Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Justin Warner's Bed-Stuy
Self-taught cook Justin Warner is something of a culinary rebel. He made a name for himself by eschewing tradition with his free-form, pun-heavy first restaurant, Do or Dine, in a neighborhood as far-flung (at the time, anyway) from the buzzed-about establishments of his peers as possible. After doing mashups like foie gras doughnuts and dumpling nachos, he took an even more unusual turn when he chose to appear on the Food Network's series Food Network Star—and won. He fine tuned his signature screwball dishes with the help of mentor Alton Brown, and as a prize for winning, on March 30th, he'll hit the road in search of like-minded culinary rule-breakers in his one-hour special Rebel Eats.
He took us on a tour of his own neighborhood to shout out the spots that are doing Bed-Stuy proud.
Pizza, slice: I get on the B38 in Bed-Stuy and go to Tony's in Bushwick. Sometimes I just get on the bus, get a slice, and get back on the bus. I'll tell you, the reason I do this is because Tony's serves regular pizza for regular people. A regular second or third-gen Italian guy runs the regular counter and I drink a regular Dr. Pepper. The service is always extremely friendly, warm, and welcoming. I know I should be eating pizza locally, but I don't. I commute, and I'm sorry for that. Sometimes when I'm in the weeds at Do or Dine and don't have time to make family meal, I order from Sam Y's. I really like the Biggie mural on their exterior but also praise their exceptionally fast delivery. Tony's doesn't deliver, and shouldn't, because that would detract from the experience.
Pizza pie: Saraghina has won my heart and soul so many times. They consistently offer the best Neapolitan pizza in the area, and rank up there with the best in the city. They also do a really delicious octopus salad in the summer. I've never had a bad date here, and that makes anything taste magical, but it's just as chill to go stag. I love their Ortolan veggie pizza. They understand that carbon is a flavor. One of my favorite flavors, actually.
Burger, cheap: I like those rolling burger dog things at the hidden 7-Eleven on Atlantic. But don't tell anyone, promise?
Burger, fancy: Black Swan's burger kills it. It's super thick and juicy. You have to unhinge your jaw. I like to eat the burger first so it drips all over the fries and mimics those perfect moments of steak frites. I like to get mine with cheddar and bacon and a giant mug of Radeberger. They also serve it late, which is nice for getting off work and hating what I've spent all day creating. Sometimes you just need a burger.
Sandwich: Anything from SCRATCHbread kills the entire sandwich game. They make their own bread. Matthew Tilden was here cutting down gastronomic trees long before anyone else set up camp. You can taste that enthusiasm in everything he makes.
Coffee: Bedford Hill sells Americanos. Normally, I'm not an espresso dude, but one of their Americanos goes from beans to my mouth in about two minutes. They also provide espresso for the espresso aioli in Do or Dine's Steak Tartare.
Breakfast: Alice's Arbor is a newer spot, and they are killing it.
Bagels: Forget bagels. Kolaches. Brooklyn Kolache is Tex-Mex-Czech in Bed-Stuy. It's like eating the entire world for breakfast. The owner, Autumn, is perfect all the time, but in the morning she's the kind of person you want to see. It's like she knows you have an important meeting and you still smell like booze from last night's best dive bar, but that's another story (see below).
Dive bar: The girls and boys that manage the bar at One Last Shag are the best kind of merrymakers. I've never left that place in a bad mood, or half-sober. The dance parties get wild but the backyard is chill. Be smart and get a margavesa.
Cocktail bar: Project Parlor—I love the name, I love the cocktails, I love the furniture. I love playing darts.
Delivery food: I like the Singapore mei-fun from Yan Z Cafe. I don't know what the actual name of the place is, but this is what I call them.
Ice cream: I like to go to the Kosher place on Bedford called Ice Cream House. It looks like the happiest person in all of Brooklyn built it. It's perpetually Grand Opening, and I'm cool with that. When you go in, it feels like it is the size of a mall. And they have awesome Jewish tunes playing. I could imagine being six years old and thinking this was the most fantastic place on earth.
Filipino: My boy King Phojanakong has you covered at Umi Nom. Pork belly adobo all day. The baluut is bonkers as well.
Tacos: Chinantla has lengua. If a taco place doesn't have lengua, then I don't go. They deliver, and they have Nitro-flavored Takis. Yes, they taste like explosions.
Indian: The Bombay liver at Bombay Heights has kept me warm and fed when there were no paychecks to be cashed. Thank you Bombay Heights for accepting my futon-crevice money.
Doubles: I've saved so many vegetarian lives by bringing them to A & A Bake & Doubles. Go Google yourself some Trini food and get down here via the A train.
Late-night eats: Mr. Kiwi is a produce bodega sorta thing on the Bushwick-Bed-Stuy border. Sometimes I like to go there at 3 a.m. and grind my own peanut butter, buy some kimchi, and chug an energy drink.
Date night: I've had many customers tell me that Do or Dine has a 99% success rate for um... successful dates. Maybe it's the picklebacks, maybe it's just the love that I put in to the food I make. Maybe it's the hip-hop. When you leave Do or Dine, walk a block to Tip-Top. If he/she can't hang with these two places, back-to-back, abort mission. [Okay, Justin, we'll grant you this one self-promo. —Ed.]
Can't-miss neighborhood spot: The passionfruit doughnut at Dough is a must.