Ask the Critic: My Brooklyn 'Vacation,' a Guide for Manhattanites

Ask the Critic

You have restaurant questions? We have answers. Where to take a dinner date? Restaurants good for parents or picky eaters? Food etiquette? Food and restaurant writer Carey Jones answers your questions. Email [email protected] to submit.


[Illustration: Robyn Lee]

Editor's note: Here to answer your questions is senior managing editor, former SENY editor, and frequent author of our NYC restaurant reviews Carey Jones. We'll take a few of your questions each week and give you the New York restaurant advice you're looking for. Email [email protected] with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question!

Where Should I Go On My Brooklyn 'Vacation' ?

Hi Carey,

My husband and I live in Manhattan. We are 'of a certain age.' We are planning to take a 'vacation' to Brooklyn in November, because we're sick of reading about all the great restaurants there which we never go to because we can't bear the long trek home.

We'll be staying in downtown Brooklyn, and will be there from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. We like small, farm-to-table type restaurants that take reservations. My husband is not that adventurous in terms of ethnic food, so we'll have to miss some of those great options. Also, we need brunch recommendations with non-egg alternatives as he doesn't like them.

What would be your recommendations for our Brooklyn food vacation?

Welcome to our fair borough! Here's hoping you'll find a lot to love, and props to you for hopping on over and taking a chance.

What you'll quickly find—and may already know, if you've done a bit of looking—is that "small, farm-to-table type restaurants" and "take reservations" share a very thin sliver on the Venn diagram of Brooklyn.

Berkshire pork ($27)

Berkshire pork at Battersby. [Photograph: Maggie Hoffman]

But there are ways around this. You might love Battersby, for instance—as endearing and downright delicious a farm-to-table restaurant as I've encountered recently. They don't take reservations for dinner service unless you're doing their tasting menu —which, at 5 courses for $75, is a much more reasonable proposition than most. If you want a look at why food folks put so much stock in Brooklyn restaurants, it's a good bet.

For reservations, though, you've got options. Why not Gywnnett St? If you're staying in downtown Brooklyn, it's a quick hop on the G train (or a reasonably quick cab ride). Hits all the New Brooklyn Cuisine points: 1) Young chefs with a fine dining background 2) moving to an "emerging neighborhood" and 3) opening a less buttoned-down restaurant than they've worked at before—with the happy fact 4) that they succeed wildly (which many do not). If you need a cocktail beforehand, consider Huckleberry Bar, with a lovely back garden and well-crafted drinks; it's a much more adult bar than most in this neck of the woods.


Roast chicken at Vinegar Hill House. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

On another night, you might make a reservation at Vinegar Hill House, a cozy spot all the more recommendable now that fall's settling in; what better time for a beautiful roast chicken or masterfully done pork chop?

It's a quick walk from downtown Brooklyn, if an occasionally sparse one, thanks to bridges and the BQE. But whether you walk, subway, or cab it, leave a bit early and don't go straight to the restaurant. Take time to stroll the waterfront at Brooklyn Bridge Park, with cinematic views onto Manhattan. Isn't it lovely from this side?

You won't be wanting for brunch options, even eggless ones. Avoiding crowds is generally as simple as going early, which generally means 11 a.m. or so—probably not a hardship for you, unless you're making like a Brooklyn brunch-er and sleeping until noon. (No judgements if so.)


Brisket sandwich at Char No. 4. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

You could try modern Southern spot Char No. 4, for shrimp and grits or a pulled pork sandwich; or Buttermilk Channel for fried pork chops on cheddar waffles. (Plus your choice of 4 different Bloodies). You could walk down through Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens for brunch at Prime Meats—there's a long list of egg dishes, sure, but also griddle cakes and Weisswurst and an excellent burger.

If you're early risers, maybe split up br– and –unch: Bien Cuit for coffee and first pick of the pastries, then Van Horn Sandwich Shop for a bacon-pimento sandwich, or Court Street Grocers for absolutely any sandwich.

Grilled doughnuts ($8)

Grilled ricotta thyme doughnuts at 606 R&D. [Photograph: Christine Tsai]

Oh, there are more options. Seafood fan? Walk down to Littleneck and learn what the Style section means when it says Gowanus isn't the backwater it used to be. (And do so over an excellent lobster roll, or a clam roll; or chicken and waffles if that's more your speed.) Or head down Atlantic to the charmingly homey 606 R&D, where your egg-averse husband can choose from a pork sandwich or smoked fish platter and you both must get the doughnuts: two-inchers popped out of their frying gizmo all throughout service.

If you're at 606, stroll down Vanderbilt and you'll hit Grand Army Plaza in minutes. Prospect Park is spectacular in the fall—all the autumn leaves, none of the tourists. Brooklyn's not Manhattan, to be sure. But its charms abound.

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