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Food + Drink

Best of Bococa

By Lisa M. Collins

Cafe PedlarThere are very many things to be thankful for in the Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Gowanus, Red Hook and Dumbo areas, not to mention Brooklyn Heights. We are fat with delightful places to spend time and consume — from exquisite eateries and lovely shops to fabulous places to sit and rest.

This list dates back a bit, and was written by South Brooklyn Post’s various food contributors, locals who wrote and edited for magazines and shared some of their favorites with us. They still ring true.

The list is sort of random, just a few picks of great stuff, in case you are in a slump; compiled by Carroll Gardens writers Erin Behan, a former Carroll Gardens resident and Senior Editor at Zagat, Sandra Nygaard, Fashion & Grooming Editor at Men’s Health Magazine, and South Brooklyn Post Editor Lisa M. Collins.

Best cupcakes: Baked.

The moist, butter-cream-frosted cupcakes at Baked are yet another reason to love Red Hook, since 2005. The sweet and salty (a dark chocolate and caramel concoction) is an old favorite, but a tasting of the citrus passionfruit (cake infused with citrus zest and filled with passion fruit curd) has us reevaluating.

Baked

Red Hook

http://bakednyc.com/

359 Van Brunt Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
(718) 222-0345

Quirky quenchers at Court Street Grocers includes a chocolate soda.

Best chocolate chip cookie: Court Street Grocers.

Go early for the house-baked chocolate chip cookies at what quickly established itself in early 2011 as Carroll Gardens’ favorite sandwich and sundries destination. The cookies here are larger than the heads of small children and cost a mere $2. They also tend to sell out by mid-afternoon. While at Court Street Grocers, check out the wealth of fine and specialty groceries, outrageously good hot sandwiches (the pastrami is a critics’ favorite, as is the turkey, featuring dark and white meat), and selection of breads, treats, baked goods, carbonated beverages and even dairy products that often result in a firm conclusion on the very best that New York City can find or offer.

Court Street Grocers

Carroll Gardens

http://courtstreetgrocers.com/

485 Court Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231

(718) 722-7229

Best delivery pizza: Enoteca on Court

There’s no reason to suffer the indignity of a cardboard crust and flavorless cheese just because you want delivery. The Marco Polo spinoff’s large wood-burning oven turns out crisp pies with just the right amount of char and authentic toppings.  The Pugliese (sausage, broccoli rabe, red onions and mozzarella) and Proscuitto (prosciutto di Parma, arugula, mozzarella and truffle oil) are both divine and deliver well.

Enoteca on Court

http://www.enotecaoncourt.com/

347 Court Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231

Best burger: Prime Meats

Hey, we didn’t say cheapest burger. Yes, it’s $16, and that’s without cheese (add $2) or bacon (add another $2), but you get what you pay for. The half-pound patty of Creekstone certified Black Angus tastes as pure as the best burgers do and comes on a house-made sesame roll with a giant mound of hand-cut skinny fries. Dill pickles, lettuce and tomato and onion augment what is definitely a two-handed meal.

Prime Meats

http://www.frankspm.com/

465 Court Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231

(718) 243-1000

 

Nunu CoffeeBest coffee: Café Pedlar

If there’s one thing the artsy hipster types (rich, poor, poser and old-school-original alike) know, it’s coffee—specifically espresso and its holy union with frothy milk–and this shop is where you’ll find most of Bococa’s hipsterati. The baristas at Café Pedlar do it perfect every time with beans from Stumptown, whether iced or hot, cappuccino or Chemex to-order.

Café Pedlar

http://cafepedlar.com/

210 Court Street

Brooklyn, NY 11201

(718) 855-7129

 

Zaytoon’s lentil soup is so very good.

New York is full of “cheap” places that will drain your wallet quicker than you can say appetizer, entrée and drink. Not so at Zaytoons on Smith Street (with outposts in Fort Greene and Prospect Heights), where most of the pitzas, burgers, and Mediterannean-style sandwiches hover under $8. A bowl of lentil soup, a falafel sandwich and hot mint tea can be had for a ten-spot.

