As Editor in Chief of Tasting Table, it's Scott Hocker's job to be in-the-know about restaurants both under-the-radar and up-and-coming. But when it comes time to leave work, he prefers to duck into a hole in the wall for some curried goat or scarf down a White Castle burger (shh, don't tell) in his neighborhood, which skirts the border between Prospect Heights and Crown Heights. The California native is developing the markings of a real New Yorker: Scott says he would "rather be run over by a bullet train" than refer to his neighborhood by the latest realtor portmanteau, "ProCro."
Burger, cheap: White Castle is caddy-corner from my apartment. So good going down; then there's the day after.
Burger, fancy: Purists will cry foul about a brioche bun being used in the burger at James. Go ahead: scream; flail; whine. Doing so leaves one more empty seat at the bar for those of us who know that James' burger might be the best fancy-pants burger in New York. No offense to Minetta Tavern. Well, a little offense.
Coffee: This is playing with geography, according to some. But given that the eastern border of Prospect Heights is theoretically creeping from Classon to Franklin, I'm sneaking Glass Shop into this list. The flat white (a.k.a. Antipodean latte) here is as good as those I have had in coffee-loco Wellington, New Zealand.
Breakfast: Tom's has all the trappings of a beloved diner, including endless coffee, standout flapjacks and waffles, and, inevitably, a weekend-morning queue that could turn that throbbing hangover excruciating. The solution: Go early or on a weekday.
Bagel: If it ain't morning to you without a bagel, the Olde Brooklyn Bagel Shoppe is the best choice in the hood. Unless it is a bagel from Absolute Bagels, I am ambivalent about bagels. I blame my California upbringing.
Delivery food: Since delivery food transcends neighborhood boundaries, I have to give a shout-out to the outstanding eggplant a la yafa, falafel, and hummus with chicken at nearby Kulushkät.
Oysters: Bearded Lady is where I go for oysters on the half shell.
Happy hour: The Vanderbilt stopped serving its Tuesday night special of choucroute garnie plus a beer for $15. This is bad. Still, there are good, cheap sausages and hot dogs available at happy hour and late—until after 11 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Caribbean: Washington Avenue is the start of an extensive swath of great Caribbean eats that extends deep into Crown Heights. Close to the Brooklyn Museum is The Islands, home to some of the best Jamaican food in the area. Head upstairs to the low-ceilinged dining room for curry goat and spunky jerk chicken. Duck while climbing, please.
Dive bar: Woodwork has a solid food menu. But booze, for me, is the draw. A night at Woodwork always seems to lead to whiskey shots, followed by pickle-back chasers.
Donuts: I love me a shitty donut. The ones at 606 R&D are not that. Instead, they are old-school cake donuts, made on a regular basis throughout the day.
Cocktail bar: Fancy restaurants are one sure sign of a neighborhood's gentrification. Fancy cocktail bars are another. Weather Up is so fancy it spawned a replica in Tribeca. Talk about reverse commute. Oh, and the cocktails are stellar.
Can't-miss neighborhood spot: I hate myself for plugging the chronically adored Franny's. The pizzas are plenty good. The pastas are even better. The beef cheek-and-pork terrine, though, is a critical dish, made all the better by the accompanying bread slabs that have been crisped in the wood-burning oven, drowned in olive oil and scraped with garlic.