Each time we don’t eat dinner out, it feels like a missed opportunity. Because in addition to all the dishes from oldie-but-goodie restaurants we just can’t help but order again and again, each year brings an even greater wealth of options—a string of brand new eateries with unique menus, just begging for our thorough exploration.
So as hard as it was to tear ourselves away from tried-and-true standbys like the shrimp po’ boy at Pork Slope, the kale salad at Battersby or the Brooklyn cheesesteak at David’s Brisket House in order to try them, here are a few of our favorite new edible discoveries from the last year.
Nightingale 9: Roasted Mushroom Banh Mi
Banh Mi are generally a lost cause for vegetarians (the most classic version includes pork pate, pork roll or head cheese, and sliced ham or roasted pork). But the roasted fungi in Nightingale 9’s sandwich makes for an excellent pig-free substitute, layered with soft tofu, sprinkled with sesame seeds and scallions, and topped with snackable mushroom chips.
345 Smith St., (347) 689-4699
River Styx: Squid Suave
This dish immediately puts that song in your head from the 1980’s Latin rapper, Gerardo, in a not totally annoying way. It’s also a killer mash-up of calamari and buffalo wings; flash-fried nuggets of squid tossed with Clamato, Frank’s RedHot sauce and butter.
21 Greenpoint Ave., (718) 383-8833
Fritzl’s Lunch Box: Smoked Pork Rib Sandwich
The special sauce-slathered burger is similarly noteworthy, but our top shout-out goes to the pickle-topped pork rib sandwich, tucked between two slabs of Texas-style Toast. It’s also a brilliant option if you’re trying to wean yourself off of McDonald’s cryogenically frozen McRibs.
173 Irving Ave., (929) 210-9531
Three Letters: Moules Poutine
Thanks to this jovial new Clinton Hill bistro, our two favorite Quebecois dishes have finally become one (think salty, matchstick frites soaked in a mussel, mushroom and white wine gravy), and we couldn’t be happier about it.
930 Fulton St., (718) 622-4679
The Elm: Garden
Although this dish relies entirely on vegetables (a good 40 to 60 of them), Paul Liebrandt appears to have kept his fresh-from-the-garden conceit going well beyond spring, alternating warm weather goodies like tomatoes and fairytale eggplant out of his Creuset pot, and swapping in sturdier items like baby turnips, roasted romaine, hen of the woods mushrooms and tri-colored carrots.
160 N 12th St., (718) 218-7500
Pickle Shack: Fried Hop Pickles
While Brooklyn Brine’s Shamus Jones was looking to expand beyond pickles at his new small plates restaurant, they’re still one of the major highlights; namely the deep-fried, Dogfish Head ale-infused pickles, dipped in preserved lemon aioli.
256 4th Ave., (347) 763-2127
Lock Yard: Chicken Broccoli Rabe Sausage
Bay Ridge’s first beer garden has handily won over naysayers with some terrific (and not too artisanal) drunk junk food. It’s hard not to be wooed by the Hot Mess (waffle fries and sweet potato tater tots topped with chili, cheese, pickled jalapenos, banana peppers, diced white onions, tomatoes, sriracha aioli and BBQ sauce), but our go-to order is a little more streamlined; a chicken sausage from Lioni’s Famous Italian Meats blanketed with RC Cola caramelized onions, shaved provolone and garlic mayo.
9221 5th Ave., (718) 333-5282
The Rookery: Oxtail Sloppy Joe
The fare at Bushwick’s newest gastropub has an appealing West Indian bent; think chips with Jamaican dipping sauce and scotch bonnet mayonnaise, curried goat shepherds pie crowned with whipped parsnip potatoes, and our favorite, the oxtail sloppy joe, a musky beef ragu strewn with raw onion and generously spooned over a fat, squishy bun.
425 Troutman St., (718) 483-8048
Falansai: Clay Pot Catfish
Slanted Door alum Henry Trieu cooks items alternately inspired by his father’s Chaozhou roots and Saigon-style street food, both of which merge in this succulent fish dish, which comes caramelized in a clay pot with black pepper-laced broth, carrots and scallions.
112 Harrison Pl., (347) 599-1190
Sweet Chick: Chicken and Waffles
Not that there aren’t plenty of other tasty, southern-inspired tidbits on the menu (pork sliders, shrimp and grits and bacon-wrapped oysters), but heading to Sweet Chick and not ordering the signature dish — ideally accompanied by the rosemary & mushroom waffles — is just plain bizarre.