Zaytoons

http://zaytoons.com/Pages/Index.html

283 Smith Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231

(718) 230-3200

 

Best Bloody Mary: Buttermilk Channel

Like any self-respecting restaurant serving brunch, Buttermilk Channel serves up four bloody marys, all with serious kick. The classic, brimming with horseradish and garnished with a house-made pickle more than fits the bill, but the Star of the Sea’s inclusion of celery- and peppercorn-infused vodka and an oyster garnish has hair of the dog written all over it.

Buttermilk Channel

http://www.buttermilkchannelnyc.com/menu/

524 Court Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231

(718) 852-8490

Best pancakes: Café Luluc

You simply haven’t had pancakes until you’ve had the pancakes at Cobble Hill’s Luluc. The plate-sized wonders somehow manage to be both perfectly crispy on the outside and amazingly soft and doughy on the inside. Once you’ve had them, it’ll seem criminal to order anything else before noon. The coffee’s not bad, either.

Café Luluc

http://menupages.com/restaurants/cafe-luluc/

214 Smith Street

Brooklyn, NY 11201

(718) 625-3815

Best burrito: Calexico

There are several things Calexico does particularly well–grits, guacamole, fresh salsas and crack sauce to name a few–but none top the carne asada burrito. Whatever goes into the skirt steak marinade turns the meat into a tender, juicy and downright addictive filling for a burrito stuffed with beans, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, pico de gallo and that delicious avocado salsa.

Calexico

http://www.calexicocart.com/redhook_menu.html

122 Union Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231

(718) 488-8226

Damascus falafel is divine. Try also the Babaganoush and fresh pita.

Best falafel: Damascus Bakery

Best known for homemade pitas sold by the bag, Damascus Bakery fills those same warm pitas with falafel balls for mere dollars. Stuffed to bursting, the falafel sandwich–ask for it with “everything” and enjoy a healthy serving of chopped pickles–should be eaten straightaway and paired with a fresh juice. You’ll have to eat it on the sidewalk, but that’s part of the charm. Also serving the best, if not the cheapest, humus to go, and a vast variety of pitas.

Damascus Bakery

http://www.menupages.com/restaurants/damascus-bakery/

195 Atlantic Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11201

Best sushi: Ki Sushi

For a deal, try Ki Sushi’s lunch–two rolls with soup and salad for $10. For some extra-special sushi, however, order off the regular menu, which is chocked full of outstanding selections, whether you fall for special rolls or prefer a plate of glimmering, a la carte sashimi. Dinner can be a scene at the low-lit, modern space, but the bustling atmosphere adds to the charm.

Ki Sushi

http://www.ki-sushi.com/

122 Smith Street

Brooklyn, NY 11201

(718) 935-0575

 

Nunu. Not just the best chocolates, on Atlantic Avenue.

When it’s cold outside, nothing warms quite like a piping hot mug of hot chocolate. There is plenty of hot chocolate in Brooklyn, but Atlantic Avenue’s Nunu Chocolates serves the best. Made from 65 percent dark chocolate shavings whisked into steamed, foamed milk, the drink tastes more delightfully bitter than sweet.

Nunu Chocolates

http://www.nunuchocolates.com/

529 Atlantic Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11217

(917) 776-7102

Esposito’s photo of hand-stuffed salami by Johannes Kroemer of Carroll Gardens.

Best sandwich: G. Esposito and Sons Pork Store

Here’s how to have the best sandwich of your life: Walk down Court Street between President and Union. Enter past the pig in a chef’s outfit. Politely ask the hard-working counter guys, mainly owners and brothers George and John, or their longtime employee, Santino, for the Italian combo. Specify your pepper preference–sweet or hot. Stand back as Italian meats and cheeses are artfully layered on a fresh hero, finished with olive oil and vinegar, and tightly wrapped for transport. There’s a reason this Carroll Gardens store has been going for three generations, since 1922.

