I've spent the last few years imagining the day when the hotly anticipated, much-maligned, years of legal battles and untold millions of dollars in the making Barclays Center would open in my Brooklyn neighborhood.
What will life be like when walking to Atlantic Avenue doesn't require a walk past blocks of permanent construction? Can I even imagine a nice-looking subway entrance at that corner? Could the traffic on Flatbush possibly, possibly, possibly get any worse?
Now that Barclays is opening with the first of eight Jay-Z concerts tonight (and that, too, sounds surreal; Jay-Z and Gaga and Bieber are playing in my neighborhood?), Flatbush and Atlantic is about to turn into a destination. The Times has already given us the scoop on the arena's own food options, which, as doesn't surprise us given the outsized ambitions of the place itself, are quite something: Nathan's Famous, L&B Spumoni Gardens, Brooklyn Bangers (from Saul Bolton) and a Fatty 'Cue sandwich stand—one part old-school, one part Smorgasburg.
But the surrounding area—Barclays is at the intersection of Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Propsect Heights, Fort Greene, and Downtown Brooklyn—is rich with restaurants and bars. And while I fear the way an influx of traffic will re-make the neighborhood, I'm happy that at least some of my favorite restaurants will get a little more love. Here's where to visit if you're out at Barclays.
Quick & Casual Bites
Brooklyn Larder: This gourmet grocery store serves amazing sandwiches and other prepared foods.
City Sub: With fantastic Italian sandwiches and super speedy service, it's no wonder this Park Slope sub stop has a cult following. (It's cash-only and closes by 6pm.)
South Brooklyn Pizza: The area's best NY-style slice. (Review linked is of East Village location.)
Kulushkat Gourmet Falafel: Some places serve great falafel in an only decent sandwich, or decent falafel in an otherwise great sandwich; Kulushkät does both parts just right.
Chick-P: Another excellent falafel option.
Purbird: Incredibly tasty, lemon-and-garlic-brushed chicken and nothing else.
El Gran Castillo: A Latin American lunch counter and casual restaurant, good for a super-cheap pork sandwich.
Bark: You can't lose with anything on the menu at this everything-homemade hot dog boutique. (And with vegetable specials and great, don't-taste-like-fake-meat veggie dogs and burgers, all sorts of eaters can be happy here.)
Bierkraft: It's a slightly longer walk, but the sandwiches are destination-worthy—highly recommended for a beer and a bite before a game or show.
Graziella's: As Adam Kuban wrote, "It's got a warm and inviting atmosphere, a good if modest selection of beers behind a large, cozy bar, and in the warmer months, the roof deck is one of the most pleasant outdoor places to eat pizza that I know of -- sort of like a neat little treetop pizza hideaway."
Small Bites, or Full Meals
A number of restaurants in the area are equally good for a full meal, or for a few small plates and a drink.
The Vanderbilt: Carefully crafted cocktails and an across-the-board tasty menu, whether you're getting the sriracha brussels sprouts or a full sausage plate. Awesome weekend brunch. too.
Miriam: I love this Israeli restaurant any time of day, but their happy hour—two-for-one drinks and meze at the bar, meaning you can get 4 dishes for $7, is unreal.
Woodland: Robust cocktail service, great beers, and a deceptively large (and unabashedly meat-heavy) menu.
Flatbush Farm Bar(n): A separate restaurant and bar that share a backyard. We love sitting out on that patio for drinks (go between 5pm–7pm on a weekday for two dollars off everything on the drink menu) and a few bites; their snacks and sandwiches are pretty killer (if a bit pricey).
Cornelius: Great for drinks and $1 oysters.
606 R&D: A thoughtful, concise menu in a charmingly small Vanderbilt Avenue restaurant. Consider their weekly $20/head Sunday supper special.
James: The sort of tranquil, classy place I love having as a neighborhood restaurant; great burgers, too.
Bedouin Tent: Solid Middle Eastern salads come in big portions, and there's a nice backyard.
No. 7: You can't miss with this gastropub, the original outpost of the takeoff sandwich shop. Order the fried broccoli.
Franny's: For neo-Neapolitan pies with great crust, good char, and always-excellent toppings, Franny's is a winner (the other stuff on their menu is at least as good as the pizza, too).
Chuko: Two Morimoto alums are responsible for this Prospect Heights ramen joint. You can't really miss with anything on the well-executed menu.
Va Beh': This authentic Italian place makes their own pasta, and prices it well. Also, it's RIGHT across the street from the Barclays Center.
Born Thai: Affordable Thai standards that, while hardly destination-worthy, are an awful lot better than your standard $8 curries and noodles.
Taro Sushi: This popular joint does sushi right, and has a sister restaurant in Japan.
Rucola: This cozy Boerum Hill spot serves fine Northern Italian Food. Also, we die for their lunchtime pork sandwich.
Olea: Straightforward, easy to like Greek cuisine. Great brunch, too; get the savory parmesan French toast.
Roman's: Excellent modern Brooklyn Italian with a real sense of creativity.
Black Iris : This cash-only Middle Eastern restaurant in Fort Greene offers quite a value; try five appetizers in the "assorted plate" or the lamb pitza.
Building On Bond: This corner restaurant does it all (and does it all well): takeout scones and coffee, sit down meals, and beers at the bar.
Sweets and Coffee
Joyce Bakeshop: This sweet neighborhood bakeshop makes lots of delicious treats and snacks, and always smells like something baking.
Gorilla Coffee: For a beautifully-made cappuccino that'll shock you into wakefulness—seriously, this stuff should be a controlled substance—go to Gorilla Coffee on Park and 5th Avenue.
Blue Sky Bakery: A charming bakery with perfect muffins. Closes early.
Milk Bar: A versatile place to grab a quick coffee or sit for a sandwich.
Ample Hills Creamery: Beautifully made ice cream, incredible flavors. We can't say enough about this place.
Pacific Standard: The guys behind Pacific Standard share two of my passions: good beer and the Bay Area. I'm sure my hometown pride comes into play here, but it's my favorite bar on the Fourth Avenue strip (where you'll find a ton, most of them great). It's spacious and open, consistently friendly, has fantastic beers that rarely top $6, and you can buy It's-It's, king among ice cream sandwiches, at the bar.
The Vanderbilt, Flatbush Farm, and Weather Up on Vanderbilt are all great places for a drink, too.
You Tell Us
Where would you recommend to eat near the Barclays Center? Let us know!