Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Erin's Boerum/Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens
Editor's note: We write about restaurants all over the city. But sometimes, you don't want to travel for food; you want the best eats right in your neighborhood. So we're having the Serious Eats staff share where they eat around their own 'hoods. Today? Serious Eats national editor Erin Zimmer!
View Erin's Neighborhood Guide in a larger map
So I technically live in Boerum Hill but this guide also includes the nearby Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, all very walkable. While I try to refrain from using the cutesy nickname "BoCoCa" for this trifecta of Brooklyn nabes (makes me feel like I'm ordering a really high-maintenance coffee), it can be an efficient label. There are plenty of food and drink options dotting Smith and Court Streets, south of the whoosh of Atlantic Avenue; here are some of my favorites.
Sandwiches: Court Street Grocers
Opened about a year ago, Court Street Grocers is farther south on Court Street nearing the Gowanus, but it's a nice walk on a nice day, or a quickie bike ride. They're making some of my favorite sandwiches in the city, plus the market is quite fun to peruse; they stock otherwise hard-to-find regional and retro items like Quisp cereal and Cheerwine soda. But back to sandwiches!
The triple-decker Turkey Club layers moist roasted white meat with confit'd dark meat between slices of fluffy white bread, sweet mayo, crisp iceberg and a tomato slice. They go through quite the process to get the turkey (both white and dark) that succulent. Trays of the dark chunks absorb duckfat juices overnight in the walk-in, then get pan-seared and crispy-edged to order. The white meat marinates in a fresh green paste of parsley, rosemary, thyme, and a hint of brown sugar, then the meat's roasted. It's in a whole 'nother class from the diner, toothpick-speared Club.
485 Court Street, Brooklyn 11231; 718-722-7229
Coffee: Cafe Pedlar or Ted & Honey
Cafe Pedlar, an offshoot of the Frankies Spuntino empire (more on that below), uses nearby Red-Hook-roasted Stumptown beans. Whatever you get here—a potent Hair Bender espresso shot, a cold-brewed iced coffee, a drip coffee, or a latte with the swirly steamed milk art included—you'll leave happily caffeinated.
Over on Clinton Street, Ted & Honey is where I'd go for coffee and something more substantial, like a Morning Glory muffin or meatloaf sandwich. There's a bit of a WiFi scene on a weekday and often a stroller parking lot out front, but the charming Cobble Hill park is a quick escape.
Cafe Pedlar: 210 Court Street, Brooklyn 11201; 212-253-2303
Ted & Honey: 264 Clinton Street, Brooklyn 11201; 718-852-2212
Old-School Carroll Gardens Pizza: Sam's Restaurant
Parts of Court Street still have that old red-sauce Italian vibe, untouched by the Trader Joe's and $6 greeting card shops. Sam's is definitely one of those Court Street relics. Squish into a red booth and note the very unsubtle sign. "NO SLICES." Order a whole garlic pie, especially if you're fine with a severe case of allium-mouth for a few hours after. The crust is chewy-crisp with plenty of tomato sauce and melty cheese on top, scattered with enough roasted garlic to get a punch of it in every bite.
238 Court Street, Brooklyn 11231; 718-596-3458
Best Kept Secret Burger: Apartment 138
It's easy to stroll on by Apartment 138. It looks like plenty of other Smith Street restaurants. But then you'd be missing a really undercelebrated burger. The juicy blend of chopped hanger and skirt steak has a nice salted crust on a ciabatta bun from neighborhood bakery Caputo's, which compresses and soaks up all of those savory beefy juices. As for cheese options, they spend about a minute listing them all off: cheddar, havarti, pepper jack, mozzarella, American, and a bunch more. The burger's on the lunch and dinner menu, or $12 at brunch (and that includes a dynamite Bloody Mary!).
