You’re never without a fresh hot flatbread at Yemen Cafe.
By my estimate, there are at least 15,000 restaurants in Brooklyn, and I love about 200 of them at any given time. So this list reflects ephemeral choices, what I want to eat now as I sit at my desk, breakfast-less, and dream about climbing on the train and heading to neighborhoods like Bath Beach, Bed-Stuy, and Bushwick.
Here are my 13 favorite places to eat in Brooklyn. Ask me tomorrow and the list will be different.
13. Yemen Café – Bring a crowd, because a meal at Yemen Café is a communal experience, from the charred humongous pitas that arrive throughout the meal, to the creamy baba ganoush, to the smoky kebabs at bargain prices, to the bubbling pot of meat, vegetables, and goo called saltah, shown above. Dip away! 7130 Fifth Avenue, Bay Ridge, 718-745-8000
12. BrisketTown – What could be better than a big fatty hunk of beef cooked 14 hours or more at low temps over hardwood, then served with nothing but bread, pickles, and onions? And now Austin breakfast tacos during the day. 359 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, 718-701-8909
11. Pete Zaaz – Since when did pizza become so much fun? The zany pies fly from the oven at this Crown Heights maverick (including the baked potato pie shown above), and there’s nothing better in the summer than chowing down in the breezy back yard. 766 Classon Avenue, Crown Heights, 718-230-9229
10. Chick P – Hidden around the corner from the new Barclays Center, this vegetarian Israeli takes all of Middle Eastern and North African Sephardic cooking as its purview, and the vegetarian platter would make even meat lovers swoon. 490 Bergen Street, Prospect Heights, 718-783-1525
9. Café Nargis – Who doesn’t like Uzbeki food, with its combination of over-charcoal lamb and chicken kebabs, tart composed salads, Korean borrowings, and kick-ass fresh breads, including toki, which is something like a parabolic matzo. 2818 Coney Island Avenue, Brighton Beach, 718-872-7888
8. Rama’s Roti Shop – The slogan of this Trinidadian café is “The Taste of a Mother’s Love,” and who could resist the curry laced rotis (goat and pumpkin shown below) with plenty of scotch bonnet hot sauce, or the bakes and doubles that make the nicest breakfasts? 2831 Church Avenue, Flatbush, 718-287-7262
7. Vanderbilt – The Vanderbilt explores the potential of Brooklyn charcuterie, turning out diverse sausages like weisswurst and bangers in profusion, then switching gears to drinking snacks that include Brussels sprouts with honey and Sriracha and scrumptious deviled eggs, finally turning out exemplary main courses including one of the borough’s best burgers. Shown above: pork loin. 570 Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights, 718-623-0570
6. Roman’s – Eating at Roman’s requires a leap of faith, because the menu is different every day, determined by a conference among chef and line cooks. The results are often fresh and spectacular, from market-driven salads, to second course pastas, to third courses such as the wood-oven roasted goat with frybreads shown above. 243 Dekalb Avenue, Ft. Greene, 718-622-5300
5. Mitchell’s – This ancient and venerable soul food spot has flourished despite the gentrification of the neighborhood all around it, a palace of great fried chicken, mac and cheese, ribs, smothered pork chops and, yes, chitterlin’s. The reason? The food is excellent and the prices cheap. 617A Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights, 718-789-3212
4. Parish Hall – This offspring of Egg makes cunning and creative use of unexpected ingredients – a tartare of lamb instead of beef, duck breast intertwined with watercress and leeks in a paradoxically light warm salad, or sustainable pollock with cranberry relish and garlic cream – to create a menu that never ceases to amaze and satisfy. Shown above: soft-boiled egg in parsnip puree. 109 North 3rd Street, Williamsburg, 718-782-2602
3. Yun Nan Flavour Snack – One of only three Yunnan restaurants in the city, this tiny shop delights diners with its rudimentary menu of Southeast-Asian-leaning rice noodles in soups and stir-fries, with a broad choice of ingredients that can, at your request, include offal. 775 49th Street, Sunset Park, 718-633-3090
2. Oasis – This Palestinian restaurant is simplicity itself, feeding generations of ‘Burgers with fresh vegetable salads, spit-roasted meats, bread dips, and falafels so big, they’d break your toe if you dropped one. And cheap, too. 161 North 7th Street, Williamsburg, 718-218-7607
1. Totonno Pizzeria Napolitano – My favorite pizza parlor in the world, and one of the few coal-oven places remaining in the city, is still shuttered following Hurricane Sandy. Attempts to secure recovery financing have been unavailing, according to a piece in the Daily News, but the owners vow to reopen anyway by Valentine’s Day. 1524 Neptune Avenue, Coney Island, 718-372-8606
Check out My 10 Favorite Queens Restaurants, from 2010.