Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Restaurants and Cafes
Here's a gratuitous shot of a bubbly chocolate egg cream to start off your day.
I have a big thing for old-fashioned diners and soda fountains. I don't know if it's the vinyl booths, swirly bar seats, jukebox music, or overall nostalgic atmosphere, but every time I visit one, especially in Brooklyn, I come out feeling happier. Maybe I've just watched Radio Days or Brighton Beach Memoirs too many times.
Yet there aren't too many diners like this left in the borough anymore. Especially ones like Tom's whose decor hasn't really changed since the 1930s when it first opened. (Note: this is not to be confused with the Tom's Restaurant in Manhattan of Seinfeld fame.)
Boerum Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Restaurants and Cafes
The first summer I moved back to Brooklyn from San Francisco back in 2010, ramen joints had taken the city by storm. In the three years that I was gone, places like Ippudo, Hide-Chan, Toto Ramen, and Rai Rai Ken (just to name a few) had sprouted around town. Having recently traveled to Tokyo, I was ecstatic that I wouldn't be missing those very tasty noodles. The only problem? The restaurants were all in Manhattan and required a subway trek (and in the case of Ippudo, a two-hour wait.)
So I'm pretty thrilled with the new ramen shops popping up around Brooklyn these days. Dassara on Smith Street is a go-to-spot. Chuko and Ramen Yebisu are on the next-up list. And Ganso in Downtown Brooklyn has just become a new favorite. Even before the restaurant opened, it had already received a good amount of press. (One of the owners, Harris Salat, is a cookbook author and blogger at The Japanese Food Report.) And after, well, plentyofdining critics plus a whole bunch of friends on Instagram were thrilled that it lived up to the hype.
Greenpoint, Restaurants and Cafes
It's barely spring and I'm already daydreaming about a summer of lobster and fried clam rolls. The past winter, as with most winters, shellfish-eating got pushed aside in favor of soups, casseroles, and hearty meaty braises. But now that it's warmer, this New England-bred gal has been seriously hankering for some fresh seafood.
While in Greenpoint today, I walked right by Lobster Joint, near the top end of Manhattan Ave, and did a double take. I had been planning on going to a cafe and getting something more economical and mundane for lunch, like a sandwich, but the big "open" on the glass door told me I really didn't want just any sandwich. I wanted one filled to the brim with lobster meat. And fortunately, here they also served lobster rolls Connecticut-style, warm with melted butter, instead of just Maine-style with mayo and celery. (My beloved Red Hook Lobster Pound may be the only other spot in NY that makes it both ways.)
Cobble Hill, Restaurants and Cafes
Van Horn Sandwich Shop, just a short subway ride away from me, is a great spot to grab lunch to break up the monotony of working from home. And, as I found out today, their Sweet PLT is quite the sandwich.
For anyone who loves stuffing potato chips into their subs and sandwiches: Van Horn turns your guilty pleasure into a legitimate meal. PLT stands for sweet potatoes, lettuce, and tomatoes. Crunchy smoked sweet potato chips stand in for bacon. With a good amount of aioli is smeared on the bread, this sandwich is pure comfort food remixed.
Boerum Hill, Italian, Restaurants and Cafes
A few months ago, I found myself OD-ing on reading restaurant reviews, and becoming so paralyzed with indecision, that I gave up choosing new restaurants altogether. I'd leave the decision up to my dining companion(s), who were surely less cursed with the paradox of choice than I was. Or I'd just visit the same favorite restaurants over and over again.
When my friend Ami suggested this week that we try out Krescendo in Boerum Hill, I agreed in a second. I didn't know much about it, except it recently received a great review from Pete Wells in the NY Times and slightly less enthusiastic reviews on Yelp. Which is more than fine with me.
Park Slope, Restaurants and Cafes
There are so many great brunch places in Brooklyn, but my absolute favorite, the one I revisit again and again and recommend to anyone visiting, is Rose Water.
I've never had even a mediocre meal here. When I first started coming here, I was obsessed with the baked polenta with goat cheese and couldn't think about ordering anything else. Then there was the challah French toast phase. And lately I've been loving the smoked tuna fishcake, which comes with poached eggs, mesclun salad, and a slice of cranberry bread.
Italian, Park Slope, Restaurants and Cafes
I lived in Park Slope for 2 years before I finally tried Al di La. My old apartment was a mere 3 blocks away, and I had heard such great things about it, yet I had always been intimidated by the long lines of people waiting outside for dinner. (Like many restaurants here, they don't take reservations.) My friend Elizabeth said the trick was to get there at 5:30pm and wait for the first seating; otherwise, be prepared to stand outside for a while.
So when I finally tried it, it was for lunch on my 30th birthday last year, a lovely surprise from my friend Barb. The restaurant was calm and relaxing, busy but not overly so. I loved it before we even started eating.
Park Slope, Restaurants and Cafes
Winter is never my favorite time in Park Slope, but the saving grace is the return of The Soup Bowl by the 7th Ave. F/G stop. (During the warmer months of the year, the location is home to Uncle Louie G's.) Yes, it may be a takeout soup stand, but on weeknights when you've come back from Manhattan only to realize there is nothing in your fridge, this shop is a lifesaver. And the fact that there is a rotating roster of 10 to 15 freshly made soups, and a perpetually friendly staff, makes me a loyal customer.
I've tried practically everything on the menu, but the one I go back to time and time again is the lobster butternut squash bisque. At $4.50 for a small cup, it doesn't have any lobster pieces, but rather a strong lobster aroma from the shells used in the stock. It's rich, creamy, and reliably delicious.