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Most underrated in Park Slope?

Curious to see if anyone can help identify any places in Park Slope (or in the vicinity) that a) get an undeserved bad rap or b) get little attention on this board but are noteworthy? Should I really stay away from Sette or are the naysayers right? Was anyone else as surprised by the quality of food at Bar Toto as I was? Are there any hole-in-the-wall places that get little mention that deserve more traffic? Are Kitchen Bar or that bbq place next door on way-south 5th worth the trek for me? Any and all opinions welcome.

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  1. I wouldn't bother with Bar BQ, the food is pretty bad. KitchenBar though, is a fun place to hang out and they have a new chef, so the food is good too. I tried Bar Toto when they first opened and thought the food was good, but a year later I went back and it was awful. Maybe they're on the upswing again. I'll give it another try. Two places that get little attention here but are worth a trip is Miriam and the Red Cafe, both on 5th Avenue.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Claire

      I agree, Red Cafe is underrated. 4 of us went there and were suprised at how good everything was.

      1. re: millerd

        what kind of food is Red good at? any more info?

    2. I'm very fond of the Chip Shop. I like my fish-and-chips with several bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale on the side. Their curry is pretty tasty as well.

      1. I am a HUGE fan of Miriam. Excellent brunch and very nice dinner. Have eaten there many times and it has always been consistently good.

        5 Replies
        1. re: adamandeve

          Can you tell us a little more about Miriam - what sort of dinner items they do well?

          1. re: adamandeve

            Miriam does really good fish- the menu changes a little, so
            offerings vary, but our fish has always been good. I had once a fab herb and octopus salad, but haven't seen it again. They have this really nice giant shrimp over balck rice and fava beans. And a wonderful mediterranean salad with avocado and g vegetables and feta wrapped in grilled eggplant. The meal comes with wonderful flat bread and pickles and olives.
            Brunch is really good. My fave is the Israeli breakfast,w hich is eggs your choice, with israeli salad (tomatoes, cucumber) plus haloumi and pita. They also have this fried dough thing served with eggs and harisa and pickles. More standard omelettes are also good- I like the one with mushrooms and thyme, and my husband enjoys the one with smoked salmon. They also make good challah french toast. And fresh o.j. And at $8 it's a really good deal.

            1. re: adamandeve

              "They also have this fried dough thing served with eggs and harisa and pickles."

              Ooh, ooh! That sounds like malawach, which I used to love at Rectangles. I'll have to give it a try.

              http://petercherches.blogspot.com

            2. re: adamandeve

              I was not impressed with Miriam. I had some sort of fish dish, which was totally forgettable. It wasn't bad but very bland and I have not returned since.

              1. re: josh L

                I haven't eaten at Miriam's, but they used to have a half-priced wine night on Mondays and Tuesdays. Don't know if they still do that, but it's a great way to have a drink and a snack or desert.

            3. Cafe Steinhoff deserves more attention for its updated Austrian fare and hip Joel Grey-ish vibe, IMO. It's comfortable, consistent, reasonably priced and always has a pleasant crowd, but rarely a wait for a table. The Monday night goulash and fish special is a steal.
              The owners were pioneers in Slope dining (their first place--Max & Morritz, maybe?--was more upscale) and they know what they are doing.

              22 Replies
              1. re: Poindexter

                "It's comfortable, consistent, reasonably priced and always has a pleasant crowd, but rarely a wait for a table"

                Those things are all true, but the food is not special. I liked Max & Moritz a lot, but Cafe Steinhof is not a Chowhound destination. Tell your neighbors about it, but don't promote it here.

                1. re: Peter Cuce

                  I think cafe steinhof is more about atmosphere than food. Everything I've tried there was mediocre at best.

                  Under or overrated, Park Slope is full of really boring restaurants that somehow manage to stay afloat (or even thrive). I don't understand it at all--but I guess one man's trash is another man's treasure.

                  1. re: Peter Cuce

                    "Tell your neighbors about it, but don't promote it here."
                    Umm, the original post seemed to be from somebody in the Slope--a "neighbor," as it were--looking for a place in their neighborhood that perhaps wasn't on their radar screen rather than a desination. I hadn't realized that this was the "Outer Borough Destination-Only" board, nor did I know that there was an online arbiter of what I am allowed to post.

