Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Katy McNulty's Bed-Stuy
Katy McNulty is the Sous Chef of La Mar Cebicheria, the first New York venture for Peru's most famous chef Gastón Acurio, also known as the Latin Mario Batali. But her heart lies a bit closer to home; until joining La Mar's opening team last September, she worked at Blue Hill with Dan Barber, where she honed a passion for sustainability and local agriculture. Katy makes it her business to support the culinary establishments in her own neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Do the right thing, hop the A/C train, and experience Katy's favorite spots—they won't remain secrets for long.
Pizza pie: I have Celiac disease, so I measure my favorite pizza a little differently than the average Joe. I look for a pie so dominated by delicious cheese, veggies and salumi, where the dough is more like a placemat than the main attraction. Saraghina is my place! The crust is thin, crisp, and pocked with black, wood-oven air bubbles. The hot coppa and artichoke pizza is a must. They have the best backyard in Bed Stuy, plus two rooms of indoor dining space full of nooks, crannies and communal tables. Sometimes it's nice to just be left to enjoy your cheesy pizza with a little vino and a good read.
Coffee: Kitten Coffee is a Brooklyn-based coffee bean import/roasting company, and Todd and Bryan roast the "micro-lot" Brazilian beans right across the street from my house! I used to imagine that my neighbors were burning huge amounts of toast at a semi-regular time every day until Todd stopped by to explain the smell. You can get a terrific cupping and a look at their roasting facility if you wander over. But it's easier to get a regular cup of their coffee over at the Brooklyn Kolache Co.
Breakfast: We all love brunch in Bed Stuy. Maybe you commute into Manhattan and only eat breakfast food once or twice a week, maybe your family attends one of the many amazing churches in Bed Stuy, and you're all starving for some food and fellowship around 1 p.m., maybe you worked till 2 a.m. the day before and your first waking moments are brunch. My husband and I love Peaches, and it's exactly the place to find all the people I just mentioned (sometimes they're all there at the same time, and the line to get in is a bit daunting). The food is just so dang good. The cobb salad is full of chopped veggies and blue cheese. Chicken wings are just the way they should be. The food is classic, hints at its southern roots, and features the seasons. If you want Peaches and can't get in, Peaches Hothouse has similar good food—though not the same atmosphere—and it's just a few blocks away.
Better Than a Burger: Instead of a burger, get the 3 The Hard Way Combo Sandwich from David's Brisket House—it's a mountain of brisket, corned beef and pastrami. Serious mustard, a little bit of veggies, and bread that is almost irrelevant. I love their corned beef hash, too!
Delivery: This is easy. Myrtle Avenue is crawling with Latino restaurants and bodegas. But nobody makes chilaquiles like Chinantla, the grocer on Myrtle at Franklin with a secret bistro in the back. If you have the chance, you should stop by to order off their full menu (killer posole!) and share your "comida tipica" with the locals. Order chilaquiles to your door, piping hot and packed with layers of crispy tortilla, frijoles, spicy chicken tinga, salsa verde, crumbled cojita, sliced red onion and two sunny side up eggs! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Jamaican patty: I find good patties on Fulton Avenue at almost any time of day. I go to Island Taste, Jamaican Way, or Tastee Patty. I always order beef patties. In my opinion, you want a fat patty with a thin, butter-flaked crust and a spicy, salty filling.
Sandwich: Who doesn't love a pile of tuna, shredded carrot, and celery, all smothered in Swiss cheese? This is what you can get at Ms. Dahlia's when you order the tuna melt, plus a lot of beautiful personality from the ladies who work there.
Fried food: Bed Stuy Fish Fry is kind of a secret pleasure for me—lots of fried stuff. You'll get whiting, tilapia, or even catfish, battered and fried. And you can get great soul food sides to go along with it.
Late-night eats: Dare I say Do or Dine?! I have a huge loyalty to this place since it's so close to my house, and I've been going since they were BYOB (those were the days!). You can't go wrong with Justin Warner and George McNeese's demented and delicious concoctions. Gyoza dumplings fried and smothered like nachos, caesar salad with a big crunch of lettuce and tons of cheesy dressing, the fish, stuffed peppers, crispy duck, and of course a silly amount of bodega-inspired ingredients. Their food hits some sort of nostalgic place for the best ideas many chefs get too fancy to try.
Dive bar: I like Project Parlor. It's close to my house and one of the few bars where the lights are still glimmering when I get back to my neighborhood after a night of cooking in the city. Hard to go wrong with $2 PBRs and seasonal cocktails. They also make a very authentic Old Fashioned and have a dart board, which is a good way to let off some post-work steam!
New to the neighborhood: Minimo just opened on Bedford Avenue. It's market-driven food with a true chef's handiwork. I love a place that's not afraid to serve beets in the summer! They do wonderful cheese and charcuterie plates and also have a gluten-free panino, which is a huge treat. I have been once and plan on going back many times. It's a great date-night spot and definitely my new place for a nice glass of wine.
Date night: The atmosphere at Celestino is wonderful: knick-knack nautical and intimate. Prices reflect the range of really excellent seafood they serve. I've become a huge fish geek (and maybe a little snobby too) working at La Mar—all that cebiche will do it to you! But I am always impressed that the fish dishes here change so regularly and really are excellently cooked: oysters and mussels, cuttlefish and sardines, fun ones like whiting and classic Brooklynite fare like sea bass. Mediterranean-inspired flavors, simple and well-executed.
Can't-miss neighborhood spot: Scratchbread is a Bed Stuy-based bread company, and though I can't eat bread, their take-out window features my favorite food item in the neighborhood: a take-out box of "build your own Anson Mills grits." You start with a fluffy warm scoop of $3 grits, and then you add various toppings (for $1 each) all made from farmers market veggies/meats. My latest favorite combo is Corn Succotash with a soft boiled egg, salsa verde, and a little plop of jalapeño jam. There is a sweet little bar on the side of the building where you can stand and eat, or you can take your Stumptown coffee and grit box down the road to enjoy in Tompkins Park.