My love of Brooklyn came later in life. I have to admit, we were out and out Manhattanites from the time we moved to NYC from D.C., and our eastward glance ended with the banks on the other side of the River, the iconic sights like the tram, the arches of the 59th Street Bridge, Silver Cup, and planes landing in the distance. What was wrong with me? I was so unenlightened.
A little over a decade ago, our daughter and son-in-law announced that they put a bid in on a co-op in a brownstone in Cobble Hill. They just loved the Brooklyn vibe-- we have to come visit. Reluctantly, but a little bit curious, we make the 90 mile trek from Southold, where we had already relocated, searched for parking (easy once you get the rhythm of it-- or I should say easier) and began to learn about their neighborhood, and those surrounding Cobble Hill. We were smitten. We loved the old-time neighborhood feel of each, and appreciated their differences. We loved the restauranteurs who relocated there from Manhattan establishments. We appreciated the small stores and hip vibe. Immediately it felt like home. Our kids have moved a few times, and are now in DUMBO-- I would say the hippest neighborhood of all, yet still with a real community feel. We fell for Brooklyn Heights because of its diversity, proximity to the Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park, and its old world charm. Cobble Hill is just outstanding for families with children, and in my opinion Atlantic Avenue and nearby Court and Smith Streets cannot easily be challenged for their interesting shops and food resources. Carroll Gardens feels even more spread out to me, with a prevalence of brownstones and row houses. Its Mom + Pop old time markets are treasures. Up and coming on the waterfront on the other side of the BQE is the Columbia waterfront area, with new housing options, and hip and delicious restaurants featuring any type of cuisine you can imagine.
Did I mention that the BQE (Brooklyn Queens Expressway) is the worst possible road imaginable and is LOADED beyond capacity at nearly all times as traffic funnels onto the Kosciuszko Bridge from either direction? Except on the rare, rare occasions when it is not, and you can actually make it from Queens to Cadman Plaza in about 10 minutes. That happened to me once.
If you are from Brooklyn and can share some of your favorite places and resources, we invite you to join this conversation! We will check out your favorites and feature them here. We are surely learning as we go, but here is our sense of the "best of" as we know it now. This will be a continual work in progress so check back often!
“Best of” in Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Cobble Hill (and nearby)
Heights Chateau on Atlantic Ave was noted as the best wine store in the Brooklyn Heights area. When I went in, it was a hot August afternoon, and I couldn't help but notice the selection of 68 roses. (Yes 68! A few weeks later on their website they noted 75!) That day I was thinking it would be wonderful to sample a few, extra chilled. Seriously, I am looking forward to trying many of their selections that I haven't seen before. I am told they have tastings there, and offer good prices and a case discount. Heights Chateau is on the north side of Atlantic Avenue just east of Henry Street. It is featured among the photos below.
Sahadi's, hands down, as rated by veteran Brooklyn-ites. I also like Damascus Bakery a lot. Both of these stores have incredible spices, nuts, olives and ethnic items. Both also have prepared foods to take home. Walking north, Lassen & Hennigs on Montague for prepared foods to carry out in a Citarella’s "heat at home" kind of way. When I am feeling a little lazy, their prepared fruit, crudite, and entree dishes sufficient to serve two are very convenient. They also have some excellent bakery items that I will continue to sample for research purposes. Shelsky’s on Court Street (south of Atlantic, so technically, Cobble Hill) is great for bagels and such. They were definitely the best bagels that I've had in quite some time--being primarily on the North Fork which still is a bit of a white bread bagel world, except for Goldberg's. I do not eat many of the "appetizer" items, however my brunch guests said that the nova and sliced sturgeon were delicious.
Staubitz, located on Court Street at Warren in Cobble Hill, is outstanding and was coincidentally also recently featured in the New York Times, giving our recommendations that extra ounce of credibility. Founded in 1917 by John Staubitz, the shop has been owned by its current owners, the McFadden family, for the past 40 years. While the sawdust on the floors, original cases, tin ceiling and the like add to the charm and feel of the place, it is the owners and butchers who are knowledgeable and helpful, and the excellent quality of the meats that make Staubitz a true Cobble Hill gem. Staubitz carries all the traditional, hand cut selections you would expect as well as specialty meats and wild game.
