Brooklyn isn’t the biggest borough in the city, but it has the most people. Consequently, there are a lot of great places to eat, and that’s exactly why the birthplace of Busta Rhymes and Ruth Bader Ginsburg deserves its own Hit List. Scroll down for our favorite new Brooklyn spots, and check out our NYC Hit List for all the other new places we like in the whole city.
New to The Brooklyn Hit List (as of 3/9): & Sons
We didn’t know NYC needed a ham bar until a former sommelier from Per Se opened up & Sons in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Now, we never want to go back to the Ham-less Ages again. Everything at & Sons, including the ten rotating country hams and hundreds of wines, is sourced from the U.S, and you shouldn’t leave without trying a smoky ham from Kentucky or Tennessee. All ham plates cost $14 and come with a side of cornbread madeleines and cornichons. Pair it with a cheese plate, and a mental list of all the friends you want to bring will begin to form in your head. When other knockoff ham bars inevitably start popping up around the city, just remember that & Sons was the first.
At some point during your meal at Rule Of Thirds, a person with a megaphone might stand on the bar and insist that everyone say, “Kanpai.” This Japanese restaurant in Greenpoint is the size of a small airplane hanger, so the megaphone is in fact necessary. The space has high ceilings and lots of blonde wood, and in the middle, you’ll find a chilled glass case filled with sake. Drink some. And bring a few friends to share a bunch of dishes from the izakaya-style menu. We especially like the box-pressed sushi that comes topped with crunchy radishes as well as the extremely crispy (and very large) tonkatsu, and we don’t mind shouting, “Kanpai.”
The Vietnamese food at Bolero is as layered as a toddler on the first day of winter. And even though the chefs are from high-end restaurants like Blue Hill At Stone Barns and Benu in San Francisco, this narrow spot steps from the Bedford L-stop is perfect for casual group dinners or weeknight dates. All but two dishes are share plates that cost around $15, and the space is decorated with mosquito-net covered light fixtures and hand radios playing Vietnamese music from the ’50s. Just know that they’re waiting on their liquor license - but that shouldn’t matter too much when you try the pork belly braised in fermented fish sauce served with hen and quail eggs.
You should, of course, order the al pastor tacos at Taqueria Al Pastor in Bushwick. They come piled with strips of crispy pork and cubes of pineapple, and a single hefty taco constitutes a very respectable snack. But the carne asada is even better. Cut into chunks the size of seven-carat diamonds, the beef is garlicky, well-seasoned, and as bountiful as snowflakes in a snowstorm. The guacamole also has some nice kick, and the housemade corn tortillas are sturdy and the right amount of chewy. On one occasion when they ran out of corn tortillas, they made our tacos with flour ones instead. The result? Equally outstanding handheld objects. Grab a quick meal at this counter-service spot on Wyckoff Ave.
If you live anywhere near Greenpoint, use this casual Korean spot like a piano player uses foot pedals - often and skillfully. Ms. Ohho’s space looks identical to most coffee shops where someone might cry or write a memoir, with a list of espresso drinks on the wall, cheekily illustrated greeting cards for sale, and a few backless stools looking out on big windows. But take a look at the paper menu by the register and you’ll realize Ms. Ohho makes about 35 homestyle Korean dishes in addition to cortados. So the next time you’re in Greenpoint and want a great solo meal or a casual breakfast, lunch, or dinner with a friend, stop by for some bulgogi bibimbap and spicy pork jjambong with enough vegetables to fulfill your daily nutritional value.
If this were the 19th century, Le Crocodile would be the banquet hall of a recently renovated chateau where anyone who’s rich enough wants to get married. But it’s actually in the bottom of the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, and the French food here is surprisingly unpretentious. Our favorite dish, for example, is a roasted half chicken with a big pile of fries on the side. You can order just that and have an excellent, filling meal here - or you can order some escargots, leeks with hazelnuts, and a rectangle of chilled paté with several chunks of bread on the side. Either route is perfect, just be sure to get dessert.
