WE SAY: The buzz surrounding this Bushwick instituion is well deserved. Roberta’s, after all, single-handedly put Bushwick on the map as an essential food destination. Sure the pies are FANTASTIC, but don’t miss out of the more delicate farm-to-table entrees on the menu. Especially since said farm is often Roberta’s itself, where fresh herbs and veggies are grown a stone’s toss from the dining room. If you don’t want to wait in line, head there for brunch on the early side. Note: if you can afford it (and get a reservation) try Roberta’s upscale, fine-dining, tasting room Blanca, featured in all its stainless steel glory on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.
BEST DISH: Roberta’s has a seasonal, ever-changing menu but start by sharing a Margherita pizza as an appetizer. From there, just close your eyes and point randomly at the menu. You can’t go wrong.
FEATURED REVIEW, NY TIMES: Roberta’s pizzas are marvelous things, of no particular geographical provenance. They are just good ingredients married well, then cooked in hot, fragrant smoke and quickly served…For the last two years, though, and increasingly over the last 12 months, the pizzas have been joined by the more-formal fare that a gas stove and huge ambition can create: delicate salads of foraged greens and home-grown flowers, cured meats of great complexity, painterly pasta dishes, aged roasted meats…These are extremely beautiful plates of food, artfully designed. The cuttlefish, in particular, would not look out of place on a starched tablecloth at Per Se. They are delicate of flavor, free of excess fats or salts, as pure an expression of new American cuisine as you are likely to find anywhere. It is shocking, and wonderful, to eat them in this cinder-block garage space six stops into Brooklyn on the L, a ratty old ski lodge built for bums interested in food rather than powder.
WE SAY: Do you see that plate of food? Carb-out on some great, homemade, vegan, Ethiopian food with a group of friends and you’ll forget about the lines at Roberta’s.
BEST DISH: Try the shared feast for two platter.
FEATURED REVIEW, SERIOUS EATS: Soulful, vibrant, surprising vegan Ethiopian fare… There’s a pronounced emphasis on freshness in Bunna’s stews and salads: raw vegetables are mixed with cooked, bringing lightness to the meal, and sharp notes of garlic, ginger and onion punctuate the softer flavors of curry powder and sunflower-seed milk. Bunna has a focused menu of three appetizers and nine mains. In the Feast for Two ($28), you can sample all nine mains arranged on one heaping platter lined with injera, that spongy teff-flour flatbread that acts as your serving utensil throughout the meal. Bunna’s version is soft, nicely seasoned and tangy but not too tangy, a flavor that can sometimes turn people off of injera.
WE SAY: Dear Bushwick is a hidden treasure. It has the cosy charm of a local neighborhood tavern with an impeccable menu that rivals that of any gastropub in New York. It’s hands-down our favorite new Bushwick restaurant.
BEST DISH: Get the pork chop. Do it!
FEATURED REVIEW, TIME OUT: This year, denizens of established ’hoods had reason to cheer: The scruffy East Village gained an ace Gallic charmer (Calliope), tony Soho a soulful American bistro (Jack’s Wife Freda) and stroller-saddled Park Slope a shots-and-burgers roadhouse (Pork Slope). But there’s no competing with underdog pride, and an up-and-coming Brooklyn nabe rallied for its favorite new local, Dear Bushwick. Though British-inspired, the tiny gem sports no stiff upper lip (or indie-rock hauteur, for that matter). Invoking a great neighborhood pub, the prettily appointed joint supercharged feel-good vibes with life-affirming sustenance: gorgeous cocktails (the Iron Lady, a tart, rose-infused gin sipper) and hearty fare (a fat, juicy pork chop glazed in a bacon-fig vinaigrette). That strangers nestled in at the bar and shared plates as covet-worthy as Gollum’s ring is a testament to the tiny spot’s outsize camaraderie; the only thing too precious at this new Brooklyn beaut is the name.
WE SAY:Street-food Hanoi and Saigon style, with a subtle french twist.
BEST DISH: This newbie has an evolving menu but we are delighted with the Clay Pot Catfish and the Lemongrass Pork Chop.
FEATURED REVIEW, TIME OUT: Chef Henry Trieu brings a little Vietnam love to Bushwick. The San Francisco import—who imbued traditional Vietnamese flavors with fine-dining finesse at Charles Phan’s acclaimed Slanted Door—roots through the street food of his childhood for this 54-seat joint. Named after his Chaozhou-bred father’s mispronunciation of the world Français, Trieu’s cross-cultural restaurant unites Vietnamese and French standards. Hanoi street-cart staples like pho bo (Vietnamese beef noodle soup), banh cay (spicy yucca fritters) and cha ca la vong (dill-flecked fried cod) share menu space with Gallic bistro standards like escargot in garlic butter and steak frites. Settle into a reclaimed-wood table for curry goat and a Vietnamese beer snagged from the tile-covered bar. Repurposed trappings fill the restaurant—French doors recycled as windows, light fixtures leftover from an abandoned Italian eatery—while garage-sale-mined birdcages hanging overhead give the space a Far East vibe.
WE SAY: A trendsetting precursor to the locally-sourced restaurants now popular in Bushwick and Brooklyn.
BEST DISH: Another seasonal menu, but we recommend their burgers and their chicken potpies when available. Recently we sampled their Roasted bobo chicken (Vignarola, Semolina Crouton, Croquettes) which was divine.
