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Feb 27, 2007 10:27 AM

Places I must eat in Brooklyn

Unfortunately I don't to Brooklyn all that often, ashamed as I am to admit it. What places/dishes are a must-eat? If I wanted to do a full day of snacking, any suggested itineraries?

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  1. This needs to be on the Outer Boroughs board, my friend.

    1. aha-thanks for letting me know...

      1. al di la, Queen, The Good Fork, Red Hook Ball fields (when it is warmer)

        19 Replies
        1. re: deepyarn

          If you had to choose between Good Fork and Grocery for a great boyfriends birthday dinner, which would you choose??

          1. re: lichow

            How many in the party? If four or fewer, Grocery; if five or greater, Good Fork. The Grocery's room is too small for bigger parties, and the Good Fork has a back porch (and patio area) that is great for medium-size groups (speaking from specific birthday experience for both places, in fact).

            1. re: brooklynr

              Thanks...its just me and DBF. I have been wanting to try Grocery for so long, I think that is what it will be. Any recommendations?

              I do want to get to Good Fork as well, soon.

            2. re: lichow

              I've never been to Good Fork but there are much better options around then Grocery. Very overrated. I'd go to Saul, Convivium, or Applewood instead.

              1. re: Nehna

                really....I considered Saul, seemed like reviews were more favorable at Grocery. Not that I ever saw anything bad about Saul. Been To Convivium, it was great. Applewood is nice, I just wanted something really special for special guy. I thought Grocery would be just that.

                1. re: lichow

                  I recommend the scallops, the duck breast and the guinea hen.

                  The Grocery does seem to generate some antipathy on Chowhound, and I'm not exactly sure why. It's true that since they opened the food's gotten slightly smaller and the prices have gotten not so slightly higher, but the quality hasn't changed. For what it's worth, I find Saul to be a bit better and, well, more "professional" on all fronts, but to me it's not as intimate, and lacks the neighborhoody je ne sais quoi that distinguishes Applewood, Convivium, al di là and other top-tier Brooklyn restaurants. All of the choices are appropriate for a special birthday meal, but if you're choosing between the Grocery and the Good Fork for two diners, I would pick the Grocery.

                  (Disclosure: my birthday dinner this year was for 11 people at the Good Fork -- everyone had a great time and loved the food; dinner last year was for 2 at the Grocery -- ditto).

                  1. re: lichow

                    Grocery is very very cramped so not what I consider ideal for a special occasion. They put far too many tables in a small room.

                    I've been maybe 4 times and was never blown away by any of it. Saul I've been to probably 6 times and have rarely been disappointed.

                    I would consider any of the three I mentioned more suitable than Grocery but that's just me :) I'm sure there are those who will disagree.

                    1. re: Nehna

                      I only visited Grocery once. I was looking forward to it based on lots of positive comments on the board. I was also aware of it's high Zagat rating and while this wasn't a deciding factor for me I took it as another sign that I was in for a good experience.

                      Getting a decent timeslot was difficult and we wound up with a 6:00PM reservation. When we arrived there were only 2 tables occupied yet they immediately tried to seat us at an awful table. I was polite but told them we wanted something better - they complied. Not a great start; you shouldn't have to push them to get a decent table in an empty restaurant.

                      The meal itself was fine. Nothing memorable but certainly above average. