there’s always a chance that your server is involved in some only-in-Athens musical outfit, like Bit Brigade, < a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnQ7bDGhOLI">the band that plays the Mega Man 2 soundtrack live and in sync with a person who is playing the game. In order to duplicate the Athens vibes (which are the main draw here), the Brooklyn branch would need a boarding house upstairs where its employees could live, as sort of a Athens-to-New York exchange program. This would be impossible, of course. But then, just a few months ago, a Pok Pok in walking distance seemed like a pipedream, too.