Yesterday, we learned that among other things, the 2014 Michelin Guide comes with an onslaught of new mentions for Bushwick restaurants, with eight local eateries around the Morgan and Jefferson stops represented in the world’s most famous tourist guide. It’s an exciting boon to some local businesses, of course, but also by no means the last word on neighborhood restaurants that are worth going out of your way for. Not by a long shot.
With the area’s crazy boom in eateries over the past couple of years (as well as a few longer-term mainstays), there are a ton of excellent options for just about every taste (and fussy dietary choice), all of which were overlooked by the 2014 guide. Whether they’re just too new or something more sinister is at play here (most likely it’s the former), now seems like a good time to spotlight some worthy local eateries that are still relatively off the beaten path. We’ve even (loosely) decided what you should order, right down to the drinks. Has Michelin ever done that for you?
What to Order: Shrimp & Grits, High Cotton cocktail
With its mood lighting, roomy bar seating, and extensive cocktail menu, Mama Joy’s works just fine as a standalone bar. But it’d be a shame to overlook their southern-style comfort food, which works whether you’re looking for a full, leisurely meal, or just to sop up your last round of drinks with an order of hush puppies or mac and cheese. If you’re sitting down for an honest-to-god dinner, you can’t do much better than their buttery, generously portioned shrimp and grits washed down with a decadent combination of Bulleit, St. Germain, and champagne.
What to Order: Long Bean Salad, Steak Skewers, a can of sake
As a relative newcomer in a neighborhood full of ’em, King Noodle garnered a lot of initial attention after opening for its psychedelic interiors and its much-discussed kimchee carbonara, which incorporates Doritos. Definitely worth a shot if you’re feeling adventurous (as is the scorpion bowl), but they also do slightly more recognizable fare incredibly well. Wings, beans, flat noodles, and all the other staples of pan-Asian cuisine are all good here, and in addition to tiki drinks and a solid beer menu, they’ve got canned sake on hand here. Worth trying at least once.
What to Order: Burger and a beer at happy hour
While the entire menu at Ghia is thoughtful and well-executed (and also, one of the more vegetarian- and vegan-friendly in the neighborhood), at their weekday happy hour, which runs from 3—6pm, you can get one of their excellent grass-fed burgers or a vegan burger and a beer for just $15. Doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.
Verde Coal Oven
What You Should Order: Lucky Charlie Pizza, their cheapest red wine
We’ve given a lot of lip service to Verde in the past, and with good reason. There aren’t a lot of places where you can settle indefinitely into a huge booth, washing authentic coal oven pizza down with red wine and listening to more Frank Sinatra than you’ve heard in one sitting maybe ever. These kinds of restaurants are few and far between. The delicate crust here tends to get overwhelmed by the addition of too many toppings, so best to stick with their “Lucky Charlie,” a mouth-watering white pizza with gorgonzola that’s been on their menu since the very beginning.
What To Order: Hush puppies, a hot link sandwich, beer and a shot
Over the past year, what started out as just a neighborhood bar has quietly turned into one of the most reliable food options around the Jefferson stop, thanks to an ongoing collaboration with Tchoup Shop, formerly responsible for the New Orleans-style food at D.B.A. Best to stick to the classics with hush puppies and a spicy sausage sandwich, paired with a basic $5 beer-and-shot. If you’re really feeling fancy, though, go ahead and add deviled eggs and one of their many high-end bourbon options to the mix. No one here would stop you.
Fritzl’s Lunch Box
What to Order: Pumpkin and peanut curry, Morning Beer
It hasn’t taken long for chef Dan Ross-Leutzwyler’s new venture to garner excellent neighborhood word-of-mouth, and with good reason. His hole-in-the-wall outpost on Irving is home to some truly innovative seasonal cooking, alongside classics like ribs and fried chicken sandwiches. As the weather gets colder, we’d opt for the pumpkin and peanut curry, paired with the “Morning Beer,” a surprisingly pleasant combination of house-made kombucha and Founder’s IPA. One of the most creative uses of a beer-and-wine-only license we’ve ever seen.
What to order: Curried Goat Shepards Pie, Belhaven Black Stout
There aren’t a lot of things that go better with cold weather than heavy, rib-sticking British food paired with whiskey or incredibly dark beer. Meaning, then, that The Rookery (which just opened last month) has been and incredibly welcome addition to Bushwick’s culinary landscape. They’ve got a lot of excellent whiskey cocktails on deck, but right now, washing down some spicy meat with a thick Scottish stout feels especially right.
What to Order: Cripsy Kale and Avocado Sandwich, Bloody Mary
A neighborhood stalwart, the menu at Tandem tends to get overshadowed by its (deserved) reputation as one of the best late-night spots in North Brooklyn. But to ignore it is a mistake. Their brunch is particularly restorative, but dinner is a perfect time to stop by, too. They can earnestly lay claim to some of the best use of kale in the entire borough (really), and the spicy, complex Bloody Marys are so good you’ll still want to consume them after the sun’s gone down. For what it’s worth, it’s also a nice change of pace to get here before the usual crush of evening patrons, when asking for a relatively involved cocktail won’t qualify as a terrible thing to do to the bartender.
What to Order: Duck meatball sandwich, Penicillin cocktail
Another place that tends to be a staple in the late-night bar hopping rotation, but works as a worthwhile food destination in its own right if you just show up a few hours earlier. Their kale salad gets a lot of deserved attention (and is the right call if you’re going back out and don’t want to weigh yourself down), but in the current cold snap, there’s not much that sounds better than fatty duck meatballs and a cocktail that uses ultra-smoky Laphroig as its base.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.