138 Smith Street, Brooklyn 11201; 718-858-0556
Best Date Night: Char No. 4
Whether it's a casual grab-a-drink date or a let's-pork-out dinner rendezvous, Char No 4 is a solid choice. (Plus, the dim lighting is flattering.) You'll find some comforting Southern fare on the menu, like the chopped pork sandwich with Char No 4's mustard barbecue sauce and a side of baked beans. Hopefully you're at a point in the relationship where you can share chopped pork with each other? Or pork sausage with cumin spiced chicharrones? You should also split the house-cured lamb pastrami appetizer. (Yes, they really like meat here.) The lamb shoulder is cured for a week then smoked and braised in a lamb stock, then rolled into a roulade and shaved thin on the slicer. It's served with coriander aioli and rye-caraway toast.
Whiskey is always a nice date-night nerves-reliever. And since they have 150 American varieties available, you can always order another if it's going well.
196 Smith Street, Brooklyn 11201; 718-643-2106
If you want nuts, dried fruit, chocolate-covered pretzels, and/or Bulgarian feta from a massive block, grab a number and one of the Sahadi's dudes will take care of you. On Saturdays it's especially cramped and chaotic inside this Middle Eastern market, which has been on Atlantic Avenue since 1948. The guys working the bulk goods section will bag up however much you want: dried kiwis, dates, olives, just about any nut (roasted or raw, salted or unsalted), and yogurt- or chocolate-covered what-have-you. It's redolent of cumin and coffee beans from the massive barrels inside. In the back there's a deli with fresh-made hummus (I like spicy), grape leaves, falafel, and assorted salads. They also have various cheeses and oils, many of which are imported and cheap.
187 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn 11201; 718-624-4550
Look for the obanzai on the chalkboard menu. All of the homey $4 nibble plates will sound good, so you'll end up ordering all of them—make room for plenty of dishes at your table! The Kasujiru Soup is a rich, milky soup made from salmon, miso, and veggies including daikon, cabbage, and carrot. Anything with tofu is worth getting in general—they make it fresh daily. The Agedashi Tofu, for one, includes three large chunks of soft tofu that's been lightly crisped in the deep fryer before doused in a soy dashi broth, along with shisito peppers and shiitake mushrooms. It's also wise to order a bowl of edamame for the table; the heaping pile is salted without being too salty.
333 Henry Street, Brooklyn NY 11201 (map); 718-260-8052
Backyard Seating: Robin du Bois
This mini Sherwood Forestian backyard is more memorable than the actual food served here. Sunlight pours into the magical garden space, which is full of mismatched chairs and vintage signs. Sip a pastis and be transported for a bit. If it's Thursday, take advantage of the $1 oyster deal!
195 Smith Street, Brooklyn 11201; 718-596-1609
The Frankies Empire: Prime Meats, Frankies 457
You can't live in this area and love food and not know about the Frankies family of restaurants. Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli own two favorites on Court Street in addition to their coffee shop sibling Cafe Pedlar and Delikat-essen & Provisions shop around the corner from Prime Meats. (There are two Manhattan outposts, too: Frankies 17 in the LES and the new Frankies 570 Spuntino in the West Village). But the Frankies settled in Brooklyn first, and have continued to stay packed and popular. Their seasonally-inspired menus are rustic with plenty of influence from their Italian grandmothers.
Frankies 457 is a little more Italian (everyone loves the meatballs), while Prime Meats is a little more German-inspired and meat-centric, as the name suggests. Much of the butchering, curing, and making-from-scratch for both restaurants happens in their capacious 3,200-square-foot kitchen.
Frankies 457: 457 Court Street, Brooklyn; 718-403-0033
Prime Meats: 465 Court Street, Brooklyn; 718-254-0327
More Locavore Drinks and Bites: Rucola
If the Frankies have an hour-plus wait, the newer Rucola on Dean Street has a similarly charming neighborhood vibe, complete with a mason jar chandelier and a prime window seat. It's farm-to-tabley northern Italian fare: lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. It feels the most Italian at dinner with their fresh pastas. They make strozzapreti with green garlic pesto, zucchini, and parmesan; and the rigatoni with a bolognese sauce, rosemary, and nutmeg.
The brunch menu is less pasta-centric. I like the poached eggs on toast (photo above). It's something of an open-faced sandwich with plenty of nutty, porky flavor from just a couple of paper-thin shavings of speck and sweet, acidic juices from the tomato sauce.