                    1. re: Poindexter

                      I think Cafe Steinhof is actively bad, not just mediocre. I had two meals there. The first consisted of bland goulash served 2 degrees above room temperature. The second was a tough schnitzel which didn't have much flavor. There was no third meal.

                      Loreley in Manhattan is in the same niche but it succeeds while Steinhof fails.

                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                        Fair enough. To quote the original poster: "Any and all opinions welcome."!
                        And I agree that their goulash is not the most exciting. I like their salads, their mushroom on bread dumplings dish, their trout and their beer selection.

                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                          Loreley is German, Steinhof is Austrian--not a HUGE difference, really, but Loreley is more sausages than goulash and isn't as refined (I guess that'd be the word since Loreley is a biergarten and Steinhof is a cafe). Loreley's food has never really done much for me, but it's standard fare for what they do. Hallo Berlin is a better bet for food, and they've also got a garden.

                          There is another Austrian restaurant in Brooklyn - Thomas Beisl, across from BAM. I've only ate there once and it was good but not great. Mediocre schnitzel--other dishes might have been better.

                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                            "Loreley is German, Steinhof is Austrian"

                            Here's Steinhof's menu.
                            http://www.cafesteinhof.com/html/dinn...

                            Can anyone point out the dishes that are uniquely Austrian? I can't - but I don't really have any expertise in Austrian food.

                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                              RE: "Loreley is German, Steinhof is Austrian"
                              I think Linzer tort qualifies as Austrian. But more importantly Steinhof menu has elements of German, Hungarian and sometimes even N. Italian cooking, reflecting the geography.

                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                "I think Linzer tort qualifies as Austrian."

                                I think one dish is a slender thread to hang a restaurant label on. But maybe there's others. It just seemed to me that virtually all of the dishes I see on their menu appear in traditional German places.

                                My cynical side thinks that they labeled themselves as "Austrian" because it sounds more chic than "German."

                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                  "one dish is a slender thread"
                                  I was just giving a single example--cf Steinhof's Weiner (read "Viennese") Schnitzel, if you need another. But the point is that the Steinhof menu, like that of the cosmopolitan residents of the former Austro-Hungarian empire/crossroads of the Alps, is eine kleine fushionkleller.

                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                    "I was just giving a single example--cf Steinhof's Weiner (read "Viennese") Schnitzel, if you need another."

                                    Wiener Schnitzel is on the menu at every German restaurant I've ever visited in the New York area.

                                    Zum Stammtisch is Queens -
                                    http://www.zumstammtisch.com/entrees....

                                    Loreley in Manhattan -
                                    http://www.loreleynyc.com/

                                    Platte Deutch in Franklin Square -
                                    http://www.parkrestaurant.com/restaur...

                                    That doesn't make any of those restaurants Austrian.

                                    (BTW, Platte Deutche is rarely discussed on the boards but well worth a visit.

                                    )

                                    It looks to me that Steinhof is "Austrian" simply because they *say* they are and not because of some special distinctive dishes.

                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                      This is becoming an angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin discussion and I didn't go through each of the menus you posted but instead selected randomly chose Zum Stammtisch. I would make two observations:
                                      1. The presence of Viennese Schnitzel on its menu suggests that perhaps it's Zumm Stam that is not so German, rather than proving that Steinhof's not so Austrian (or do you mean to suggest that McDonalds ain't so American, because Boule serves l'hamburger?)
                                      2. The absence of Hungarian dishes like aforementioned goulash and Liptauer cheese and Swiss stuff like Roesti on the Zumm menu and their presence on Steinhoff's suggests that Steinhof's menu is a bit more eclectic and polyglot than the typical biergarten's, just as the Austrians themselves are a bit more eclectic and cosmopolitan than their neighbors to the north.

                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                        It looks to me that Steinhof is offering some vaguely Central European catchall menu rather than anything distinctly Austrian. Except, of course, for that lonely piece of cake.

                                        They've got kielbasa on the menu. I guess they could have called themselves Polish.

                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                          "Central European catch-all"
                                          B I N G O !
                                          Because that's what Austria is--a relatively small plot of land at the nexus of several markedly different cultures and cuisines that's only been a distinct country for all of about 90 years now.
                                          With all due respect, I get the impression you would fault a Slovakian restaurant for having too much overlap with your favorite Czech place.

                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                            If you define "Austrian" broadly enough it has no meaning at all.