Some people think the name of this place isn’t so great. But we think it’s fun and playful. Or maybe we’re just making excuses for the name because we really like the food. That sounds more likely. Either way, you need to eat at Noods ’n Chill. It’s the best Thai restaurant in Williamsburg (from the people behind Look By Plant Love House), and most things on the menu cost $15 or less. We especially like the guay tiao tom yum, and we suggest you get it as spicy as it comes. The only catch is, Noods ’n Chill is tiny. It’s a counter-service spot with about 10 seats, so get here early or anticipate a wait.
For us, Win Son Bakery is a desert island spot. It’s somewhere we’d like to have in our back pocket if we ever get stranded on a remote archipelago with no other humans in sight. Every morning, we’d wake up, walk over, get a BEC or a pork knuckle sandwich while we tried to figure out to get off our desert island, and at night, we’d eat some fried chicken, stare out the window, and think of all the happy times we’ve had that didn’t involve being stranded. This counter-service spot in East Williamsburg is open all day, and the Taiwanese food is consistently exceptional.
Bonus points aren’t really a thing on The Infatuation, but let’s pretend that they are and award Maison Yaki several bonus points for being unmistakably itself. This place has mushrooms growing above its bar, a petanque court in the backyard, and the menu here is equal parts French and Japanese. It consists of things like tempura frog legs and cauliflower okonomiyaki, but mostly you come here to eat various skewers. We especially like the duck a l’orange, as well as the scallops, lobster, and ribeye. All of these cost less than $10 each, and you should order every single one.
Hihi Room is a neighborhood spot that you want to stop into once a week, if only to hang out at the bar, eat a burger, and discuss your most redeeming qualities with the bartender. The space feels kind of like a DIY diner with vinyl barstools and mismatched decor like a hanging whale sculpture and an Italian poster for Columbo, and they serve some great cocktails with ingredients like celery, root beer, and red bell pepper bourbon. The menu also has stuff like some fluffy hush puppies and roast chicken with a sweet glaze, and if you’d like to eat a waffle for dinner, they serve a good one with a side of whitefish salad.
You’ve been meaning to go to Red Hook Tavern. We know this not because we’re psychic, but because it’s only natural. Red Hook Tavern serves one of the best burgers in the city, and they also have gelato sundaes, floral wallpaper, and lots of wine you’ll want to drink. The dining room is filled with candles and empty wine bottles, and there’s a long bar that’s reserved for walk-ins. So put your name in, have a drink down the street at San Pedro Inn, then come back to eat a burger, a salad topped with bacon, and some chicken liver mousse.
If we had fewer obligations, we’d spend entire days at Yafa Cafe, a Yemeni counter-service spot in Sunset Park. We’d get there around 8am, drink an americano, and listen to our backlog of voicemails on the little couch up front. Around noon, we’d have a crispy fried chicken sandwich, do some work, and get a few more crumbs lodged between the keys of our laptop keyboard. Eventually, we’d wrap things up and spend a little time talking to the barista behind the counter in an attempt to convince them we should be considered regulars. You should do the same. Or at least hang out at this coffee shop for an hour and have a sandwich.
When you’re wearing mittens in your apartment trying to figure out which window thinks it’s an overachieving A/C unit, go to Hanon and order the thick curry udon with tender washugyu beef. And when you’re looking at pictures of friends at the beach while you’re standing on a subway platform in August, head to Hanon and order the cold mentaiko udon with tons of spicy cod roe. There are so many udon variations at this Williamsburg Japanese spot that you can probably find one for each week of the year, which would be perfect because you’ll want to eat the udon at this casual neighborhood restaurant weekly.
