Ever tried the Bake and Shark at Trini-Gul in Crown Heights? It’s just one of the culinary delights of Brooklyn. Image from flickr.com.
For many travelers visiting New York City, the closest they come to Brooklyn is a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, perhaps punctuated by a misguided trip to Grimaldi’s Pizzeria on the other side, waiting hours to eat un-inspired pizza with other tourists.
But diving deeper into Brooklyn can be incredibly rewarding, for the cultural connoisseur and epicure alike. And after a day at the Brooklyn Museum’s Feminist Art wing, the transcendent Cherry Blossom Festival at the Botanic Garden, or a Hip-Hopera at BAM, you’ll get hungry. Luckily, Brooklyn is just the place for some amazing eats. Here are five places you shouldn’t miss on your next trip to Kings County:
1. Do or Dine
1108 Bedford Avenue , Brooklyn, NY 11216
When the menu states something is “locally sourced” at Justin Warner’s haute-cuisine-meets-frat-party-fare restaurant, it could mean that the snapper in their wildly popular dish A Fish and Some Chips ($25) was caught off of Long Island. Or that their one and only dessert—a Snickers ice cream bar ($3) cut in quarters and served with the wrapper still on—was purchased at the bodega next door. Either way, nothing is as simple as it seems at Do or Dine.
Start with a selection of small plates for the table that could include Pond Wings ($8), two deep-fried tender frog legs in an unaccountably tasty Sriracha and Dr. Pepper glaze; a pile of shishito peppers ($8) plated with “lines” of yuzu, hickory, wasabi, and green tea salts to dredge the peppers through; or the Foie Gras Doughnut ($11), a perverted combination of local cult favorite doughnuts from bakery Dough stuffed with a chunk of buttery, fatty foie gras and Smucker’s grape jelly.
Next dive into the large dishes. A Chicken and Woffals ($20) is an entire Cornish hen roasted then fried then roasted again and served atop fluffy waffles with bits of seared chicken liver in the batter and a pineapple jerk syrup drizzled on top. Give that, or the aforementioned A Fish and Some Chips a whirl, and you won’t be sorry you took the dare.
2. Paulie Gee’s60 Greenpoint Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11222
If a graying man with coke bottle glasses and a thick Brooklyn accent interrupts your meal at this busy Greenpoint firehouse-cum-pizza-joint, don’t worry. It’s just Paulie Gee himself stopping by to ensure you’re loving every bite of your wood-fired pizza.
A real local joint, Paulie Gee’s doesn’t take reservations. Yet the 45-minute wait doesn’t deter loyal regulars, who ease their hunger pangs waiting at the waterfront park a block away. There’s good reason to keep coming back: the pizzas ($14-$19 each) have a crust that is thin and chewy, slightly yeasty and charred in places, with fresh toppings in delightful combinations.
We love the Hellboy, with its creamy fresh mozzarella and spicy Berkshire Sopressata doused in Mike’s Hot Honey; the Whiter Shade of Kale, which combines Fior di Latte with marinated kale from local rooftop farms; and the Cherry Jones, an unlikely combination of gorgonzola, prosciutto di Parma, and dried cherries.
Tucked next to the Williamsburg bridge, Pies-n-Thighs redeems hipster eating the second you take a bite of your first Chicken Biscuit ($6.50), a crispy chicken cutlet on a lofty buttermilk biscuit slathered in hot sauce and honey butter. It is a near-religious experience that few can forget.
Though the clientele may have ironic mustaches and tattoos of children’s book illustrations, nothing can touch the experience of eating your way through a Fried Catfish Box ($13) or a BBQ Brisket Sandwich ($14), with a side of cheese grits ($4) or smoked pork collards ($4). Top it all off with a generous slice of one of their 8 pies on-tap for true down-home bliss. Crowd favorites include the Banana Cream ($4.50), made with chunks of ripe bananas in the custard; the Bourbon Pecan ($5.50), with a layer of chocolate poured into the crust before the sticky filling; and the Apple Pie ($4.50), served topped with a slice of cheddar.
4. Cafe Kashkar1141 Brighton Beach Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235
Brooklyn’s deep South is home to Brighton Beach, the epicenter of former Soviet immigrants and culture in NYC. Though you’ll find no shortage of classic Russian fare on Neptune Avenue, a short walk further east on the boardwalk transports you a few thousand culinary miles east of Moscow—right to the heart of Uzbekistan, at Cafe Kashkar.
Here the flavors of Central Asia are on display in full force: plump Manty ($6 for 4 ground-meat-and-onion dumplings) is an appetizer but could be a whole meal; huge bowls of hand-pulled Lagman noodles ($5) come in an anise-scented broth with mutton galore, and an Otush Salad with Pinchutz ($6) showcases the popular Uzbek spice zirah and central Asian soy sprouts.
Not for the faint of heart (or the vegetarian, really), portion sizes are as large as the Soviet Union’s wingspan, but make for perfect cold-weather eating.
5. Trini-Gull543 Nostrand Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11216
Walking past this unassuming restaurant on bustling Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights is easy to do but inadvisable. This quick counter-service joint serves a variety of West Indian favorites, from gut-busting oversized Roti filled with curried chicken, goat, or fish to the Bake and Shark, a puffy bread filled with spiced shark meat and relishes.
The true gem of Trini-Gull is the $1.50 Double—two small doughy rounds sandwiching sweet and spicy chickpea curry with fresh pickled cucumber strings, tamarind, and hot sauce. As they are the stuff of snack time dreams—chewy, salty, spicy sweet, crunchy—it is advisable to take precautions, as Doubles may become habit forming.