It’s an enviable position to be in—there are generally more notable restaurant openings each year, than room to honor them all in a single “best of” list. So in an attempt to highlight a number of worthy spots that didn’t quite make the cut (i.e., because they’re pop-ups, food trucks, or somewhat limited in scope), we’re showcasing the destination-worthy dishes that have managed to bore in our memory, as some of the finest bites we’ve eaten in 2014.
Le Fond’s Cassoulet: Just edged out of our “best restaurants” list, Le Fond is the stuff that ideal neighborhood eateries are made of. The duck confit and pork belly-crowned cassoulet is what you’re going to want to eat this winter, but we can’t wait to see what chef Jacob Eberle has in the works for spring.
105 Norman Avenue, Greenpoint
Arrogant Swine’s Outside Brown Shoulder: Although we could do without the crumbly mac and cheese waffles, the shellacked, smoky hunks of outside brown (a North Carolina staple, which you’d be loathe to find anywhere else in the borough), are a Brooklyn barbecue revelation.
173 Morgan Avenue, Bushwick
Greenpoint Fish and Lobster’s Kelp Pad Thai: You could ply us all day with GF&L’s tarragon-kissed lobster rolls or silky Sockeye salmon crudo, and we’d be happy campers. But the dish we might’ve otherwise dismissed on first glance of their menu turned out to be unexpectedly memorable; chewy noodles fashioned out of raw kelp, tossed with fruity tamarind dressing and strewn with chopped cashews and cilantro.
114 Nassau Avenue, Greenpoint
Wilma Jean’s Fried Bologna Sandwich: Robert Newton’s ode to the Midwest vindicates our childlike penchant for piles of pallid lunchmeat smeared with mustard. Our bologna has a first name, it’s W.I.L.M.A. Our bologna has a second name, it’s J.E.A.N (‘s).
345 Smith Street, Carroll Gardens
Spirited’s Floating Brownie Sundae: Booze-infused desserts are having a moment, but we rarely detect the alcohol in the “whiskey-soaked” this or “stout-soused” that, advertised at most eateries. Save for this Prospect Heights newcomer, which draws nuanced undercurrents of flavor out of spirits such as port, kahlua, bourbon, amaretto or drambuie, used to add kick to brownies or blondies, which get finished with scoops of Van Leeuwen ice cream and swirls of heady Sorel sauce.
638 Bergen Street, Prospect Heights
Hard Times Sundaes’ Cheeseburger: If you’re going to devote a day to tracking down Brooklyn’s best smashed patty burger, spend the time in transit towards this remarkable truck in Mill Basin, not cooling your heels on an eternal line at Shake Shack.
Pasar Malam’s Singapore Chili Crab: While the array of roti are primo at this Malaysian street food spot, we’re still dreaming of the chili crab; a duo of deep-fried soft shells swimming in a scarlet puddle of spicy, egg yolk-striated tomato sauce, meant to be mopped up with fluffy pillows of mantou.
208 Grand Street, Williamsburg
Mission Chinese Pop-up’s Red Cabbage Salad: So basically, mice infesting Danny Bowien’s LES Mission Chinese location was one of the best thing to happen to Brooklyn this year. It meant that, for a few fleeting months, we finally had access to kung pao pastrami and Chongqing chicken wings; although we were even more by entranced by (of all things!) Bowien’s red cabbage and candy cane beet salad; an umami explosion of seaweed, tahini, miso, rice vinegar, anchovy and soy-sauced veggies, finished with a fabulous nutty crumble of toasted kasha, salted kombu and sesame seeds.
Lea’s Calendar Island Mussels: A recent trip to Maine effectively put us off of off anemic P.E.I mussels for good, so we were crazy excited to discover that Lea sources their sweet wild mollusks almost exclusively from Calendar Island Company, based in glittering Casco Bay. You’ll reliably find them all over the Italian eatery’s menu; either ladled over ribbons of chili and garlic-coated linguine, or served straight up, bathed in a simple, black pepper-flecked broth.
1022 Cortelyou Road, Ditmas Park
Orleans’ French Fry Po-Boy: What could be better than a New Orleans-style po boy, stuffed to bursting with golden morsels of shrimp, catfish or oyster? What about throwing your attempts at carb counting to the wind, and opting for the (actually far more traditional) french fry-filled sandwich instead, gobbed with thick beef gravy and—good for a bit of texture variation at least—garnished with a layer of pickles, lettuce and tomatoes.
603 Hart Street, Bushwick