                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                              I used to live next door to the place. Never thought their food was awful, just pretty standard mittel europa fare served in a nice bar. Pretty much what one would get in an equivalent place in Austria or southern Germany. Nothing great or worth a trip, but OK for a neighborhood place. However, I've found that there are just a lot of people who just don't like this sort of food, especially if they didn't grow up with it like I sort of did (German-American mother). I always particularly enjoyed the cheese spaetzle, which was serious comfort food for me.

                                              Incidentally, the reason this place is billed as "Austrian" is that the guy who runs it is, in fact, Austrian. They are also good neighbors, in that they play some pretty nice movies in the place that you can see for the price of a beer.

                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                Woodside Al, thanks for your post. I actually do have some experience with German food. I've visited there 15 or 20 times on business and have eaten at all levels in Munich, Frankfurt, and Hamburg. Earlier in the thread I posted the menus of 3 places in the NY area where I really like the food - Zum Stammtisch, Loreley, and Platte Deutche.

                                                I wish I liked Cafe Steinhof. It's in a convenient location.

                                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                  I have eaten at both Zum Stammtisch and Loreley and will agree that both are better than Steinhof, as is Hallo Berlin and Thomas Beisl. Although both Loreley and Hallo specialize a bit more in straight-up German biergarten food, and kind of fall down if one orders more sophisticated dishes. And Beisl is often a bit too ambitious for its own good.

                                                  Of course none of those other restaurants are in Park Slope. I guess coming from a part of the country where there are German, Hungarian, Polish, Czech, Ukranian, and, yes, Austrian bars serving similar food around many corners, I was reasonably happy to find this friendly place with OK food around my corner for a while. Again, nothing special, but OK and reasonably priced, which is unfortunately more than one can say for most restaurants in Park Slope (where most reasonably priced restaurants are definitely not OK, like all of the nearly inedible Asian food served in the 'hood).

                                                  I probably wouldn't have posted about it at all, but I wanted to put a stop to all of the "why Austrian?" speculation. I'll post about what I feel is an underrated Slope restaurant below.

                                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                    SHEESH! Forget I ever said anything about Austrians and Germans. Neither restaurant is all that great for different reasons (Steinhof: food; Loreley: slow, unattentive service and poor presentation - a sausage plopped on a white dinner plate with some potato salad around it - I could make that at home).

                                                    I kept waiting for an Austrian to jump in and defend his country's cuisine--now THAT would bhave been interesting.

                                                  2. re: Poindexter

                                                    Ive been waiting for this kind of clash of views because the downtown brooklyn conversations sometimes seem in danger of devolving into simple neighborhood chats (Ive been guilty of participating sometimes). Working from the assumption that what this board is about is finding the really good chow and avoiding the bad or the mediocre, we've all got to be our own arbiters, screeners and evaluators of the stuff we post. In the end the key of any post is our food evaluation - good, bad or indifferent. Different people are interested in different slices of the market, and for that matter, have different destinations (my destinations include holes in walls as well as sit down places, someone else may only be looking for places with tablecloths and wine cellars). Anyway, when I look at the "not on a radar" screen question, I think about hidden gems, places that for some reason really havent gotten recognition they deserve - some restaurants (probably the vast majority) of places that arent on chowhound radar screens are off it for a reason - because they simply arent very interesting or rewarding.

                                                    1. re: jen kalb

                                                      Most people--New Yorkers, anyway--prolly spend about 80-cents on the dining dollar in their own neighborhood, so I'm not bothered by these sort of parochial discussions (especially when clearly labeled as such) that might help people decide where to eat when they get home from work at 8 o'clock.
                                                      At any rate, I will hold my philistine tongue after this: You raise a good question but it is perhaps best taken up on the Not About Food board.

                                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                                        I've got no problem reading about decent neighborhood options as long as they're labeled as such. My problem is when people confuse the two. My pet peeve is when a mediocre restaurant opens in an under-served neighborhood and people react as if Per Se opened down the block.

                                                2. IMHO here are the few PS restaurants worthy of mention here and worth the trip . . .

                                                  Al Di La
                                                  Sette
                                                  Applewood
                                                  Blue Ribbon
                                                  Convivium Osteria
                                                  Stone Park Cafe
                                                  Tempo

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: livetotravel

                                                    Isn't the title of this thread "Most Underrated?" Your list is fine but it read like a "Greatest Hits" compilation.

