Can't Get Into Roberta's? Where to Eat Instead

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[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Roberta's may be best known for its pizza, but there's more than just stellar pies drawing crowds to this Bushwick dining destination. Its trademark Brooklyn-style New American menu features a sophisticated seasonal selection of roasted vegetables, grilled seafood, hearty braises, and fresh pastas, all reasonably priced and impeccably executed. Which explains why, on any given night, you may not be seated for anywhere from one to three hours.

So what happens when you've trekked across the city only to find yourself hungry, impatient, and faced with an unbearable wait? Frankly, I have yet to encounter pizza within walking distance of Roberta's worth a comparable mention. But given the neighborhood's rapidly expanding restaurant scene, there's no reason to despair—even limiting yourself to a five-block radius leaves you with a wealth of options.* Here are some of our favorite alternatives.

* Willing to take a little walk? We've got more Bushwick recommendations right this way »

Close and Comforting

With a recent Bib Gourmand nod from the Michelin Guide and a dedicated following of its own, Dear Bushwick may not be the neighborhood's safest bet for quick seating, but I have yet to encounter a Roberta's-level wait at the self-described "English country kitchen." Though on busier nights the narrow space can teeter between cozy and cramped, it's rarely loud and never raucous. And while it's the kind of place that celebrates meat—Jessica Wilson's skillet pork chops alone have garnered some deserved buzz—you'll find a broad variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes on hand as well. As for drinks, expect some great craft brews and a strong, if somewhat unusual, British-inflected cocktail menu starring gin, rum, and sherry.

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Mac and Cheese at Tutu's. [Photograph: Niki Achitoff-Gray]

Also nearby, and boasting a lower budget but similarly comfort-oriented menu, is Tutu's, where simplicity gets a boost of unpretentious creativity. Go for the sandwiches, ranging from a Crispy Catfish Po' Boy ($14) to house-ground burgers ($14+), which come with a generous serving of fries or salad, or place an order for a smattering of appetizers like the sriracha-dosed mac and cheese or tender pork belly bites. With a space big enough to seat multiple crowds, it's an easy and satisfying alternative for those hoping to fill up quick.

Different But Delicious

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Pork Betty ($10) at Momo Sushi Shack [Photograph: Garret Zeigler]

Okay skipping New American? You. Are. Set. Just around the corner from Roberta's is my personal sushi mecca, Momo Sushi Shack. Before the team behind Williamsburg's Bozu rolled out their Bushwick outpost, there weren't many promising sushi options in the area. But Momo delivers on more than just high-quality raw fish, with a broad menu of cooked appetizers, entrées, and specials, along with a selection of sakes diverse enough to please connoisseurs and newbies alike.

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Feast for Two at Bunna Café [Photograph: Lauren Rothman]

Unfortunately, Momo's hardly a well-kept secret these days and the wait can often rival that of Roberta's. Luckily, it's just a short walk to relative newcomer Bunna Café. We've already been blown away by the charming atmosphere, warm service, and standout fare at the vegetarian Ethiopian eatery, and it's food worth traveling for in its own right. Plus, it's cheap—I'm talking a $28 Feast for Two. If Ethiopian's not your thing or you're looking to get a meat fix, there's also Falansai, another new Bib Gourmand mention whose menu has nonetheless, in my experience, proved hit-or-miss. But you're sure to be seated quickly, and some wise ordering will easily leave you fully satisfied. I'm a huge fan of the Shaking Beef ($22), or you can check out more recommendations in our full review.

Drinks and Snacks While You Wait

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Behind the bar at The Narrows [Photograph: Niki Achitoff-Gray]

If you're entirely committed to dining at Roberta's, then it's worth checking their backyard—conveniently tented and heated throughout the winter—for available seating. On especially busy nights, though, even the patio fills up, in which case I turn around and head straight for The Narrows. When it first opened, the bar couldn't have been more aptly named—it was little more than a dark, though stylish, narrow corridor leading to a refreshingly open backyard. But they've since expanded into the space next door, so there's actually quite a bit of seating to be had these days. With its low-lit Art Deco interior, all-star lineup of craft brews, a daily $1 oyster special (available until 7 p.m.), and a unique collection of house cocktails, it's a great spot to drink out the wait.

If you're looking for a place well-suited to a drink, a snack, and perhaps a full-fledged acceptance of defeat, then settle in at The Anchored Inn, instead. You should probably (definitely) order El Cheeseburger ($12), though there are also tacos, lighter snacks, and a bacon-wrapped hot dog, which I'm pretty sure can never be a bad thing. Want to catch a game while you wait? You'll also find a bunch of TVs, a good atmosphere, and solid drinks selection at Pine Box. Or head over to the ultimate classic in Bushwick dives, Wreck Room, conveniently adjacent to Arancini Bros. should a small, quick, greasy bite be in your deck of cards.

But hey—those are just my picks. What are your Roberta's back-ups?

About the author: Niki Achitoff-Gray is the associate editor of Serious Eats and a recent graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She's pretty big into oysters, offal, and most edible things. You can follow her on Twitter at @eatandcry.

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