Brooklyn has long been known for good food, sure, but in recent years the culinary options have exploded. Now exceptional food can be had in every corner, and almost literally on every corner, of the borough—which is daunting, right? You plop yourself into some neighborhood you’ve never been to before, because you’re trying to better yourself and go to new places and try new things, but then you’re like, I don’t know what I’m doing. Why did I do this? Why did I come here? Why did I convince myself I could handle this when I don’t even know what to eat now that I’m here? Don’t worry—we’ll protect you from such existential despair.
605 Carlton Avenue
Black Kale Salad with Red Quinoa, Smoked Almonds, Ricotta Salata, and Egg
We know, we know. We’re well aware that we’re recommending a kale and quinoa salad as the must-have dish in a neighborhood that also contains Ample Hills ice cream and the homemade beef jerky at Vanderbilt. But, bear with us, because this salad is the kind of dish worth traveling any distance for. The fresh bitterness of the kale is complemented well by the nuttiness of the quinoa and smoked almonds, and the tangy ricotta salata cuts through the richness of the poached egg to strike a perfect flavor balance. And there’s the added bonus of feeling virtuous for ordering a kale salad, all the while knowing you’re about to indulge in one of the most decadent dishes you’ve ever had.
126 Front Street
It’s customary for those of us who work in Dumbo to complain that there’s a shortage of lunch options, but in truth, if you’re willing to drop around $10, you’ve got plenty to choose from. There’s the hilariously overpriced salad bar at Forager’s, of course, and the vastly underrated sandwiches at the Archway Cafe, to name a few, but our favorite is the Chicken Sandwich at Superfine, one of the neighborhood’s oldest spots. It’s simple and perfect: a soft but substantial roll holds just the right amount of grilled chicken, which is topped with super salty pancetta, massively flavorful aioli and a big handful of refreshing watercress. On the side, you get a heaping pile of the restaurant’s addictive shoestring fries. It’s not a bad way to spend your lunch break—in Dumbo or anywhere else.
7224 Fifth Avenue
Before Brooklyn became a brand, Bay Ridge was one of its top neighborhoods for dining out. It has lost pace since, but it does still have most of the rest of the borough beat for Middle Eastern eateries, which in recent years have proliferated in correlation to the exploding population. Tanoreen became the neighborhood’s flagship restaurant, its Lebanese cuisine attracting visitors from Manhattan and beyond. Fairly so: the food is great, and the falafel sandwich is notable. But if you really want to talk about falafel in Brooklyn, you’ve got to talk about Hazar. Open since 2011, the Turkish spot starts with a hunk of house-baked, mouth-melting pita that’s soft on the inside but crispy on the outside; then it’s stuffed with some of the best falafel balls you’ve ever tasted, the exterior crunchy but the middle creamy, almost melty. It’s filled out with greens, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, and a rich, flavorful hummus, adding up to the best-tasting sandwich we’ve ever eaten. And trust us—we’ve eaten quite a bit of falafel. (Check out Brooklyn Magazine for more great Bay Ridge falafels.) Now, don’t even get us started on the lentil soup...
271 Starr Street
Wherever you are in Bushwick, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll never be more than a stone’s throw away from a place that makes good tacos. It’s one of the neighborhood’s greatest strengths. But if we had to pick one taco that represents the gold standard, it’d be the perfectly proportioned carne enchilada at Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos, the beloved no-frills restaurant attached to a longstanding neighborhood tortilla factory off the Jefferson L stop (and its accompanying cluster of bars). Quick, cheap, and loose with the BYOB policy, this place has rightfully become the go-to neighborhood hub for pre-, post-, or mid-drinking snacks. And, for what it’s worth, there’s something oddly satisfyingabout writing down your order on a 3x5 card and sliding it across the counter. We don’t know why, but it’s true.
379 Columbia Street
Roast Beef, Mozarella and Fried Eggplant
From The Good Fork and Fort Defiance to Red Hook Lobster Pound and Hope & Anchor, Red Hook has gotten its fair share of new dining establishments over the past decade, but if you’re gonna make the trek all the way down there, you have to hit up Defonte’s, a decades-old sandwich shop on the ground level of a two-toned green building. You can’t really go wrong with anything on the menu, but it’s hard to beat a giant sandwich featuring perfectly cooked roast beef, mozzarella cheese made right on the premises, and some very thin slices of fried eggplant, all coated in the meat’s natural juices.
433 DeKalb Avenue
Pork Belly Adobo
Since opening in a former laundromat to great reviews in 2009, this Brooklyn expansion of the Lower East Side’s Kuma Inn has become a popular neighborhood mainstay known for its Filipino specialties. The best of those is the delicious Pork Belly Adobo, which is braised in garlic, vinegar and soy sauce before it’s tossed on the grill.
288 Smith Street
Chocolate Fig Cake
This spot is known for its fancy seasonal menu, including right now a french fry salad (!) that features “roasted hen of the woods mushrooms,” but what you need to try here is the dessert. With what’s surely a nod to its historically Italian neighborhood, known for growing fig trees wherever they would fit, The Grocery’s amazing chocolate cake is made with the dark-fleshed fruit and served with coconut ice cream and passion fruit sorbet.
359 Bedford Avenue
Bringing central Texas barbecue to the Southside, Briskettown is a must-visit for its namesake dish, which we and everyone else agrees is the best you can get in the city. Sure, the sides and sandwiches are great, but the platter of juicy sliced meat is unbeatable. Come early, since the place only stays open till they run out of meat.
