Illustration by Christophe Marchand
Dec 8, 2022
Brooklyn’s 11 best new restaurants of 2022
Our roving gourmand ate a lot of good meals this year for Brooklyn Magazine. These were the new spots he liked the best
The year got off to a weird start in the Brooklyn restaurant world. Yet another strain of Covid was tearing through town, delaying openings and forcing temporary closures at even the hottest of hot spots. It feels like a long time ago … but it also feels like it could be around the corner again. (Here’s your reminder to get boosted.) And yet, despite the ongoing pandemic and rising prices and staffing shortages, 2022 turned out to be an excellent year for dining out in Brooklyn.
I ate a ton of great food all over the borough this year. These are the 11 new restaurants I liked best.
Masalawala and Sons in Park Slope
Roni Mazumdar, Chef Chintan Padya and Mazumdar’s father, Satyen, who ran the original Masalawala on the Lower East Side, finally brought their unapologetic cuisine to Brooklyn in 2022 and gave us the borough’s absolute best new restaurant of the year. If you dig big, bold flavors and plating that sometimes can be best described as “still in the pot it was cooked in,” then Masalawala and Sons, which opened in late September on Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue, is the move.
Their Unapologetic Foods restaurant group also includes the great Adda in Long Island City, Dhamaka in Essex Market, Rowdy Rooster near Tompkins Square, and Semma in the Village. And as always with an Unapologetic restaurant, most of the menu features dishes rarely seen anywhere else in the city. Here, the foundation is the Bengali fare both Mazumdars grew up with, but you’ll also find things Satyen discovered on his travels throughout India when he worked as a salesman.
Highlights from my most recent feast include the daab chingri, or tiny head-on prawns stuffed inside a coconut; kosha mangsho, a lamb dish that was among the richest (and stickiest!) things I ate all year; and the unassuming-looking but incredibly complex dahi vada, a lentil dumpling buried in a crock of spiced yogurt.
But really, everything’s great here. And, no surprise, Masalawala is one of the toughest tables to get in town right now. Just don’t expect to see stuff from their other, equally popular places. “We never want to do a cookie-cutter concept,” Pandya tells Brooklyn Magazine. “India is a country with 1.4 billion people and so much diversity in food that it changes every 13, 14 miles. That’s why we always create something new with each restaurant.”
Masalawala and Sons is located at 365 Fifth Avenue, between Fifth and Sixth Streets.
Nura in Greenpoint
Winner of the year’s most spectacular-looking room has to be Nura, a converted auto body shop with soaring ceilings, a huge skylight, various decorative elephants, an open kitchen, an island bar and abundant plant life. Even more important is the food, which leans South Asian but hits lots of spots all over the map. It is outstanding. Must-orders from the kitchen led by Chef Jackie Carnesi and Pastry Chef Sam Short, include the roasted bird with a knee-buckling butter chicken hollandaise, prawns swimming in a fiery passion fruit sauce, and the “breads and dips,” the best such spread in town. Oh, and if Short’s corn ice cream with dulce de leche is on the menu, get it.
Nura is located at 46 Norman Street, at the corner of Guernsey Street
Bonnie’s in Williamsburg
I first hit Calvin Eng’s Cantonese spot, Bonnie’s, on opening night in December of 2021, right before the place promptly took an Omicron-induced time out, morphing briefly into “McBonnie’s” takeout joint (their spin on the McRib is one of the best sandwiches of the year). No matter! Bonnie’s reopened as buzzy and brilliant as ever, and has held strong throughout my multiple visits this year. Get as much food as your party can possibly eat; it’s all great. Make sure you include at least one order of Eng’s fuyu cacio e pepe mein with fermented bean curd, and the chow nai sundae, starring malted fried milk. I’m no longer a drinker, but my, ahem, editors tell me the cocktail list was too “creative” by half.
Bonnie’s is located at 398 Manhattan Avenue, at the corner of Frost Street.
Cruz del Sur in Prospect Heights
Chef Hugo Orozco and his business partner Oscar Gonzalez, both from Guadalajara, opened this charmingly ramshackle restaurant over the summer and, amazingly, there hasn’t been a hangover reported in the neighborhood since! That’s most likely untrue, but I do know that Cruz del Sur’s torta ahogada, a beefy and pickley monster of a sandwich that arrives at your table sitting in a puddle of red sauce, is supposed to cure such things, so get on it, Brooklyn boozers. Also get the spicy, garlicky carne en su juego soup/stew, which stars both chewy bits of bacon and a funky bone, filled with marrow.
Cruz del Sur is located at 622 Washington Avenue, between Pacific and Dean Streets.