G. Esposito and Sons Pork Store

357 Court Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231

(718) 875-6863

Best in new Jewish fare:  Mile End

Before Mile End, if you wanted Jewish fare, you’d have to leave the neighborhood. This self-described Montreal Jewish delicatessen changed that. The Boerum Hill restaurant serves traditional items (bagel and shmear, beef brisket, Montreal’s famous poutine), but it is its more inventive dinner menu (veal schnitzel with potato salad and a maple mustard vinaigrette, reinvented borscht) that has lines out the door.

(Note from Editor Lisa M. Collins: My nominee for best in new Jewish fare is La Vara, and absolutely transcendent restaurant in the old Cafe on Clinton space on Clinton, near Verandah Place, next to Ted & Honey. La Vara serves Sephardic fare: Spanish Jewish food dating from the Middle Ages, according to media reports. But you’d never know it. The menu is entirely modern.)

Mile End

http://www.mileendbrooklyn.com/

97A Hoyt Street,

Brooklyn, NY 11217

(718) 852-7510

Shelksy serves the best in cured fish and gourmet shmears.

Best in old Jewish fare: Shelsky’s Smoked Fish

When it comes to traditional Jewish delis, it doesn’t get more throwback than the new Shelsky’s in Cobble Hill, with its refrigerated cases of cured and smoked salmon, selection of bagels, bialys, whitefish salad and pickles. There are a few nods to modernity–organic Ashlawn Farm Coffee served–but this shop inspired by Manhattan’s Russ & Daughters sticks close to its roots.

Shelsky’s Smoked Fish

http://shelskys.com/

251 Smith Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231

(718) 855-8817

 

Best place for a date: Vinegar Hill House

The intimate restaurant–hidden away between Dumbo and the Brooklyn Navy Yard–exudes charm. Random décor (organ pedals over the bar), a wood-burning oven churning out hearty, seasonal dishes and some killer cocktails make the inevitable wait well worth it (just have another drink!) There’s something about the place that will have you breathlessly panting for more, both from the menu and your rosy-cheeked dining partner.

Vinegar Hill House

http://vinegarhillhouse.com/

72 Hudson Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11201

(718) 522-1018

 

Best ramen: Zuzu Ramen

Ramen warms your belly from the inside out, and a trek over the Gowanus in brisk weather certainly sets the stage. We recommend the classic Zuzu Ramen–with roast pork, egg, veggies in a complex broth–the steamed buns and pan-seared dumplings aren’t to be missed, either.

ZuZu Ramen

http://www.zuzuramen.com/

173 4th Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11217

(718) 398-9898

 

Best Italian: Frankie’s 457 Brooklyn

Anyone who has ever stuck a fork in the crisp fennel salad, buttery cavatelli or melt-in-your-mouth meatballs at Frankie’s 457 knows exactly why this shiny new, believably old-school Italian restaurant makes our list for best Italian in Brooklyn. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear there was a stout Italian grandma back in the kitchen. It’s somewhat shocking that the restaurant still serves, for the most part, the same menu as it did years ago, but apparently if you find something that works, it’s best to stick with it, as the restaurant is never want for eager and happy diners.

Frankie’s 457

http://www.frankiesspuntino.com/index.html

457 Court Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231

(718) 403-0033

We dearly miss you, Robin des Bois.

RIP::Best patio dining: Robin des Bois (Sherwood Café)

We miss you, Robin des Bois! Oh why did you leave? Robin des Bois closed in 2010, and we are still waiting for a worthy replacement. The back garden resembled that lost magical forest you dreamed of as a kid. Drinks were affordable, and the dining room featured an ever-burning fireplace and enough kitschy French antiques and vintage art and kind of hipster/French waiters to fill a wine-addled head with dreamy contentment. Come back, Robin des Bois.

On a quite disturbing note, a corporate cheesy plastic sign proclaiming “pizza,” is hanging on the facade where Robin des Bois — and before that, a shoe store, Zapatos Todos la Familia, used to be. Oh, the changes.

