Although Brooklyn is - and has been - as hot as can be for the last decade, there's still so much that remains unexplored and off the beaten path. Every Brooklynite has their spots that they cherish and that have yet to blow up, but lives in fear that two years from now the crowd might be exponentially bigger. With that, here are some of my regular haunts in Brooklyn near where I live and work that are calm, authentic, and super-enjoyable.
Lucky Eight Restaurant: They have such a huge menu, but I’m all about the BBQ suckling pig and roast duck over rice—it’s so simple and perfectly executed, what I crave all the time.
Pacificana: This is dim sum at it’s authentic best, a place that's not overrun and cranking out delicious dishes at warp speed.
You’ve got to get their jellyfish and pork belly salad; the jellyfish is cut like fettuccine, and on the bottom, there’s crispy BBQ pork belly, which is texturally one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I also love the pork buns and roast chicken feet. Unlike some dim sum places where things sit out for a while and get dry, here at Pacificana everything’s always super-fresh.
And it’s cheap, too. A big plate will set you back just $4, and many plates hover right around $2. Even when I go while when I'm nice and hungover to eat a ton of food and drink a lot, I've never spent more than $20 on myself. Try to head there a little later - around 12:30pm - to avoid some of the crowds in the morning.
Speedy Romeo: I’ve been going here a lot recently to get in on their approachable, casual food done well—something that's kind of hard to find in Brooklyn now. A lot of people are trying to do high-end cuisine with smaller portions and higher prices, but here it’s barebones and rustic with quality ingredients - everything with very classic flavors.
Make sure to grab one of their pizzas - I'm particularly fond of the St. Louie, with three different kinds of salumi. But they also have an all white pie with farm egg and fresh basil on it, a dish that is just damn good. Then there’s braised and wood-fired octopus that comes with a seasonal garnish, along with a mean wood-fired chicken. And if you’re lucky enough to head on a Tuesday, don’t miss their wings and ribs special. A lot to choose from at this spot.
Reyes Deli & Grocery: I always give a shout to my favorite deli, Reyes, on 15th St. and 4th Ave. It’s just a little bodega, but they make everything from scratch and it’s awesome, starting with their tacos on homemade tortillas that are perfectly done and just so soft. You can also get a giant torta stuffed with carne asada, queso fresco, avocado, poblano peppers, and tomato for just around $4.50. Craziness.
It’s family run, just a dude and his brother and his wife and little kids running around. They’re constantly making food because people in the area know about it, and I would stop there at least once a week when I was living in Gowanus.
Pauline & Sharon's: Right off the Prospect R train stop, right across the BQE overpass bridge at 17th St, this pizzeria is pretty phenomenal. Run by a man who was a sous at a couple upscale restaurants, this place has a crust that's truly excellent - papery and really thin with a nice crunch.
One of his pies has brie and jam on it, and he makes all his own meatballs to top all the pies. I always make sure to get the fried oysters with cilantro aioli, which is a plate of fried oysters meant for oyster lovers - they're meaty, juicy, and just crazy flavorful. Don't miss the pulled pork sandwiches or the daily specials, either.
Wangs: This recently-opened Korean fried chicken spot in Park Slope only does takeout and delivery. They're sourcing good chicken, it isn't over-fried, and it's just damn good.
You get your choice of a half or whole fried chicken or the wings, and then you add on the fun sides like their housemade kimchi. It isn't the super funky and stinky version, but it still has that good spice and flavor. They brine the chicken beautifully, and the wings are just lightly coated before being tossed in house hot sauce, cilantro, and shaved birdseye chili.
Jubilat Provisions: As someone from a Russian Orthodox family, I'm always craving those Russian and Polish meats and salads, and this is the place that gives me my fix.
They specialize in smoked meat, so I come here and get the salumi, house smoked bacon, liverwurst, bratwurst, and headcheese, along with some pickled fish and eggs that are made in house. Don’t miss their double-smoked sausage, a kielbasa that's almost totally black on the outside to the point that it looks like a cigar. You can serve it cold, and it'll still have that snap to the skin because it’s been so dried out, while the center stays really moist. Such a nice chew.
The Double Windsor: This was one of the first bars I hit when I moved here, right after they opened up. At the Double Windsor, beer is treated like wine, with a rotating beer list that includes awesome staples and then some exciting brews that make brief appearances. They'll feature whole brewery lineups sometimes, meaning you can get to know an entire brand and area in just one evening. They've also got a nice, small bar menu with really good burgers and wings. Everything is sourced properly, the food is served till midnight, and they'll often feature some nice live, bluegrass to make for an extra-entertaining evening.
Mission Dolores: This bar is right near The Pines, where my brother John cooks. It’s a giant open space, but the best spots are on the outdoor patio when the weather is cooperating. Grab a place here and then check out a really nice craft beer selection, one that gets better when they have custom-brewed beers on tap. Different breweries will make them a couple kegs of a special brew that they'll serve for a couple of months, so you're sure to find something inventive and new.
Owl Farm: A huge, fun bar with arcade games in the back, a place that's so entertaining that people will stand on the sidewalk and people-watch from time to time. Every once in a while they'll do a guest brewery series with a special, expanded beer list, a great opportunity to taste some funky, flavorful stuff.
And of course - as a shameless plug - you've got to stop by my place Vinegar Hill House, in Vinegar Hill, if you get the chance.
Photo Credits: Flickr / Michael Vito, ExploreBK, NYCGo, NYTimes, Pauline and Sharon's, SeriousEatsNY, The Drink Nation