Laser Wolf in Williamsburg
When the salatim hits the table — 10 different salads, which are all amazing, plus fluffy pitas and the best hummus in town — the party kicks into high gear here on the rooftop terrace of the Hoxton Hotel, with those awesome views out over the river. And then come your skewers (the tuna is terrific, as are the lamb and beef koobidehs). The moniker “Laser Wolf ” is a creative interpretation of the name of the butcher from “The Fiddler on the Roof.” Fittingly, the restaurant is an Israeli “shipudiya,” or skewer house — a Philadelphia import from Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook. They nailed it. Chillest vibes of the year.
Laser Wolf is located atop the Hoxton Hotel, 97th Wythe Avenue, at the corner of North 10th Street.
Cafe Spaghetti in Carroll Gardens
The new restaurant with the best name of the year turned out to also be an excellent place to eat. At Sal Lamboglia’s hit in Carroll Gardens, Cafe Spaghetti, the pasta’s the thing — both the namesake noodle (in tomato sauce or loaded with clams) and the orecchiette — but definitely also get the dense meatballs, and the sloppy spiedini, and the fried calamari with hot peppers. You are duty bound, of course, to finish your meal with Lamboglia père’s incomparable tiramisu. The big back garden, which made the place such a pleasant summertime destination, is now fully tented and heated, so don’t let the chilly weather dissuade you.
Cafe Spaghetti is located at 126 Union Street, between Hicks and Columbia Streets.
Rodo Foods in Bed-Stuy
One of the most satisfying meals I had all year was actually two meals. I ate the entire menu here at Rodo Foods, a Friday- to-Sunday-only West African restaurant that’s little more than a takeout window and a couple of rickety tables set out on the Putnam Street sidewalk. Ayo Agbede and Seun Ade have turned the modest setup into a popping neighborhood hang with impeccable vibes, great music and two dishes — a grilled salmon plate, sticky with hot honey, and a suya plate, made with top sirloin and loaded with yaji — that I think about all the time. I wish the city had a thousand places like this.
Rodo Foods is located at 420 Putnam Street, just west of Tompkins Avenue.
Gus’s Chop House in Carroll Gardens
Chris McDade and James O’Brien, the team behind the popular Italian restaurant Popina, opened this comfortable, meat-centric neighborhood spot in September, and it goes way harder than it has any right to. The food is terrific, from the Bo Bo chicken in French onion jus to the reasonably priced, perfectly grilled bar steak to the off-menu cheeseburger. The wine list is expansive and not expensive, the service unfailingly friendly. If you don’t live nearby, this place is very much worth a trip.
Gus’s Chop House is located at 215 Union Street, just east of Henry Street.
Wenwen in Greenpoint
“Our core spirit is rowdy, casual and fun,” Eric Sze told us during the raucous opening week of Andy Chuang and his Greenpoint hotspot, Wenwen. And even after eight months or so, the party on Manhattan Avenue shows no signs of slowing down. Party aside, Sze and Chuang are also serious restaurateurs, and Wenwen serves some of best Taiwanese food in town, including a pork and cuttlefish platter based on Sze’s mom’s recipe, and a riff on beef noodle soup called 886 Noodle, which he says he invented one night while “drunk out of my mind.” Enjoy the ride!
Wenwen is located at 1025 Manhattan Avenue, between Green and Freeman Streets.
Pecking House in Park Slope
What started as an early pandemic project in Queens, and turned into a Clinton Hill pop-up last winter, planted permanent brick-and-mortar roots on Flatbush Avenue in September. It’s been a wild journey for Eric Huang’s fried- chicken joint, Pecking House. All this after Huang left his job at Eleven Madison Park in January 2020 with plans to open a fine-dining establishment. Weird where life takes you sometimes, maybe, but excellent news for the rest of us. Get Huang’s chili chicken for a high-heat treat, or try the new salted egg version — they’re both equally great. And don’t skimp on the sides; they are all sublime (but especially the mashed potatoes with duck heart gravy).
Pecking House is located at 244 Flatbush Avenue, at the corner of St. Marks Avenue.
Oma Grassa in Fort Greene
Another pandemic-era pop-up turned brick-and-mortar triumph is Adam Baumgart’s terrific Oma Grassa, which sits on a prime Fort Greene corner across from the Commandant Biggie mural and serves my favorite new pizza of the year. The six-slice 14” beauties here feature a thin, naturally leavened sourdough crust and toppings laid on with a generous hand. The tomato pies rule — my crew loved the one covered in anchovies — but the gooey, cheesy pizzas topped with things like pepperoni or zucchini hold their own as well. And don’t skip the pickle-y antipasti plate. It’s the most perfect pizza accompaniment in town.
Oma Grassa is located at 753 Fulton Street, at the corner of South Portland Avenue.
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