Fish Tales Gourmet Seafood Market, located on Court Street in Cobble Hill was identified by my sources as "stellar." I have not yet gone to Fish Tales, but after doing some follow-up research, I certainly will. Founded in 1996, Fish Tales is described as a true Mom + Pop style shop, with friendly, professional, knowledgeable staff. Their fish is sourced daily, and they also feature prepared foods to carry out including appetizers, soups and entrees, as well as a hot lunch menu. Open 7 days a week, I am told that Fish Tales is among the best, freshest fish markets in NYC and the Boroughs, which is further substantiated by consistent top Zagat reviews, and celebrity chef endorsements. I personally appreciate the glowing, loyal customer reviews and I can't wait to go in to try it.
Sahadi again-- great selection, excellent quality and prices. Also, Fairway in Red Hook has a great cheese department staffed by knowledgeable and helpful people who, I am told, give tastes!
Among the very good weekly traditional farmers markets are markets located at Borough Hall, and DUMBO on the Pearl Street Triangle beside the arch of the Manhattan Bridge. Borough Hall is opened year-round, while the Down to Earth market on the Triangle is open during the growing season.
Almar in Dumbo
Located on Front Street in DUMBO, Almar is a clearly a favorite of those that live in the neighborhood and beyond. Almar features fresh, delicious, and unpretentious Italian fare, great salads and sides, and a terrific bar. The service is professional and friendly. Some of the tables are communal. Everyone seems to know someone there and it is just a warm inviting environment to sit down and have a meal. Black and white movies (no sound) are screened on the back wall adding an unusual touch to the ambiance. Almar never disappoints. The prices are reasonable. No credit cards accepted.
Noodle Pudding in Brooklyn Heights
All the locals know where Noodle Pudding is, although there is no sign on this Henry Street gem. Home made pastas and fresh, delicious Italian fare are featured here. NP is a neighborhood favorite that welcomes families with children too. The front window opens fully so that diners seated at the tables fronting Henry Street can dine al fresco in nice weather. No reservations for parties of 4 and under.
Henry's End in Brooklyn Heights
Henry's End is celebrating ist 45th year by continuing to serves fresh, seasonal fare and featuring an award winning wine list. It is definitely special occasion worthy, and is a Brooklyn Heights favorite. Service is attentive and professional and the food is delicious. It is reported that in a Zagat review it was noted that this is "why they built the Brooklyn Bridge." Henry's End is located at the north end of Henry Street.
Brooklyn Heights Wine Bar & Kitchen
Located a few doors south of Henry's End, Brooklyn Heights Wine Bar & Kitchen is its "little brother." A bit more casual, it is a local neighborhood restaurant that is always busy. One thing I love about it is if you are getting to dinner late, you can sit down to a lovely meal, in a bistro style restaurant that is still bustling at 9:00 p.m. or later on a "school night." It is long and narrow, and the kitchen is fit into a snug alcove in the back of the restaurant in view of the bar and close by tables. The food is fresh and delicious and reasonably priced. There is an impressive selection of 30 wines available by the glass each day, making it a great place to stop by for a glass or two. In addition to very good entrees, they also do a great job with their cheese plate, among other appetizers and sides.
What a nice surprise Atrium Dumbo was when I finally went in! I had passed by several times, and it always looked busy, but for some reason I did not anticipatethe warm, fun, delicious dining experience I had when I recently went there for brunch with my daughter. Brandt welcomed us, and provided professional, friendly and enjoyable service. We had a great time and our food was outstanding. I learned that it is one of my daughter's and her husband's "go to" places for dinner out, and that the dinner fare is equally amazing. Atrium won Wine Spectator's Best Award of Excellence 2017 and boasts Brooklyn's only Master Sommelier. I will surely be back to Atrium.
River Cafe in DUMBO
I don't think a list of Brooklyn restaurants could be complete without mention the River Cafe. It is extraordinary from get-go, including the valet parking (coveted in DUMBO), to its proper, yet extremely warm, bar overlooking views that are nothing short of spectacular. And then there is the food-- we have had dinner there several times--which is superb, and dessert--it's important to leave room for dessert here. Since our children have been living in DUMBO, and at that time their good friend was the pastry chef there so we just had to try it, the River Cafe has always been a special place and an outstanding dining experience. We make sure to arrive early to have time to sit at the bar for a leisurely drink, a little conversation with the bar tender, and a chance to take in the view of the harbor. It is inspiring to see the Statue of Liberty from there, and the tip of Manhattan, and as it turns to night time, the city skyline. It sets the tone.
As a note, the River Cafe sustained significant damage during Hurricane Sandy, and it took some time to rebuild, with some of its original fixtures destroyed--but it was lovingly restored and is back better than ever.