190 Dean Street, Brooklyn 11217; 718-576-3209
Fancy Cocktails: Brooklyn Social or Clover Club
If you want to class it up from the Bud Lite and Buck Hunter at Angry Wade on Smith Street, head to Brooklyn Social or Clover Club for carefully crafted cocktails and a warm glow.
The Brooklyn Social bartenders look sharp in their ties, ready to crack an egg white for a fizz or light their version of the Manhattan—called a Brooklyn, naturally—on fire. They also make a mean Old Fashioned with fresh ginger. Memorabilia is hanging on the walls from the social club's members-only days of yore (the social club name wasn't just a gimmick!). Listen to the snappy music and grab a cue when the pool table frees up.
While I don't end up at Clover Club on the average Saturday night, I'd be remiss to forget it under "neighborhood cocktails." It was arguably the first real serious cocktail bar in this part of town. The menu's so comprehensive, it's in a binder divided by drink styles (swizzles, punches, porch drinks, royales, etc.) and just when you think you know what to order, ahhhh that other cocktail sounds awesome, too.
335 Smith Street, Brooklyn 11231; 718-858-7758
Bocce Bar: Floyd
Whether or not you actually play bocce here—there's a sign-up sheet with a guaranteed wait on weekend nights—Floyd is a fun time. Sometimes the local bocce leaguers hog the indoor court (one team goes by "Boccelism") but you can always just grab a bar stool or a seat on the faded vintage couches. The TVs are tuned to whatever match is on. You'll find a handful of beers on tap, and if you're feeling daring (or just cheap) get the "Crapucopia"—the steel pail full of ice comes with six cans of assorted cheapo but often drinkable beer.
131 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn 11201; 718-858-5810
Baked Goods: Bien Cuit
It's easy to stand inside this French-style bakery and feel intoxicated by the yeasty bread-baking aromas in the air. Mmmm.There are many fresh-baked loaves in baskets: pugliese, rye, long baguettes. Behind the glass counter you'll find dainty tarts piled with plump cherries and wet, juicy peaches. My favorite thing here, though, is the almond croissant. Baker Zachary Golper double-bakes them for those extra browned, crisp edges. They're toasted, filled with almond creme, and dipped in simple syrup and some brandy.
120 Smith Street, Brooklyn 11201; 718-852-0200
Bagel or Bialy: Shelsky's
Newcomer but old-school-Lower-East-Side-feeling Shelsky's gets fresh bagels and bialys delivered from Kossar's daily. If they have any of the pastrami-cured salmon left, get some. The buttery slices have peppery pastrami-seasoned edges and make every bialy better.
251 Smith Street, New York 11231; 718-855-8817
Neighborhood Classic: Building on Bond
When I'm tired, brain-fried, and/or cold and don't know where else to go, I usually end up here. It's a neighborhood go-to at the corner of Pacific and Bond with a bar ready to make your coffee to-go or a hot toddy on a nippy night or pour a cold Sixpoint on draft. The menu is easygoing, sure to please most moods. They do burgers on pretzel rolls, mac 'n' cheese with a five-cheese blend, and a daily omelet special. My favorite is the Cobb Salad: romaine covered in plenty of sweet, smoky caramelized bacon nubbins, avocado slices, warm chicken, blue cheese crumbles, and a hard-boiled egg.
112 Bond Street, Brooklyn 11217; 347-853-8687
New to the Nabe: Colonie
I have a feeling I'll be hanging out here more. The space, for one, is beautiful. During the day it's resplendent with natural sunlight and at night, candlelights flicker on tables. There's an herb garden wall and an an open kitchen with wrap-around stools for front row seating. The menu rotates often; so far I've just been for brunch, but it's quickly become the dinner and drinks destination for many friends in the neighborhood. (They're all about the brussel sprouts.) For brunch, we loved the mushroom egg toast, where the toast part is plenty olive-oiled and grilled with dark toasted edges, but you can hardly see it under all those earthly mushrooms and oozy poached eggs.
127 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 718-855-7500
Where do you like to eat in this part of Brooklyn?