When Jesus declared that man couldn’t live by bread alone, he obviously had a prescient vision of plastic baskets at red sauce restaurants, lined with foil-wrapped butter packets, and day-old, mass-produced loaves. But if he’d peeked just a bit farther into the future, he’d see that a local, whole grain movement would eventually lead to a full-on, pro-gluten renaissance—and the following Brooklyn eateries are leading up the charge.
So ignore all admonitions about filling up bread, because at spots like Roberta’s, Semilla, Roman’s and The Finch, you can absolutely subsist on sourdough alone.
Runner & Stone: It’s the rare restaurant that keeps its bar stocked with buckwheat baguettes, right alongside the whiskey, vodka, and gin. But Runner & Stone knows better than to put Pete Endriss (formerly of Francois Payard, Amy’s, Bouchon and Per Se) in a corner—let alone his impeccable breads. Made with organic, locally milled whole grain flours, creations like rye ciabatta, sesame semolina, and bolzano miche are fully integrated into the menu, whether simply slathered with butter or incorporated into sandwiches and toasts. But no self-respecting patron should pay a visit without ordering one or two loaves—like the chewy fig-anise or fresh blueberry levain to-go.
285 3rd Avenue, Gowanus
Roberta’s: While we’re not all that into Roberta’s pizza (yes, we get that we’re alone on this), we’re perfectly willing to brave the crowds for bread. Because for all the extravagant praise regularly heaped on the Speckenwolf and Bee Sting, not to mention the collection of Michelin stars yearly conferred on Blanca, it’s the criminally under-sung bread program (jumpstarted by Melissa Weller, and currently overseen by Nina Subhas) that’s truly exceptional; responsible for generating up to 20 different types of baked goods for the bakery and restaurants, from croissants, bialys and garlic knots, to sub rolls, marble rye, and polenta porridge loaves.
261 Moore Street, Bushwick
Roman’s: Andrew Tarlow’s wholesale bakery, She Wolf, actually spawned from an informal program they used to run at Roman’s, in which they used the wood-oven to churn out breads for staff meals and dinner service. Inevitably, the remainder of the restaurant group (Diner, Marlow & Sons, Reynard, et al) wanted a piece of the action, and so production was eventually transferred to a dedicated space in Greenpoint. But if you stop by late in the afternoon, you can still pick up fresh-from-the-oven, naturally leavened sourdough batards, hearth-baked pizza bianca and sprouted spelt boules at Roman’s, as well as Marlow & Daughters and Achilles Heel.
243 Dekalb Avenue, Fort Greene
Semilla: While it’s reliably a part of the nightly tasting menu at Semilla, you don’t need to commit to a multi-course prix fixe in order to get your hands on Pam Yung’s justly lauded loaves. Provided there’s enough counter space, a fan of earthy einkorn-buckwheat slices is generally offered à la carte for walk-ins; made with ancient, hand-milled grains and organic flours that have been naturally leavened and long-fermented, the bread is served with a yin and yang of Cowbella butter and buttermilk.
160 Havemeyer Street, Williamsburg
Faro: Yes, there are one or two low-carb options at Faro, but considering its staunch commitment to New York State-grown grains, you’d be well advised to kick off a meal of porridge and pasta with hunks of still-warm bread. Especially since it’s made in the restaurant’s flickering wood-fired oven; think whole wheat rolls and softened scoops of fragrant honey butter, all snuggled together in a steaming, cast iron pan.
436 Jefferson Street, Bushwick
Shalom Japan: Pastrami okonomiyaki and matzoh ball ramen notwithstanding, the sake kasu challah remains the most elegant emissary of Shalom Japan’s “authentically inauthentic” Jewish-Japanese concept. Only $3 per each individually portioned, tightly braided loaf, the poppy seed-dusted challah get their lift from the leftover lees obtained from sake production, and are served with whipped butter studded with sake-plumped raisins.
310 S 4th Street, Williamsburg
Cozinha Latina: Thank goodness the pao de queijo weren’t a casualty of Pacifico’s Fine Foods’ surprise shutter last February. Chef Shanna Pacifico retained rightful custody of her warm manchego cheese puffs—as essential a taste of Brazil as feijoada and caipirinhas—which means they’re a mainstay on the menu at Greenpoint’s excellent Cozinha Latina.
37 Greenpoint Avenue, Greenpoint
The Finch: The Finch’s bread may be outsourced, but it comes from the best possible purveyor—Bien Cuit—and gets teamed with the restaurant’s own cultured butter, along with raw honey, radishes, and sea salt. The menu also regularly rocks one or two noteworthy toasts, such as roasted maitake mushrooms with ricotta and tatsoi, and beef tartare topped with watermelon radish and soft clods of smoked egg yolk.
212 Greene Avenue, Clinton Hill