                                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                      True- but the thread is weaving in and out of best, least, underserved, etc. But to be true to the topic, here's my Most Underrated List for Park Slope . .

                                                      Nana
                                                      Red Cafe
                                                      Cocotte
                                                      Belleville
                                                      Tempo Presto
                                                      Chip Shop
                                                      Peperoncino

                                                      1. re: livetotravel

                                                        I find myself agreeing with all of you - Jen Kalb, Bob Martinez, Poindexter and livetotravel - within the various distinctions being made. However, I have a great disconnect with the concept behind this thread as well as the Boros board concentration on the Slope in general. What constitutes "underrated" when the nabe is poured over again and again? I understand people spend most of their money locally, but again is the the point of Chowhound microfinessing degrees of mediocrity or should we be getting off our butts and OUT of Park Slope once in a while?
                                                        I feel a tirade coming on which I may or may not continue under Site Talk or Not About Food.

                                                        1. re: noisejoke

                                                          "I understand people spend most of their money locally, but again is the the point of Chowhound microfinessing degrees of mediocrity or should we be getting off our butts and OUT of Park Slope once in a while?"

                                                          In the main, I agree with you although I think there's room for neighborhood discussions on the site as well. I remember a discussion of Park Slope pizza delivery options that drew a response about how the original poster should make a 2 hour round trip out to DiFara's instead. There's a time for excellence and there's a time when "pretty good" is a better fit.

                                                          This type of discussion has come up in the past and I remember Jim Leff saying that ultimately Chowhound is a self programmed station. You and I get to decide what gets discussed when we decide what to post about.

                                                  2. Have you tried Little Dishes on 7th ave, 14th St? I have never been disappointed there and the garden is lovely! Wines are a bit pricey for what they are, but I've always had a good meal.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: crowlish

                                                      Yes, Little Dishes is one of my favorites, though don't know if I'd count it as underrated.

                                                      Thanks to all of the people who contributed positively to this thread. I've got a few new places to try now. And maybe I misinterpreted the Chowhound view of Sette. I'll give it a try, ASAP.

                                                    2. In Park Slope I highly recommend La Villa. The food is excellent and consistently so. Over the weekend, they offered homemade spinach gnocchi as a special. It was served in either gorgonzola cream sauce or their divine pomodoro. I chose the pomodoro, and was very pleased. The gnocchi were tender, light and delicious. My companion ordered broccoli rabe with grilled chicken. It was beautifully presented and very flavorful. We also shared an antipasto, not to be missed.

                                                      1. I'm surprised that no one here has yet mentioned Tacos Nuevo Mexico on 5th Ave. It's not the best mexican food in the city by any means, but it is definitely authentic, which already separates it from most PS restaurants, and it does a number of dishes quite well. I've never really understood why this place didn't do better, given its location and the complete dearth of decent Mexican food in the Slope, but it is still primarily patronized by the area's Mexican population, which I would guess is declining under the pressure of increasing rents and housing values.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Woodside Al

                                                          I never thought it was underrated. It's been mentioned possibly hundreds of times on this board before. I think it does great business these days, better than a few years back; I walk by practically every day, and see it more filled than ever. Lots of the newcomers to the neighborhood are patronizing it, along with the Mexicans that used to be its main customers.

                                                          1. re: Peter Cuce

                                                            I see plenty o' hep whitey at TNM. Especially me. On an early date with my wife to be I got us TNM tacos and ate at the bar at Commonwealth. For our wedding we jammed about a hundred people in CW on a pretty spring Saturday and jammed them full of TNM tacos and Bonnie's wings.
                                                            (I do think Bonnie's is under-appreciated, if not underrated.)

                                                            1. re: noisejoke

                                                              Agreed--every time I go there I see a fellow cracker or two. I think they had a turnover in waitstaff--some of the new girls aren't as nice and friendly as the old staff who seemingly disappered a month ago.

                                                        2. I don't know if I would consider 2nd Street Cafe underrated, but they have a $9 Burger and a Beer special going on. I know its only after a certain time in the evening, but thats a great deal.

                                                          1. I'd say Coco Rocco and the Black Pearl

                                                            1. there is a tiny mexican place on union + 4th next to maria's that is so FRESH and DELICIOUS. real lime slush you won't find elsewhere and heaveanly enchiladas.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: brooklyngetsdown

                                                                Cafe Mexicano - heavenly tamales,tlacoyos and sanwiches. And Mexican hot chocolate.