Robin Des Bois

http://www.sherwoodcafe.com/

195 Smith Street

Brooklyn, NY 11201

(718) 596-1609

Best sidewalk dining: Bar Tabac

Say what you will about the erratic service and the disorganized seating, the sidewalk dining at Bar Tabac has a certain “je ne sais quois” that draws a crowd to brunch, lunch and dinner for eggs Benedict, moules frites and a respectable burger. Whether hung-over hip or perfectly coiffed professional, every neighborhood type clamors for one of those rickety sidewalk seats.

Bar Tabac

http://bartabacny.com/

128 Smith Street

Brooklyn, NY 11201

(718) 923-0918 

Best Thai delivery: Nine-D

Here’s the truth about Thai restaurants in Brooklyn. There are a lot of good ones, and every one of them seems to have an off night, but Carroll Gardens’ 9-D delivers the goods with more consistency than most. Once you get over the charge for rice, there’s a lot to enjoy: a complex and spicy tom kah gai soup, crunchy som tum (green papaya salad), and lemongrass-filled chicken spices, to name a few.

Nine-D

http://menupages.com/restaurants/nine-d/menu

462 Court Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231

(718) 488-8998

Best grilled cheese: 61 Local

The focus at 61 Local is on regional beer–the Cobble Hill spot was opened by former Sixpoint brewing engineer David Liatti–but there’s a respectable bites menu, too. Our favorite is the New Hamster grilled cheese, made with Landaff cheese (a mild, melt-friendly cheese from New Hampshire), Dickinson’s Farmstead ham and the genius edition of spicy pickle relish. It’s pressed to great success on parma country bread.

61 Local

http://www.61local.com/

61 Bergen Street

Brooklyn, NY

(347) 763-6624

Best romantic French breakfast when you can’t afford Paris: Provence en Boite

Cold mornings are especially nice to sneak away for a steaming bowl of coffee, at this French country style patisserie and bistro.  Close your eyes when you taste the authentic pan au chocolate, flaky croissants or savory crepes (we recommend the ham and béchamel cheese) in the Provencal- style surroundings and you’ll feel transported without ever reaching for your passport.

Provence en Boite

263 Smith St.

718-797-0707

www.provenceenboite.com

 

Best Babaghanooj: Waterfalls Café

The Atlantic Avenue won’t win any awards for its atmosphere, but makes up for it with their take on the traditional Middle Eastern dip. Whether it’s a dollop on top of your kebab or falafel, or enjoyed alone as an appetizer with pita bread, their baba balances the right amount of smokiness and tang. Perfect for lunch or anytime you get a craving for a fresh and savory snack.

Waterfalls Café

144 Atlantic Ave

718-488-8886

 

Best Black and White Cookie: Caputo’s Bakery

Don’t waste your time with the shrink-wrapped, mass produced variety that’s been getting dusty by the cash register at your local deli. The black and white cookies at the venerable Caputo Bakery are a soft cake-like wonder covered with a thick layer of vanilla frosting on one half and chocolate on the other. Which is your favorite half of the famous New York treat that somehow manages to be a rare find in South Brooklyn? At just $1.50 for a Frisbee-sized cookie, you can afford to keep tasting until you decide.

Caputo Bakery

329 Court St

718-875-6871

SHOPPING

Dear Fieldbinder offers a hand-picked selection of hot designer wear on Smith.

Best Reason Not to Go Into the City to Shop: Bird

If you have urbane tastes but a locavore’s dread of Manhattan department-store crowds, Bird offers some of the best selection of luxury contemporary designers around. Owner Jennifer Mankins’s expert eye compiles a well-edited collection of 3.1 Phillip Lim, Isabel Marant and Rachel Comey, as well as many chic brands. The shoes and accessories are an excellent alternative to the Barneys Co-Op on Atlantic.

Bird

220 Smith Street

718-797-3776

shopbird.com

 

Nicest Staff in a Chic Store: Article & Article (formerly Dear Fieldbinder)

Just a few blocks down the street from Bird, Dear Fieldbinder flies slightly below the radar with its more affordably priced, eclectic gathering. The warm scent of a Delirium & Co candle welcomes customers upon arrival and the low-key, friendly staff offer their greetings not long after. Owner Lara Fieldbinder’s carefully curated collection of accessibly cool brands (everything from Lauren Moffat to J Brand to the store’s own DF label, along with many names you’ve never heard of before) seem right at home with the relaxed atmosphere.

