It goes without saying: Our favorite restaurants of 2015 also served the best stuff we ate all year, from Mekelburg’s baked potato and Faro’s porridge to Bar Bolinas’ burger and The Finch’s beet salad. And did we mention Mekelburg’s bangin’ baked potato?
But there are other eateries that managed to make an equally lasting impression with just a single, spot-on dish, which is why we’re honoring them here, places like Werkstatt with its ingenious vegetarian schnitzel, and Le Garage with its snail-stuffed spuds. (It was a very good year for potatoes, people.)
Loosie’s Kitchen’s Seared Octopus: Octopus may have knocked out uni as the “it” sea creature of 2015, but it’s permutations were largely predictable—either prepared à la Grecque, napped in lemon and oregano, or served Spanish style, paired with olives and potatoes. So we never imagined that Loosie’s Kitchen—which, as the gorgeous al fresco appendage to a buzzy Williamsburg bar, could have totally phoned it in on the food front—would emerge with the top octo dish of the year; crimson with Cajun seasoning, hard-seared yet supple, and propped, Deep South style, on a bed of charred romano beans, fresno chili relish and okra, we could eat this over and over.
91 S. 6th Street, Williamsburg
Tilda All Day’s Chicken Liver: It may look like your run-of-the-mill coffee shop, but in addition to selling exclusively house-made pastries (think sweet potato financier and squash-miso cake, instead of sandy, outsourced scones), this Clinton Hill cafe is committed to round-the-clock, week-long brunch. An oozing sunnyside with emmenthaler cheese, maitake mushrooms and toasted brioche is Brooklyn’s best new answer to all-day eggs, while curried cashew-topped pots of chicken liver present a captivating case for offal-eating—their full-on animal funk neatly counterbalanced by a roasted sweet potato cake with warm spices, a sherry maple reduction, thyme, and crunchy sweet potato chips.
930 Fulton Street, Clinton Hill
Le Garage’s Charlotte Potatoes: Leave it to the French to add a soupçon of sophistication to something as plebeian as potato skins. Instead of being baked and stuffed with cheddar cheese, sour cream and bacon, the diminutive, golden-skinned tubers at this mother- and daughter-run brasserie are prepared confit-style (submerged and slow-roasted in fat), then crowded with tight, garlicky coils of escargot.
159 Central Avenue, Bushwick
Werkstatt’s Celery Root Schnitzel: We imagine it’s easy to go veg in Austria nowadays, but when we travelled through Central Europe during our meat-free stage at college, we subsisted on spaetzle, pretzels, and schlag-enveloped strudel for a week. And while the meat dishes are irrefutably ace at Werkstatt (such as quivering cubes of beef cheek, braised to silky submission in wine), chef-owner Thomas Ferlesch cunningly fashions schnitzel—traditionally, pounded cutlets of veal, pork or chicken—out of frisbees of fork-tender celery root, which, as opposed to one-note protein, exudes an earthiness, nuttiness and welcome freshness beneath its brittle breadcrumb crust.
509 Coney Island Avenue, Windsor Terrace
Streets BK’s Bake ‘n’ Shark: We generally avoid eateries dabbling in multiple, disparate cuisines, and Streets BK’s “passport to culinary adventure” concept is literally all over the map—with Mexican corn keeping company with Sicilian arancini, Hong Kong head-on prawns and Lebanese fattoush. But under consulting chef Roble Ali, the spot excels at any and all dishes imported from the Caribbean, like the traditional Trini bake ‘n’ shark, a Pacman-shaped pocket of flaky roti, wrapped around a filet of spiny shark, bright leaves of shadon bennie and a duo of exuberant sauces, including mango chutney and tamarind.
53 Broadway, South Williamsburg
Yaso Tangbao’s Soup Dumplings: Regional fare abounds at Brooklyn’s expansive Chinatowns, from Sichuan dan dan noodles to Hunan stinky tofu and Cantonese congee. But the Shanghai specialty known as soup dumplings has remained frustratingly elusive—until the recent opening of Yaso Tangbao, that is. Deftly executed by master chef, Zongxing Tu (previously of the venerated Joe’s Shanghai), the steamy morsels bear dainty wrappers stretched over a gelatinized pork stock filling, and stuffed with orbs of ginger-scented meat and tendrils of blue crab.
148 Lawrence Street, Downtown Brooklyn
Batata’s Sweet Potato Falafel: Comprised of only a few ingredients, falafel live and die by texture; and far too often, they’re basically parsley’d orbs of buckshot. But the endearing Israeli eatery, Batata, smartly avoids over-drying by swapping starchy chickpeas for fluffy, vitamin-rich sweet potatoes in their velvet-centered falafel, which are poked into a pita along with hummus, salad, pickles and beets. Almost makes you feel virtuous about eating a deep-fried spud sandwich.
3021 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Windsor Terrace
Moku Moku’s Mentaiko Mazemen: This izakaya-style adjunct to Momo Sushi Shack ostensibly specializes in yakitori—bundles of vegetables, chicken, beef and seafood, skewered and seared on the grill. But in addition to the tako corndog, a cornmeal-dusted, bonito flake-wreathed length of octopus, we were infinitely more inspired by the noodles; namely, a bowl of ice cold, rose-colored mentaiko mazemen, liberally sauced with heavy cream and clouds of spicy cod roe.
43 Bogart Street, Bushwick
Eugene and Co’s Biscuits and Gravy: Originally offered as a late night snack only (the kitchen stays open ‘til midnight), this Bed-Stuy charmer was shrewd enough to make biscuits and gravy a menu mainstay. Served hot from the oven and sliced crosswise, the crooks and crevices of each porous biscuit—tangy with buttermilk—are made entirely available for soaking up white, pepper-spiked gravy, which veers slightly from tradition with smoky studs of bacon and crumbles of wild boar sausage.
397 Tompkins Avenue, Bed-Stuy
MP Taverna’s Rib Eye: It’s easy to make a meal of mezze at Brooklyn’s first branch of MP Taverna, from fishy tarama and feta dip with pita, to currant and pine nut-studded eggplant salad, orange and leek-bound lamb sausage, and mussel and pork stew, improbably perfumed with Thai basil. But a “From the Grill” menu section highlights the borough’s best steak frites; chow down on a 45-day dry-aged rib eye served spritzed with lemon, pebbled with garlic and sliced right off the bone. It also just so happens to be paired with panels of triple-cooked smashed potato, alternately braised, blanched and fried, and built for mopping up mineral beef drippings or stray swipes of hummus. Drooling, yet? We are.
470 Driggs Avenue, Williamsburg