                                                              2. I think Jack's on 5th and 13th is WAAAAY underrated. People often post complaining about the atmosphere - granted it's fairy inconsistently decorated, and they often have the radio blaring - but the food is utterly delicious and extremely reasonably priced. Their brunch is always great (we go there often on weekends), but recently I had the pleasure of eating dinner there. I have to say I was delighted by the quality and taste. Their entrees are mainly "comfort food": pot roast, fried chicken, mac & cheese, corn bread, collard greens, etc. Perfect, especially now that the weather is cooling down a bit. Everything my friends and I ate was just scrumptious. Give it a try, you will not be sorry.

                                                                1. What about La Taqueria on Seventh Ave (near Lincoln, I think)? Just great burritos, high quality ingredients and you can't beat the price!

                                                                  I'm surprised it hasn't yet been mentioned on this thread.

                                                                  1. The Ecuadorian restaurant, Salinas, on 5th and I think 12th or 13th is a pretty solid take-out/delivery option. I have always found it to be a great bang for my buck. I typically order the fish and onions in yuca sauce, along with the arroz con pollo and their delicious house salad (which is an eclectice combo of fresh vegetables and, believe it or not, potato chunks). Really delicious. I will note, however, that the folks who work there barely speak English, and the timing of their deliveries can be spotty, but be patient -- it'll really be worth it.

                                                                    1. Wow, reading this today was like reading two long posts "underrated in park slope", and 'Cafe Steinhof, is it safe?'. As for some other underrated spots, you might take a gamble with Milan on 5th Ave and 22nd St. They serve Slovakian food (or is it Czech food... don't kill me!), with absolutely the worst atmosphere of any restaurant in Park Slope! But the soups are good, and the beef goulash was excellent the last time I was there. Kitchen Bar has definitely gotten better - still not a 'destination' restaurant by any means, but if you live in the south slope, it is worth checking out - great atmosphere, freindly staff, and fairly simple food, prepared well (1/2 chicken w/marmalade, pork chops, etc.) Their kitchen stays open until 1am, which is later than most joints as far south as 20th. Oh yeah - the Mexican bakery on the NE Corner of 21st and 5th - they serve tasty chicken tacos late nights. (They probably serve them all day, but I always wondered why a 'bakery' was so packed after 1am until recently...

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Bricks718

                                                                        Cafe Milan = Slovak
                                                                        ; )
                                                                        you get points for knowing there IS a difference...although I (with Slovak in my genetic mix) don't actually know the diff . . .
                                                                        Cafe Milan was heartily enjoyed by my Slovak kin. No ambience, authenic peirogi and halushki et al

                                                                        1. re: Bricks718

                                                                          I dont get what the problem is with the Milan atmosphere - its not hip or upscale its unreconstructed and oldfashioned, thats all. Maybe if its night time and just a guy or two hanging around the bar it would be a bit draggy, but intrinsically its clean and suggests another place and time. Great value for money, too!

                                                                        2. Ah...Cafe Milan. I couldn't remember the name. The taco place on 5th and 21st is Jirasol Bakery...great Chicken tacos but their "Cuban" sandwich is just ham and mayo.

                                                                          I went to Kitchenbar for brunch back in April and was really unimpressed. The decor inside is like some art student's dormroom and the pulled pork sandwich was good but way too tiny. Nonetheless, I think I'll give it another try.

                                                                          I like Bar BQ...the food ain't great but after a few beers and shots of bourbon it will taste freakin' delicious (at least that's the way it works for me).

                                                                          1. Milan isn't exactly romantic though...in really any way at all. Linoleum floors, chairs you'd find at a furniture sale in East New York, and flesh-deadening flourescent lights. But if you're alone or with someone who just likes good food...it's a fun place, if a little seedy.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: pastoralia

                                                                              I wasnt saying it was great - but "worst atmosphere in Park Slope" it aint. anyway, that sort of thing is really in the eyes of the beholder - I much prefer linoleum to ear-splitting noise or lighting so dark I cant read the menu, for example. Im not sure we've fully prepared someone for a visit though - how sleepy and old-world it is, what a good idea it is to thaw the waiter out with interest, etc.

                                                                            2. 12th street bar and grill. They do a nice solid job and are the perfect neihborhood restaurant.