When I moved to into a Mattress Factory loft in Bedford Stuyvesant, the food options looked bleak. But it was close to campus and the view was phenomenal. It didn't take long to discover I was on the edge of the blooming culinary scene surrounding Pratt. Pratt students are surrounded by affordable, delicious food options, with many more just a G Train ride away.
I stayed in that campus adjacent loft long after graduating. All of these restaurants gave me no reason to leave.
When spring break comes and there is still 2 feet of snow Myrtle Ave, nothing soothes my frozen nerves like a plate of hot greasy diner food from John's Coffee Donut Shop. It's one of the few places where I could get my flop two, over medium, with grits and whiskey-down for just $3.00. Fellow Prattian, Hawk Krall, reiterates my sentiment, saying this is "cheapest greasy spoon I think I've ever seen," where "coffee was like 62 cents" and they have the "fastest short order cooks, about 10 of them jammed behind the counter just cranking out plates and to-go orders of breakfast." The food is better and fresher they you'd expect because it's just SO busy and "they put extra grease on everything!"
SCRATCHbread: Though their website reads like it was written in textspeak, wheat toast with almond butter and vinegared blueberries, or the citrus, rosemary, olive oil and grey salt scone will set you up for brunch. But it's the Hot Sticky Mess that steals the show. Part of the $6 brunch in a cup series, the chai-spiced burnt orange caramel-dredged sticky bun is soaked in vanilla bean custard and grilled. Topped with vinegar- and agave-poached blueberries, it's a perfect meal for walking back towards campus.
This is a great brunch neighborhood—I can't share just one! It took me a while to warm up to the unusual brunch menu at Fort Green's No. 7, but now I regret not eating there more, often, always. I get excited when the menu blends Asian ingredients with standard brunch items—like Moo Shu Scrambled Eggs or Korean Pancakes—but standbys like the Double Decker Broccoli Tacos and Chicken Fried Chicken with Berry Maple Sauce will please just about anyone.
The best part of college in NYC is your proximity to the prefect college food: PIZZA. Pratt has exceptional options. From the innovative pies at Speedy Romeo, to the ubiquitous NYC slice at Luigi Pizzeris, to the French influences at Nice Pizza, to the al fresco dining at Graziella's, and to the divine Grandma at Il Porto, every Pratt student will find a favorite. But it's Tony's Pizza Spot that holds the cheese-smothered place in my heart. Catty-corner from the southeast end of campus—on Dekalb Ave between Classon Ave and Taffe Pl—Antonio "Tony" Cascetta is always behind the counter making every single thin, evenly sauced and perfectly cheesed, New York style pizza. His pies are consistently delicious.
What's sexier than two spoons grazing each other as you reach for the last morsel of palm sugar and lemongrass-crusted pork? Or staring into each other's eyes, waiting to see who has the gall to devour the last house-made pickle? At Umi Nom, you can food-flirt through shared plates and piquant flavors. Plus it's BYOB (but not for long, they finally got their liquor license), so it's easy on the wallet.
When the Parents are in Town
For reasons beyond my control (closed on Mondays, private events, chef vacation...) it took years for me to finally take my parents to Locanda Vini e Olii. But when I finally did, it was worth it. Tucked into an old apothecary in Clinton Hill, they make my favorite Pappa al Pomodoro in all of New York. I adore their delicate pastas and fruit-driven insalatas. Portions are small, but lovingly made, though the wait can be downright atrocious without reservations.
After the tragic closing of Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge, there is little left in the area that I would consider a true dive. Then again, maybe you don't want to drink with lingerie-clad ladies. So for an unpretentious cold pint, Alibi is my preferred spot. But if you like the thrill of the dive bar hunt, tread farther south to Tip Top Bar & Grill.
An always excellent food vendor lineup can be found at the back of the Brooklyn Flea, my go-to outdoor dining spot. In fact, during my last year in Brooklyn, you could find me at the Pizza Moto booth ordering way more pizza then I could ever eat. Leftovers got tucked the Tupperware in my purse and horded until the following weekend
On a gorgeous non-Saturday, Habana Outpost is waiting with warm grilled corn with coija cheese/chili powder/lime and cold mojitos.
When I arrived in Bed-Stuy from California, I didn't expect much from the local Mexican joints. Not to say I didn't believe there was good Mexican food in NYC, I just didn't anticipate finding so much close to my randomly selected home. It didn't take long for the gargantuan burritos at Castro's (PDF menu) to draw me in. Though I believe it is impossible to be a Pratt student and never eat at Castro's. So give in now; they will treat you right.
But what happens when you tire of Castro's? Head east on Myrtle Ave to Chinantla. Tucked into the back of bodega, the hidden restaurant makes huge huaraches, veggie-filled veggie burritos, and a taco to suit everyone's tastes.
But wait, there's more! Over in Fort Greene, dressed in paper flowers and skeletons, Pequeña served my favorite Mexican brunch ever: The Pan C. It's a baking dish filled with sweet plantains, black beans, and is topped with two fried eggs and salsa fresca. It's absolutely perfect.
The inconspicuous sandwich counter at Farmer in the Deli looks no different from the thousands of Boar's Head stocked delis across Brooklyn. But it's a completely different beast. The husky sandwiches are sold at absurdly low prices, and even New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells said they definitely pay attention to how the sandwich is constructed."
The huge donuts at Dough are a bit much for some, but the enticing flavors like Hibiscus, Earl Grey and Lemon Meringue will help overcome aversions to their massive doughiness. Or you can snack on Dough doughnut holes, a SE favorite!
When You Have a Car
There are plenty of places deep in Brooklyn and Queens worth the bus or car ride. But unlike most cities, Pratt students are not locked into a location. Subways, taxis and trains make all of New York City open for exploration. So when I found myself with a car, I'd fill the gas tank drive aimlessly into Long Island. That is how I discovered the perfect day trip: Italian sandwiches from Razzano Imported Food Specialities, then heading to Sagamore Hill. The grounds of Sagamore Hill are free to picnic on (just watch out for the wild turkeys). The hiking trail behind the free The Visitor Center and Theodore Roosevelt Museum ends on a rocky private beach where you can recreate a private presidential lunch.