It’s been a slow, uphill battle, but more and more, Brooklynites are winning rounds over Manhattanites in the “my-place-or-yours” social gathering predicament. And while vaguely loftier apartments or fair neighborhood rotation might be at play, you can’t negate the charming restaurants in the borough, some of which deem even the G line worthy of a transit swipe. While Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill have always had good cards to play on the eatery front — the Italian-American neighborhoods are steeped in red sauce history — you can thank lower rent, tree-lined streets, and a population of ex-Manhats with finely tuned palates for the proliferation of destination-worthy spots that now populate the history. So stay calm and trek on to Bergen Street to check out one of these top 10 Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill restaurants.
10. La Vara, 268 Clinton Street
Brownstone-lined Clinton Street gets a new kind of dinner party in this ode to Iberian cuisine from the same team behind beloved Manhattan tapas joints Txikito and El Quinto Pino. Start with a bowl of honey-drenched eggplant stalks and move on to a plate of robust and spicy migas — hand-torn bread with a scattering of chorizo, grapes, and rosemary.
9. Frankies Spuntino, 457 Court Street
A long bar, narrow corridor, and line of Edison bulbs guide diners through this Italian staple to both indoor and outdoor dining areas, the latter of which is suitable for best man speeches and Friday night IPA toasts alike. Nearly 10 variants of crostini — from cremini mushroom and truffle oil to ricotta with speck — are quick appetite catalysts, but don’t fill up too much on the house-made pastas — the intoxicating aromas of cinnamon- and red wine-simmered prunes with a rich slathering of mascarpone might be winter’s best dessert asset.
8. The Grocery, 288 Smith Street
The white tablecloths are the first indication that this isn’t your average grocery — though you still might want to come here on a weekly basis. Swiss chard pancakes of brown rice batter and soy are a savory and vitamin-packed Asian twist to the skillet outcome once reserved for breakfast only, while a semolina crust arms fall-apart skate with a grainy shell plays nicely with roasted cauliflower and curry-bursting aioli bites.
7. Brucie, 234 Court Street
You’ll need to descend a few stairs to enter the firehouse-red Court Street storefront; consider it a gateway to heightened Italian fare inside this modern day trattoria. Low ceilings and shelves of Italian groceries (which can really be purchased to go) surround communal tables that frame an abundance of share-worthy plates, from tagliatelle with creamy house burrata and tomato butter to a healthy heaping of al dente spaghetti beneath an herb-packed trilogy of meatballs.
6. Seersucker, 329 Smith Street
Natural light illuminates a mason jar-lined kitchen window at this 40-seat spot from Smith Street chef-restaurateur Robert Newton. Newton calls on his Arkansas upbringing and current location for a menu of greenmarket-curated Southern favorites, like daytime’s sweet potato-hominy hash with two eggs and evening’s fried chicken with a dose of onion-bourbon gravy.
5. Hibino, 333 Henry Street
Neighborhood denizens frequent this Japanese joint for the daily-rotating Kyoto-style obanzai, or small plates, as much as the nigiri offering. If it isn’t the chalkboard specials that win you over — from sake-steamed cobia to baked miso oyster gratin — consistent menu standouts like shiso leaf, salmon, and kanpyo-layered box pressed sushi and mini carafes of housemade tofu are sure to do the job.
4. Buttermilk Channel, 524 Court Street
The comforting menu and charming name inspiration (Governors Island-based dairy farmers used to traverse this tidal strait to sell milk in Manhattan) give rise to the cult following at this Court Street corner bistro. Buttermilk-battered fried chicken and cheddar bedecked waffles vie for the “dish component most likely to prompt return visit” title, while nightly specials — like Friday’s Maine lobster via nearby Red Hook Lobster Pound — encourage loyal weekday patronage. Even Mondays look up with a $28 three-course prix fixe.
3. Colonie, 127 Atlantic Avenue
Chef Andrew Whitcomb’s rural Maine upbringing peppers the paper menu at this jaunty Atlantic Avenue dwelling, where even the walls get a taste of the outdoors (a vertical herb garden sprouts from a wall adjacent to the open kitchen). A bowl of tender, ropelike octopus tentacles are immersed in a carnivore-friendly chorizo broth, while egg sabayon-soaked spaghetti squash borrows additional richness from a cool and frothy parmesan espuma.
2. Lucali, 575 Henry Street
Locals and borough-hoppers alike queue up at this candlestick-strewn BYOB pie haven, where a proud “Made in Brooklyn” attitude abounds. You’ll find just two things on the menu scrawled on a hanging chalkboard: pizza and calzones. They’re all Lucali needs, especially when you consider the topping options, towering plates of basil, and “free” refills (i.e. from the bottle you brought).
1. Battersby, 255 Smith Street
Impressive culinary CVs and a serious service repertoire quickly warranted trips from across the street — and bridge — for this sans-signage, pocket-sized eatery. The kale salad lives up to the hype — a tangy, texture-fueled plating of its namesake in chip form, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, and peanuts. Feeling ambitious? A five- and seven-course tasting menu is on offer, and at $75 and $95 respectively, neither will completely break bank.