164 Bedford Avenue., (347) 725-4793
Meltkraft: Melter Skelter
Although we admit to a weakness for Kraft American singles on Wonder Bread, for the most part, a transcendental grilled cheese relies on the convergence of two top-of-the-line ingredients. So it only stands to reason that the folks behind Valley Shepherd Creamery turn out terrific toasted sandwiches, particularly the off-kilter Melter Skelter with skunky raclette, pickled green tomatoes and BBQ potato chips.
442 9th St., (347) 889-6290
Shalom Japan: Okonomiyaki with Corned Lambs Tongue
If you can get beyond the Japanese-Jewish gimmickry of this new Williamsburg eatery, you’ll find a lot of well-conceptualized food. The popular savory pancake known as okonomiyaki makes best use of the East-meets-Eastern European theme, topped with deli-style corned lambs tongue, housemade sauerkraut, and fishy flakes of bonito.
310 S 4th St., (718) 388-4012
MD Kitchen: Shrimp or Meatball Hero
Is meatball parm groundbreaking? Of course not. But if you can’t fathom the thought of waiting up to three hours for Dom DeMarco’s famed Di Fara pizzas, why not just walk up to the counter a few doors down, for one of his satisfyingly gloopy submarine sandwiches?
1012 E 15th St., (917) 789-9556
Sekt: Beer Cheese Onion Soup
Beer cheese? Onion soup? Why has no one ever thought to marry these two cold weather warmers before? Thanks to Sekt (the Korzo team’s newest Park Slope venture), we plan to ride out the winter with farm raised chicken-onion broth, bobbing with tender cubes of pork belly and smothered with house-brewed pilsner urquell-gouda fondue.
651 5th Ave., (347) 987-3670
Battery Harris: Jerk Chicken
This beachy oasis in the heart of industrial Williamsburg excels at boozy, tropical cocktails, yes, but also appealing Caribbean eats. The spicy and smoky jerk chicken is compressed under a brick to ensure an extra-juicy interior and shatteringly crisp exterior, and comes accompanied by a pile of sweet fried plantains.
64 Frost St., (718) 384-8900
Bergen Hill: Beet Cured Salmon
While all of the cocktails and crudos are meant to play off of each other at Bergen Hill, the concept is most lovingly expressed through the beet-cured salmon accented with poppy seeds and tzatziki, which draws out the bracing Scandinavian notes from the aquavit and cucumber syrup-based Poppy Gibson.
387 Court St., (718) 858-5483
Country Boys: Chilaquiles
The most exciting part of Country Boys’ new brick-and-mortar eatery is all of the items you can’t otherwise get from the back of their Red Hook truck. Especially the Mexican breakfast specialty known as chilaquiles; a pile of freshly fried tortilla chips moistened with red or green salsa and topped with melted cheese and runny fried eggs.
568 4th Ave., (718) 452-6079
Suzume: Chilled Greenmarket Ramen
The ramen revolution continues in Brooklyn, and there are definitely some interesting (seasonal and sustainable) variations to be found at Williamsburg’s Suzume. While the roasted salmon ramen will probably remain our go-to throughout the winter, the chilled greenmarket noodle is the best of nature in a bowl; piled with purple haze carrots, kale, summer squash, fried tofu, and calamansi marmalade.
545 Lorimer St., (718) 486-0200
Martha: Broccoli Rabe
Is it weird to frequent a restaurant just for a side of sautéed greens? Not if you’re talking about Martha, a new farm-centric spot from the owners of the former Brooklyn Sandwich Society, who’ve already ably demonstrated their dexterity with (and affinity for) vegetables. Italian’s know their beloved rapini requires little more than a quick dunk in olive oil perfumed with garlic, but Martha adds an intriguing Asian bent with Chinese black vinegar, Korean chiles and crispy garlic chips.
184 Dekalb Ave., (718) 596-4147
Grindhaus: Beef Tartare
This long-awaited Red Hook restaurant is no longer exclusively a sausage shop, but meat remains a central part of the menu nonetheless. Particularly craveworthy is a silky beef tartare, elevated with a double umami wallop of bone marrow and trout roe, and served with slabs of house-baked bread from Grindhaus’ backyard oven.
275 Van Brunt St., (718) 909-2881