FEATURED REVIEW, NY MAG: Bushwick is derived from the Dutch for “little town in the woods,” but a New England deer camp is the last thing you’d expect to find on its post-industrial streets. Nevertheless, husband and wife proprietors Paris Smeraldo and Meg Lipke have blithely imported touches of their native Vermont to the nether regions of the L train. Potted evergreens, seemingly the only vegetation for miles, mark the entrance, beneath a copper stag nailed to a slab of wood. Although a paint-by-numbers deer in a winter scene hangs over the bar, the interior avoids campiness; slate-gray planks in the ceiling impart a minimalist vibe. The food relies on fresh ingredients, with a menu that shifts accordingly. Gruyère cheese appears frequently, in a grilled mushroom sandwich, with cheddar in mac & cheese, and matched with coarse-cut country bacon in the N.K. version of a croque monsieur. Chicken pot pie is a signature dish, made with organic meat stewed with peas, carrots, and thyme, and crowned by a thick, flaky crust. An indie and glam-rock soundtrack sets a festive mood for the young crowd, reflective of a new Bushwick demographic attracted by cheap rents. And the discontinuity of northeast Vermont in northeast Brooklyn seems not to faze them.
WE SAY: If you like Williamsburg’s Bozu (we do) you’ll love this slightly more formal outpost in Bushwick. Creative sushi “bombs” and deliciously fatty izakaya in a sparse minimalist setting.
BEST DISH: Spicy Scallop Hand Roll and the Pork Betty entree (which is their name for a delicious pork belly) are guaranteed to please.
FEATURED REVIEW, NY MAG: The third restaurant from the chef-owner behind Williamsburg spots Bozu and Samurai Mama is located a bit further afield, in Bushwick. Momo’s unmarked and windowless wooden façade fronts a room sporting three large communal tables and an open kitchen in back. Organic pork belly (“Pork Betty”) arrives in a ring of bite-sized slices, tender and cooked in a soy, sake, ginger, and garlic sauce. Fried chicken emerges heavily breaded and delicious, with ponzu dipping sauce and chile oil on the side. On the sushi menu, the “bombs” reign supreme, slightly larger than a normal roll and lacking the seaweed wrap. Meanwhile, unusual combinations, like the Mexican bomb (toro, salsa, avocado) and the salmon guacamole roll (salmon, homemade guacamole) mingle with a vegetarian lineup of tofu and vegetable options.
WE SAY: Get the burger.
BEST DISH: See above.
FEATURED REVIEW, SERIOUS EATS: The menu is divided into sections ranging from snacks to “pastas and plates,” but the focus seems to be on sandwiches, including a fried chicken sandwich ($8) and fried bacalao ($9). But I’m here for one reason, laser-focused on my goal. Ross-Leutwyler makes a fine burger, setting a new standard in an under-served neighborhood. At only $8 ($9 with cheese), it’s a bargain. Patties are close to six ounces and made of a combination of chuck and cheek, which Ross-Leutwyler estimates to be about 75/25 meat to fat. Ross-Leutwyler grinds it himself, throwing slightly more chuck in the mix. The cheek hails from Pineland Farms in Maine and is a leaner (but more flavorful) cut, so Ross-Leutwyler combines it with a fattier piece of chuck, which comes from grass-fed and grain-finished California vintage beef. Together, these bi-coastal cuts result in a beefy, tender patty whose rough grind holds a steak-like chew. The kitchen is also adept with the fryer. A seasonal appetizer of beer battered asparagus with sweet and sour sauce ($7) was light on the breading, ensuring that the vegetable was the star. Fries ($4, $3 with a sandwich) are killer. Ross-Leutwyler says he was inspired by the thrice-fried fries at The Breslin, but to me, the similarity seemed much closer to the Belgian-style fries at Resto. Their crisp, well-seasoned crust gives way to soft potato innards.
WE SAY: A no-frills Mexican counter joint that makes its own delicious tortillas.
BEST DISH: Pork enchilada tacos (marinated pork) and the chorizo tacos.
FEATURED REVIEW, NY MAG: “If not for the scent of toasted corn wafting out of its nondescript storefront, you might walk right past Los Hermanos—a tortilla factory on a stark Bushwick block. But there is good reason to stop: in the spring of 2006, the owners set up a tiny cantina in the delivery dock, where excellent Mexican grub is offered with a side of spectacle. Through Plexiglas partitions, diners view workers baking and bagging their brand of delicious wraps. The heavenly maize flats come off the line warm and chewy and go straight into the kitchen to be partnered with one of seven fillings. The most popular is the chorizo—sausage is ground, grilled and laced with small chunks of potato to cut the spicy flavor. Avoid the mediocre chicken; a carnitas taco and the spicy enchilada also made with pork pack more punch. The delicately cooked fillings hardly need additional dressing but house-made salsas are a delight on their own—smoky chipotle adds sultry heat while the tangy tomatillo discharges major firepower on the spicy end. Lines of starving artist neighbors snake out the door at peak hours, but the grill masters here keep things moving quickly. Recommended: Chorizo taco, $2; enchilada tostada, $2″
WE SAY: Classic french bistro cuisine done to perfection
BEST DISH: Braised beef bourguignon, escargot
FEATURED REVIEW, ZAGAT: Moderately priced menu of Gallic classics with a few daily specials; the cozy digs have a lived-in feel, with newspapered walls, antique mirrors and soft golden lighting.
• 1 Knickerbocker: This former speakeasy is now a great gastropub, with the type of beautiful oak bar, craft beer, and hearty food you’d expect in Brooklyn these days. A solid choice.
• Tutu’s: Just around the corner from Roberta’s, swing by Tutu’s when the lines get to long at Roberta’s. They have fancy cocktails, pitchers, and serve great cafe fare like mussels and burgers in a comfortable space.
• The Rookery: The Jefferson stop’s prettiest space offers terrific cocktails and their West Indian meets British pub menu features dishes like an Oxtail Sloppy Joe and a Samosa Veggie Burger.