Dear Fieldbinder

198 Smith Street

718-852-3620

dearfieldbinder.com

 

Best Sneaker Assortment for the Family: Soula

New Yorkers have a preoccupation with footwear because a single downward glance can tell you all you need to know about someone before they open their mouths. In one stop, Soula helps locals maintain their street cred with styles from Adidas Originals to Converse to Paul Smith to Tretorn. Old school kicks in small sizes will keep your tot the coolest kid on the playground.

Soula

185 Smith Street

718-834-8423

soulashoes.com

 

Best Designer Consignment: Eva Gentry

Designer obsessed bargain hunters can lose a good hour or so once they set foot in this Boerum Hill boutique. There’s no such thing as a quick trip when there are so many high-end, lightly worn treasures to sift through, most at least half of the original cost. Take your pick of high-end designers like Alaia, Chloe, Lanvin and countless other runway darlings. Styles may be a season or two old, but many of the looks are timelessly cool. The shoe collection is not to be missed.

Eva Gentry

371 Atlantic Avenue

718- 522-3522

evagentry.com

 

Best Shopping Strip: Atlantic Avenue

Atlantic Avenue might be Brooklyn’s best kept secret. Years ago, it was known as the antique mecca, but now and increasingly in recent years, the avenue is lined to the hilt with boutique, upscale, vintage and unique shops that are increasingly bringing shoppers from Manhattan, set designers, and even tourists. From excellent plant shops — Dig, and GRDN– to designer housewares — Jonathan Adler, Collier West, Go Green Inc. — to gift shops such as Sterling Place (this store is incredible for special and quality gifts, even on a budget of $25 you can find something truly outstanding. It’s a must-visit) and specialty toy shops such as Acorn Toy Shop, Gumbo and Mini Max Toys and Cuts, you are bound to find a unique, utterly-New York gift for everyone in your family. Make it a day-long destination and stop at Bedouin Tent for lunch and Bacchus Bistrot for a coffee break. The delights are endless from Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights to Nevins Street in Boerum Hill.

Best Unique Gift Store on Smith Street: Mongo

The sign on the outside of this shop of creative curiosities explains its contents best: Vintage, Recycled, Art, Fair Trade, Handmade. Inside, that translates into road sign artwork, bicycle chain picture frames, vegetable-dyed leather shoes by CYDWOQ, hand woven rugs, stuffed toys made from recycled sweaters and bohemian apparel from co-owner Julie Diller’s own Ohm label. You’ll leave with a gift as unique as the recipient.

Mongo

246 Smith St

917-671-7696

Best Place to Shop When You Want to Feel Like a Tough Guy: Smith + Butler

This corner shop, mentioned in GQ magazine’s ode to Brooklyn, was inspired by bad-ass biker attitude re-imagined through a hipster lens. It comes chocked with utility clothes from American heritage brands like Woolrich, Pendleton, Barbour and Filson, plus a few younger ones. The unfinished wood and motorcycle-related antiques and memorabilia (including vintage bikes for sale) only add to the rebel vibe.

Smith + Butler

225 Smith Street

718-855-4295

Smithbutler.com

 

Best place to find a unique card: Papel

Sometimes a Hallmark just isn’t going to cut it. For the special people who don’t seem to fit mass market greetings, Papel offers eco-friendly letterpress and vintage-inspired wishes for everything from baby congratulations to divorce condolences. Owner Raegan Hirvela cultivates a pleasant environment that will make shoppers want to linger over photo albums, hand-crafted wrapping paper, invitations and custom stationery from local vendors.

