We tend to think being a great value makes restaurants especially worthy of praise. Think true neighborhood places, where non-hedge fund types can be assured of an excellent meal and warm, attentive service, time and time again. And so, in 1995, Michelin created an honorific separate from their famous star system, a list of Bib Gourmands, denoting quality as well as wallet-friendly places, where two-courses plus wine and dessert can be had for $40 or less. And while many, many Brooklyn restaurants tend to fit this category, only six new borough establishments scored a coveted spot this year. So here’s a look at those Michelin-approved eateries, as well as a few helpful hints on what to order (on or under budget!) at each.
Elberta: Michelin’s attention is a definite coup for this casual Flatbush eatery, owned by a husband and wife who divide their time between the restaurant, and their decidedly un-culinary careers (he’s in IT, she’s a physician). You can actually get dinner for two for barely more than $40 here on Tasty Tuesdays, which features three courses of Southern and/or Caribbean-inspired dishes, such as jerk pork belly steam buns, smoked, pan-seared salmon with pickled tomatoes, and Creole bread pudding with pecans and warm whiskey cream.
335 Flatbush Avenue, Flatbush
Gladys: This wood-fired Crown Heights sandwich shop (originally spawned from a grilled cheese truck) unexpectedly transformed itself once again this year, into a congenial Caribbean jerk shack. At $28, the jerk lobster is the most high-flying menu on the item by far, but still totally affordable when paired with a side of rice and peas ($3), and a refreshing Dark & Slushie ($6), a frosty blend of black rum, ginger and lime.
788 Franklin Avenue, Crown Heights
Lea: This is the latest Ditmas Park triumph from Avi Shuker, the neighborhood trailblazer who also co-owns Mimi’s Hummus, the Castello Plan, and Market. The char-crusted pizzas do the borough proud (try the Bianca, with fennel fronds and ricotta, for $15), and be sure to use your remaining funds on a $6 plate of pacherri ripieni (little pasta pillows, stuffed with parmesan and basil), and a dense, $5 wedge of chocolate hazelnut babka.
1022 Cortelyou Road, Ditmas Park
Shalom Japan: We guess those Michelin folks have a sense of humor, giving their blessings to idiosyncratic Japanajewish mash-ups such as okonomiyaki with corned lamb’s tongue ($13), toro toasts with scallion cream cheese ($9), and the Manischewitz-based “Oy Vey Iz Kir” cocktail ($12).
310 S 4th Street, Williamsburg
Umi Nom: Chef King Phojanakong plumbs his Filipino/Thai background for culinary inspiration at this Clinton Hill favorite, resulting in $10 bowls of Pancit Canton (egg noodles with sausage, chicken and fish sauce), grilled mackerel, served with toasted rice, jicama and a garlic-chili lime dressing, and vibrantly colored halo-halo; shaved ice topped with condensed milk and assorted fruit, sweet beans and gelatin.
433 Dekalb Avenue, Clinton Hill
Waterfalls Café: Talk about an under-the-radar pick! But we commend Michelin for giving props to this humble, family-run Middle Eastern eatery in Brooklyn Heights, where $40 will buy a massive leg of lamb platter, served with rice and salad ($13), all manner of appetizers, including mohamara (a $6.50 spread of walnuts, red peppers, pomegranate and spices) and a sticky sweet square of basbousa ($3), an intensely moist honey cake.
144 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn Heights