As rent rose in Williamsburg to match prices in Manhattan, restaurateurs pushed eastward, and they’ve spent the last several years colonizing Bushwick with unique offerings that run the gamut from vegan Ethiopian fare to Cuban sandwiches. Those businesses join a slew of already-established places, including a pocket of Mexican restaurants that outshines much of what’s available in the rest of the city. The neighborhood is now home to dozens of destination-worthy eating establishments, and more open each week. A few, though, rise to the very top, serving as beacons that draw neighborhood regulars and culinary tourists. Here are the 10 best restaurants in Bushwick.
10. Northeast Kingdom, 18 Wyckoff Avenue, 718-386-3864
Northeast Kingdom doesn’t always manage brilliant execution — and we’ve had some dishes here that are full-on misses. But when this Vermont-themed restaurant hits, it really hits, and it manages to make local, seasonal produce and home-style cooking seem like a rare, otherworldly commodity. We tend to favor the simplest dishes on this constantly changing menu — we once had an egg yolk-enhanced porridge here that was fully mind-melting — though the burger is a safe bet if nothing’s grabbing your eye. The succulent beef comes swaddled in cheddar and swiped with bacon mayo.
9. Roberta’s, 261 Moore Street, 718-417-1118
Erected when Bushwick was more or less a culinary no-man’s-land, Roberta’s has enjoyed years of being the main reason Manhattanites venture out to east Williamsburg. You’re not going to not have pizza here, and we won’t begrudge you your blistered pies, topped with traditional mozzarella and tangy marinara or non-traditional corn and labne. But don’t skip the rest of the menu: Start with creamy stracciatella and grilled bread, then order a salad or two — each is a deftly crafted celebration of whatever’s in season. Brunch dishes — like cornmeal pancakes and various takes on hash — are also worth a special trip. And though a wait here is inevitable, it’s made bearable by the backyard bar, where you can order beer and frozen drinks in kiddie clubhouse-like digs.
8. Momo Sushi Shack, 43 Bogart Street, 718-418-6666
Like many of the restaurants in this neighborhood, Momo’s not a looker — the cramped space holds just a few community tables, so squeeze into one and make friends with your neighbors (and hey, the place has the word “shack” in its name, so don’t say it didn’t warn you). The place turns out good, if pricey, sushi, most notably in the form of bombs, which are little domes of rice overlaid with fish. Add in a pretty decent version of kara age (Japanese fried chicken) and many, many options for vegetarians, and you’ll see why this place is frequently running on a wait.
7. Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos, 271 Starr Street, 718-456-3422
Look, we’re not going to BS you here — despite what your fixie-riding friends might swear, there are better tacos in Bushwick. But this place is still unique among south-of-the-border offerings, and not just because it was canonized by Anthony Bourdain. This is a tortilla factory, see, and that means your masa rounds are freshly formed and griddled to order; they’re filled with chorizo, carnitas, or cecina and then topped with salsa you procure from vats near the register. Muddle your way through the notoriously confusing ordering system (write your order on an index card with your name, pay, and then someone will deliver your food to you) and find a seat on the factory floor. Watch a cross-section of the neighborhood mingle while you eat.
6. Arepera Guacuco, 44 Irving Avenue, 347-305-3300
You know, there are too few arepa joints in this city, and that makes this place a real gem. Owner Leonardo Molino hails from Venezuela, and so the stuffed cornmeal pockets at this joint follow in the vein of the version from that country — they’re derived from his mother’s recipe. Most people order the pabellon criollo, a Venezuelan specialty that packs shredded beef, black beans, white rice, sweet plantains, and cheese into the pouch; we’re also into the vegetariano, which marries avocado and plantain.
5. Fritzl’s Lunch Box, 173 Irving Avenue, 929-210-9531
It’s been awhile since we’ve written about this burger, but that doesn’t make it less lovable — we had the cheek-and-chuck patty, cloaked in cheese and topped with pickles and onions, quite recently, and the tender puck still drools savory meat juice in a manner that’s practically pornographic. But we’ve now talked about the burger so much that we feel sort of bad for the rest of the menu at this charming spot, because the fried chicken sandwich, the pastas, and the seasonal salads are always well-crafted, too. Stop in, pull up a seat on the back patio, and pair your meal to something from the well-edited beer list.
4. Taqueria Cocoyoc, 211 Wyckoff Avenue, 718-497-4489
One of the best things about Bushwick is that it is teeming with decent Mexican restaurants; this fluorescent-lit cantina, which is fronted by a picture board of dishes on offer, is one of the best. We’ve praised its barbacoa enchilada taco — stuffed with spicy goat — recently, and its cemitas in the past. But the menu here is massive, and you might also want to sample its killer Mexican breakfasts, a burrito, one of its tostadas, another of its tacos, or a platter loaded with camarones (shrimp) in salsa verde.
3. Cafeteria La Mejor, 191 Suydam
Where is the best Cuban sandwich in the city, you ask? Why, it’s hanging out in Bushwick, besting its competitors by a considerable margin. This colorful cafe presses its pork and swiss sandwiches until, per its menu, they’re “eggshell-crisp,” and that’s an excellent descriptor for the final product. Pair yours to a Cuban coffee, made with salt and butter. After your first trip, you’re going to crave what this place puts out — and you’re going to wish it would extend its hours into the evenings.
2. Bunna Cafe, 1084 Flushing Avenue
In a town light on good Ethiopian food, Bunna is a godsend — the kitchen turns out stellar versions of fit fit and wot that place it among the best in its field. That the restaurant also happens to be vegan makes it more intriguing, though the owners say this is not as odd as it seems: Dishes here follow a long-established meatless Ethiopian tradition. Gather a group and order a sampler platter, which allows you to try everything on the menu. And consider the unique brunch, too — we’re suckers for the ful, a fava bean stew served with fried flatbread.
1. Taqueria Izucar, 1503 Myrtle Avenue, 718-456-0569
Would you like to have a truly transcendent taco? The type that’ll make you drop to your knees and praise Dios for giving us cornmeal, cilantro, onion, and braised meat? Of course you would, and for those of you who’ve sworn up and down that you’ll never find that kind of experience here in New York City, we offer Taqueria Izucar, an alcove with irregular hours that turns out crushingly beautiful suadero tacos, simple, hot tortilla packets of juicy braised veal that could move a (wo)man to weep. Order by the half-dozen, and elbow your way into a little counter space to enjoy them on the spot — these are best consumed immediately, though you’ll see plenty of people carrying out.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 8, 2014