4508 Fifth Avenue
Tacos Al Pastor
New York gets a bad rap when it comes to Mexican food, and while we might not be able to compete with the breadth of choices offered in California, we’d pit the tacos al pastor from this Sunset Park spot against anything that LA has to offer. The al pastor is so succulent and juicy, it needs no adornment other than a squeeze of lime and a slice or two of radish for a peppery kick. We could easily inhale three or four in one sitting. And Sunset Park sure is a lot easier to get to than Los Feliz.
251 Smith Street
Every sandwich at Shelsky’s is worth a try, but our favorite is definitely this one, which combines every taste you can possibly imagine: the rich bluefish salad is complemented by the light citrus flavor of oranges, the sweet green taste of fennel, and the spicy kick of sriracha, and it all comes together perfectly with a nutty crunch courtesy of hazelnuts. It sounds like there might be too much going on, but in fact, it’s the perfect balance of ingredients, all in one sandwich.
84 Court Street
Brooklyn Heights is not exactly a hotbed of culinary activity, but if you’re looking for an honest-to-goodness slice of Old Brooklyn, you’ll want to pay a visit to Queen. Opened in 1958, they serve up authentic Italian cuisine in a traditional setting: red sauce, white tablecloths as far as the eye can see. Do yourself a favor, though, and ask for the Chicken Marsala. It’s not on the menu, but they’ll make it for you, and it’ll be the best you’ve ever had.
601 Greenwood Avenue
It’s hard to imagine an improvement on the classic Cuban, but Brooklyn Commune has managed to do just that. Served on a soft but not too sweet brioche roll, the slow-roasted, melt in your mouth pork is the star of this sandwich. Prevented from being too rich by the inclusion of pickled peppers and cilantro aioli, this is the perfect lunchtime meal.
1069 Bedford Avenue
Since opening up in 2010, SCRATCHbread has found a niche both as a neighborhood go-to and a destination bakery with staples like basic loaves and superlative egg sandwiches. The more specialized items like buttercream tarts and in particular, the spicy, perfectly-executed pizza bread, are also well worth the trip, and made all the more potent as seminal neighborhood snacks by their proximity to newly opened watering hole Dynaco.
2017 Emmons Avenue
Lobster Fra Diavolo
Why does one go to Randazzo’s? For the seafood, of course, but also for the justifiably famous red sauce. Deeply flavorful (tomatoes being one of the most umami-rich foods out there) and absolutely addictive, the oregano-flecked sauce is used in all sorts of dishes at Randazzo’s, but what better way to enjoy it than over a whole lobster? Dig in. It’s going to be messy.
60 Greenpoint Avenue
There’s not a lot we can say about Paulie Gee’s that hasn’t already been said, but still, setting up shop in one of Brooklyn’s oldest neighborhoods and establishing yourself as its best local pizza joint is no small feat. There are lots of top-of-the-line dishes here with punny names (“Ricotta Be Kiddin’ Me,” “Brian de Parma,” etc.) but the real standout is the Hellboy, a mostly classic dish that makes unexpectedly perfect use of Mike’s Hot Honey.
195 Dekalb Avenue
Durban Bunny Chow
As a local cornerstone since 1999, there’s a lot to be said for Madiba as a neighborhood staple and representative of Fort Greene’s evolution over the past decade or so. But really, we’ve been too busy thinking about the food. While any one of the traditional South African dishes on the menu will serve you well, top honors go to the Durban Bunny Chow, which turns hollowed-out bread into the perfect vessel for their curry stew, and will erase any unhappy memories of sub-par “bread bowls” that have been foisted on you in the past.
3152 Brighton 6th Street
Best eaten while sitting on the boardwalk, looking out on the Atlantic Ocean with a chilled glass of vodka, Tatiana’s salad Kavkaz is the perfect mixture of fresh vegetables, tangy feta cheese, and slightly funky dried beef. It’s filling but light, and just salty enough that you’ll keep reaching for the bottle of vodka, leaving you just the right amount of sated and inebriated for a long walk on the beach.
369 7th Avenue
As a general rule, we’re always pretty open to classic dishes being somehow turned into breakfast dishes. We’ve also been pretty into the recent resurgence of ramen, and especially the “breakfast” version they serve during brunch at Talde, which includes things like “buttered-toast broth” and honey-glazed bacon. Perfect alongside a spicy house Bloody Mary and a side of Sriracha tater tots.
284 Third Avenue
The Pines is one of those places that changes the menu frequently, depending on the season and on the whims of Chef Angelo Romano. But one constant is the appetizer simply listed as “Bread” on the menu. As tempting as it is to bypass this dish for something more exotic, you’d be missing out on something great. Hunks of filone (an Italian peasant bread) are served hot along with a swipe of carraway butter, making for the perfect beginning to what is guaranteed to be an inventive, exceptional meal.
788 Franklin Avenue
Skate or Die
This neighborhood newcomer has built up quite a following since it opened only a couple months ago, and deservedly so—everything Glady’s has on offer, from the rotisserie chicken to the chicharones is impeccable. But we have to recommend the Skate or Die sandwich as the one dish to get in the neighborhood. Comprised of a perfectly cooked piece of skate (what else?) and slicked with Glady’s addictive po’boy sauce, this sandwich is an amazing Brooklyn twist on New Orleans flavors.