As the great Manhattan rent squeeze continues, Brooklyn’s dining scene is getting more and more interesting. Years ago, you would never hear of notable places opening in neighborhoods like Prospect Heights, Bed-Stuy, Stuyvesant Heights. or any neighborhood with Stuy in it. Brooklyn is getting the same media coverage as Manhattan these days. Couple that with the ethnic food wonderland in the less gentrified areas of Brooklyn. Here are five very diverse spots I’ve been enjoying lately. A small sample showcasing what Brooklyn is all about these days.
Hometown BBQ – If I have to pick one destination in Brooklyn, or a reason to leave Manhattan, Hometown is it. I wasnt sold at first, but boy oh boy I am now. This is pure, legendary, finger licking stuff. The brisket is perhaps their pride and joy, but the spare ribs are second to none. The Italian sausage with smoked provolone and peppers is awesome. And while other BBQ joints treat chicken like second class citizens, here they marinade it with Oaxacan spices for two days, grill it over wood, and dress it with salsa verde. The result is a juicy triumph.
Claro – The Gowanus area is not exactly the first neighborhood I think about when it comes to food in Brooklyn, but as I said above, things are changing all over. Claro is where you go for authentic Oaxacan flavors. Its small, almost always fully booked, but we manage to get seats at the bar even in the busiest times. The menu is loaded with essentially enlarged taco-like stuff on dough (pretty sure “stuff on dough” is a foodie term). Like the toasty Tostada-like Memelas which come either loaded with juicy pork rib or wild mushrooms. And then you have the sensational Mole Negro, where you’ll be pulling that shortrib in subsequent dreams.
Kashkar Cafe – Although the city of “Kashgar” is technically in China, it makes more sense for “Kashkar” to be in Russian Brighton Beach instead of a Chinatown. I’ve written plenty about this Uyghur/Uzbek before, and I dont include places so out of the way on the Z-List unless I have a very good reason. Off the beaten path takes on a new meaning here, but I do hear more and more people speaking English inside, as its becoming more popular. Try the Geiro Lagman (hand pulled noodles), Juvova dumplings, any of the kebabs, and Langsai salad along with their bread and you’ll see why its worth the schlep.
Tacos Matamoros – If you think this pick makes this list look suddenly super random, you are correct. Thats sort of the point. And even though, there’s a Mexican place already mentioned on the list, they couldnt be more different. In fact this what really highlights what Brooklyn is all about, and the difference today between the gentrified halves of the borough. A meal here will cost you about 1/5 of the bill at Claro. Although on my Brooklyn tour we concentrate on the Chinatown portion of Sunset Park, I’ve been spending some time at Matamoros as of late. And while the tacos are good and cheap, I prefer just about everything else here, especially the Tamales, and egg dishes (Huevos Rancheros, Huevos con Chorizo)
Werkstatt – I’ve written plenty about this eclectic gem in… ok, I still dont know what neighborhood they are in.. Ditmas Park, Flatbush, Prospect Park South, NoDi (North of Ditmas Park which I totally just made up). It doesnt matter. It looks, feels and acts like a neighborhood gem, making a lot of area customers happy. Its technically Austrian/German. And while you cant go wrong with the fine pretzel, schnitzels, and goulash, there’s really no cuisine the owner/chef cant do. Thai, Italian, Thai Italian. I just look at the specials board and pick whatever sounds good. On a recent visit I had a perfectly cooked Skate with brown butter and capers.
Other random gems: FOB Filipino, Lilia, Nargis Cafe, Popina, Olmsted, Sofreh, Ugly Baby, Hummus Market, Traif, Fei Long Supermarket food court