Papel

225 Court Street

718-422-0255

papelnewyork.com

 

Best Special Occasion Card: Sesame Letterpress

Carroll Gardens husband and wife team Breck Hostetter and Matt Heindl bring old-fashioned craftsmanship and charm to the vintage letterpress business they operate from their Dumbo studio. By appointment, the duo will work with you on designing wedding invitations, birth announcements, custom stationary and more. Customers (many repeat) cherish the special, enduring quality of the personalized work long after the occasion passes.

Sesame Letterpress

55 Washington Street, suite 608

www.sesameletterpress.com

 

Best Boutique for Men: Epaulet

Epaulet is one of those rare unisex boutiques where the men’s collection doesn’t play second fiddle to the women’s. If anything the strength of the men’s selection dominates the small space. Owners Mike Kuhle and Adele Berne produce their own sharp-as-a-crease, in-house lines of small batch, American-made shirting, denim and trousers, leather shoes and belts for men. Actively embracing and engaging in the American artisan aesthetic, it’s not hard to see why they were last year voted Best Men’s Store by shopping site RackedNY.com

Epaulet

231 Smith Street

718-522-3800

www.epauletshop.com

 

Best Pet Supply Store: Love Thy Pet

Don’t let his imposing exterior fool you: owner Chris Smith has the heart of a large teddy bear when it comes to cats and dogs. His family-run shop boasts some of the best pet food brands, treats and toys for his furry clients, including his own brand of natural dog biscuits. But more than just products, Smith offers friendly advice, and hosts adoption events as well as a Halloween party for pets. He’s even been known to don a white beard   at his shop’s free annual Photos With Santa event.

164 Union Street

718-596-2399

lovethypetbklyn.com

FUN

 

Best Decadent Adult Treat for Two (Tied): Fondue at Jakewalk  and Scorpion Bowl at Zombie Hut

If you’re a fan of epicurean experiences that require an open flame, two excellent selections are located in stumbling distance away from each other on Smith Street. Start your night out by ordering a fondue for two at The Jakewalk. Dip into a bubbling pot of cave-aged swiss and five-year-old cheddar with salami, apples and bread. Then, clutch your sides as you head over a block to the tiki-themed Zombie Hut for a flaming Scorpion Bowl.

After working your way through the rum-based tropical drink, sit back and play one of the bar’s many board games–if you can still see straight. The Zombie Hut is truly a hidden gem along Smith Street–it’s backyard Tiki garden, open to the sky, surrounded by twinkling lights and ringed by the lovely backs of neighboring brownstones, is a great place to sit back and get re-aquainted with your significant other — or a group of friends. Big and small tables are available.

The Jakewalk

282 Smith St.

347-599-0294

thejakewalk.com

 

Zombie Hut

273 Smith St

(718) 875-3433

 

Best Alternative to Carroll Park Playground (Mother Cabrini Playground or DiMattina Playground)

There’s a lot to love about both of Carroll Park’s playgrounds. The dizzying crowd (especially on weekends) is not one of them. If you or your little one is feeling overwhelmed by waiting for the swings to free up or staking a spot among the stroller parking, head West. DiMattina Playground, located at Rapelye near Hicks features really fun nautical-themed play equipment for toddlers and slightly older children, sprinklers in the summer, swings and bathroom facilities. Or, stroll past the highway and enjoy the calm of Mother Cabrini Playground, the Columbia Street district’s best kept playground secret. There are no bathrooms but plenty of shade from the summer sun, not to mention a sprinkler. Benches and a chess table make it an easy and popular spot for birthday parties.

DiMattina Playground

Rapelye St., Hicks St., Coles St.

Mother Cabrini Playground

President Street between Van Brunt and Columbia

nycgovparks.org

 

 

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Readers' Comments


Tessa
December 13, 2012
10:20 AM

Hi There!
Great list!
Can’t help but point out a shop that would fit nicely into this write up:
Brooklyn Collective
212 Columbia street between Union & Sackett

This is a shop that showcases local artists & designers with a collection of work by over 45 different artisans! Great way to support local people & find very beautiful & unique gifts.
http://www.brooklyncollective.com

check it out! seriously, it’s wonderful!