If you’re in the mood for sandwiches, one of the first places we’ll always recommend is Mekelburg’s. The hot chicken, the waygu roast beef, and the meatloaf with ricotta and red gravy are three of our favorites in all of Williamsburg. But even if, somehow, you weren’t interested in the sandwiches, we’d still confidently send you to this spot across the street from Domino Park because the beer program and the small plates, like a salt-baked potato topped with a scoop of caviar, are both fantastic. And in the unlikely event that none of those were appealing, there’s always babka.
The nightly six-course tasting menu at Oxalis is fantastic, and yet at $70, it’s far less expensive than similarly impressive tasting menus in the city. The catch is this Prospect Heights spot doesn’t feel like a fine-dining restaurant. It’s a casual neighborhood spot with bare white walls, R&B on the speakers, and natural wines from places like Canada and the Jura. But unless you’re looking for a white tablecloth place to toast another decade of monogamy, then you won’t mind. This is fine-dining food served in a space where you’ll actually want to hang out.
While waiting for a table at Lucali, Frankies 457, or Ugly Baby, we’re faced with a difficult decision: hold ourselves over with heavy nachos or $3 oysters at some bar, or fight the good fight and hope we don’t pass out. Franks Wine Bar offers a nice alternative. Get a bar seat or booth in the small space next to Frankies 457 in Carroll Gardens, and order a few high-quality small plates, like housemade sausage with pecorino or anchovy toast with red pepper butter, and something from the 400-bottle wine list. And no matter how much stomach space you’re trying to preserve, you need to get the grilled bread with Frankies olive oil.
Leo is from the people behind Ops, and like that Bushwick spot, it’s a walk-in-only pizza place that serves natural wine. And like Ops, that description doesn’t really do it justice. The corner space in Williamsburg is great for groups - mostly because the natural wines are all displayed in a fridge in the middle of the room, and the pizza is some of our favorite in the neighborhood. The crust is chewy but nicely charred, and the pies are light enough that you can eat a whole one yourself. But we recommend getting a few for the table, including at least one margarita and one clam pie, and sharing some tender beef and pork meatballs with sauce you can soak up with housemade sourdough.
If you’re looking for a spot in Brooklyn that feels like a sceney LES restaurant, head to Sally’s - it’s the second Caribbean place from the people behind Sally Roots and it’s also where you should meet up with your amateur DJ friend in Bed-Stuy. The combination of curry crab rangoons and pork buns, creative cocktails, and a strong Kaytranada playlist makes this neighborhood spot feel more like one big VIP booth at a tiki-themed club that happens to serve good food.
Google. Nirvana. Your fading fear of the dark. Lots of important things started in garages. And F&F Pizzeria, the Carroll Gardens slice shop from the people who run Frankies (457) Spuntino and Franks Wine Bar, is no different. The pizza here tastes like it was scientifically engineered to incorporate chewy crust and sweet sauce in a way that the world has never seen before. And since this impressive pizza place is half-kitchen, half-standing tables, you’ll probably enjoy it most if you take a slice or a whole pie to-go.
If a millennial candle brand wanted to put something on the market called “Taco Tuesday,” they should probably figure out how to capture the smell inside Boca Santa. This BYOB taco spot in Bed-Stuy smells like freshly-made blue corn tortillas and hibiscus agua frescas. And Tuesday or not, it’s a great option for a casual dinner date or a meal with a friend whose new couch you actually want to hear about. Most of the dishes here are vegetarian, including our favorite (the mole taco), but if you’re craving meat, get the chicharron.
Every day, Carroll Gardens gets a new adorable baby or engaged couple. But it’s not so common this area gets a trendy new date spot. So, if you live or spend time in the neighborhood, take advantage of Bar Bete - a restaurant that serves both classic and not-classic French food. This is the type of place where you might get so excited about the small plates that you’ll fill up before you even see a main (especially if you order the peekytoe crab omelette and crispy duck fat potatoes), and that’s okay because we’d suggest focusing on the shareable things anyway. Text the babysitter or a dog walker, and come ready to drink orange wine on marble tabletops next to couples who had the same idea.