Brooklyn’s Best Hidden Restaurants

05/26/2010 5:00 AM |

Some are behind foggy windows and neon signs, others behind grocery stores or bullet-proof glass. Either you’ve never noticed them, or you walk by every day and don’t have the guts to try them. But we’ve done the dirty work for you, seeking out the best hidden restaurants in Brooklyn. (What do we mean by hidden? Well, let’s just say the alternate title for this feature had the word “ugly” in it.) You won’t find these in Fodor’s or Zagat—they’ll likely require a little bravery, a long subway ride, and patience with the staff, but if you appreciate a meal for what it is and not for the pretty box it comes in, these fine establishments offer food that’s authentic, rich, and best of all, cheap.


In the midst of the Pakistani area of Midwood, Bukhari gets lost in the bustling main thoroughfare lined with sari fabric stores, halal meat delis, and mosques. And it certainly isn’t a looker—the walls are plastered with mirrors, the windows lined with flashing red, blue and green string lights. But the locals frequent the place for some of the best curries and masalas you’ll find outside the homeland. A sure bet is the meat and cauliflower curry ($5), with big chunks of perfectly simmered goat drowned in a not-too-spicy curry and sprinkled with cilantro. It’s perfectly paired with the complementary garbanzo bean salad and bowl of yogurt and dill dressing.

where to find it:

1095 Coney Island Ave

between Ave H and Foster Ave



Bushwick/Bed Stuy

The West African restaurant Abidjan, nestled between Bushwick and Bed Stuy under the JMZ, will likely be empty when you arrive. Its windows haven’t been cleaned in a while, and the lighting inside is orange and harsh. There’s a large TV in the corner and the walls are barren, expect for the one lined with pirated DVDs. But the food is outstanding. The barbequed grey fish with a side of attike (AT-tee-eck-ee)—finely grated, couscous-like cassava—for $13 is a must. Grilled whole, you have to pick out the bones and avoid the blackened head, but it’s worth the effort. The crispy skin is generously garnished with onions and cucumbers, with a few tomato slivers on the side, and paired with a spicy, tomato-based sauce.

where to find it

1136 Broadway

between Kosciuszko and Dekalb Aves


Trinidad Ali’s Roti Shop


Looking more like a hardware store than a restaurant, Ali’s Roti Shop is actually part Trinidad-imports and groceries, but the other part is some of the best, most authentic Trinidadian cuisine in the city. Their most popular item, the chicken roti (think a curry-filled burrito), is brimming with tender meat that slides off the bone, your choice of pumpkin, potato or spinach, and soupy yellow curry, all wrapped in a soft, warm naan-like tortilla. Yes, the cooks work behind a bulletproof glass counter, and the badly painted tropical portraits on the wall are sore on the eyes, but once you try it, you’re guaranteed to be a repeat customer.

where to find it:

1267 Fulton St

between Bedford and 
Nostrand Aves

Cafe Tibet

Ditmas Park

Tucked away behind an Asian grocery store, and overlooking the open-air Cortelyou Q station, Cafe Tibet is difficult to spot from the street. But after you curve your way past the fruits and potted plants of the bodega, you’ll discover an adorable narrow restaurant with prayer flags, Dali Lama altars, and even an outdoor patio. Their specialty is the momo—a hefty dumpling filled with gingery beef, chicken, or cabbage and potato, and their homemade soybean-based hot sauce is amazing. Wash it down with milky Tibetan iced tea, or BYOB.

where to find it:

1510 Cortelyou Road

between E. 15th and E. 16th Sts

New Mexico Place

East Williamsburg

Across from Crown Fried Chicken, this sit-down Mexican restaurant seems just like another greasy impersonator. A Corona ad with two bikini-clad ladies taped on the ceiling greets you as you enter, and the walls are adorned with kitschy Mexican souvenirs—a sombrero, cacti, dried corn hanging from the lamps, and even a cluster of dried garlic hanging over the door like mistletoe. But the tagline “Autentica Comida Mexicana” is, for once, true. You’ll be treated to some to-die-for salsa—light and fresh with tiny bits of jalapeno, onion and cilantro—and a basket of handmade tortilla chips with flakes of sea salt. The burrito comes with a healthy dollop of guacamole (a rarity these days), and the meat is perfectly cooked and flavored. Plus the daily happy hour of two-for-one Rolling Rocks or a $6 large plastic cup of Sangria, is every hour—need we say more?

where to find it:

189 Graham Ave
between Scholes
and Meserole Sts