Alma, Columbia Waterfront
Alma is a unique, delicious and fun Mexican restaurant located on Columbia Street, on "the other side" (west) of the BQE, at DeGraw. When you enter the first floor, it appears to be, and is, an old-time bar. To get to the restaurant, you go up one flight of stairs. There is rooftop, enclosed dining too, up another flight, with pretty cool views of Manhattan and the starlit night over the East River. The food at Alma is just what you hope for -- with all the usual appetizers and entrees as well as Mexican specials. Drinks are good too. The ambiance is friendly and the service is very good. We are always up for returning to Alma. While it definitely has a hip and younger vibe, many friends of varying ages feel the same.
The Good Fork, Red Hook
Located on Van Brunt (also on the west side of the BQE) between Coffey and Van Dyke Streets, The Good Fork is a lovely and excellent dining experience. In contrast with its street, both the interior space and its food are eclectic, nuanced and layered. Chef Sohui Kim's Korean influence along with inspiration from other cuisines creates an unusual and creative menu, that The Good Fork website describes as a "globe trotting menu that has one foot in comfort food and the other in fine dining." I haven't been there in awhile, but recommended it to friends recently, and they loved it. I look forward to going back.
One Girl Cookies in DUMBO
Calling One Girl Cookies "a coffee shop" would be tantamount to calling King Kong "a big monkey." First of all, it's a DUMBO institution. Second, that's because its coffee and pastries are just that good. I was a bit taken aback when I got my first iced latte there and the ice cubes were made from frozen coffee. How smart is that? It was delicious to the last drop despite the sweltering temperatures outside. My 5 year-old grandson swears by the vanilla cupcakes-- with green icing are the best, he states, and their coconut cookies. I have yet to find a pastry there that is not delicious, and, as required I will continue tasting so that I can keep you all up to date. In the morning they have quiche until it sells out, and also yogurt with a fresh fruit mixture that is heavenly. I haven't sampled the teas there, but tea drinkers look equally happy sitting at the "bar" in the window or the tables around the periphery. Hot chocolate lovers--they have something for you too.
Recently, I tried Cecconi’s for the first time. Our daughter and son-in-law had been in a couple of times prior, and thought we would enjoy it—especially seated at a window table overlooking the walkway of Brooklyn Bridge Park, and just beyond, the East River and City skyline.
Located in the Empire Stores, the large brick renovated warehouses right on the waterfront, Cecconi’s is part of the high-end Italian restaurant group owned by Nick Jones. The group’s flagship restaurant is in London, with others by the same name in Barcelona, Berlin, Istanbul, Miami, and West Hollywood—in addition to a second location in London. Hand made pastas, a menu of chicchetti—small bites, salads, pizzas and special dishes, plus a selection of carpaccio and tartare, wood and charcoal roasted entrees, salads and appetizers round out the menu. An elegant, yet comfortable bar centers the first room. On this particular Friday evening, many people were seated at the bar--several dining on small plates and pizzas as well. We ate in the dining room, which was beautiful. The service was excellent, attentive, and the right amount of friendly. My son-in-law was surprised when the waiter remembered his drink order from his prior visit—exactly. We had drinks and wine, and dined on cicchetti and wood oven pizza. The pizzas were thin-crust, creative and delicious. Small plates included roasted shishito peppers, whipped ricotta crostini, meatballs, and calamari—each plate with a special twist. Next time, I want to be sure to sample a couple of the salads and for sure the truffle polenta. Also, the pasta and dinner selections looked divine. I know we will be back.
Photo Essay -- A Walk Around the Neighborhood
As noted above, I am still learning about Brooklyn--and there is so much to take in! One of my favorite things to do is to set out for an errand, or in one direction or another, and just walk. I find that I am able to explore different neighborhoods and get a feel for the differences between them. In mid-August, I had an appointment in the City on Monday afternoon, so I drove into Brooklyn Heights on Sunday and did two walking "tours." It was a hot, sunny day. In this first one, I focused on my own neighborhood in Brooklyn Heights. I covered the area from the Promenade above the East River down to Cobble Hill (Atlantic Avenue is the dividing line), across (east) to Clinton Street, up to Montague, west on Montague to Columbia Heights and back up to north Brooklyn Heights, just below the "Fruit Streets" (Really called that! Pineapple, Orange, Cranberry, south to north.) I also wandered around a little in the Hicks, Joralemon area. I will point that out below. Follow me.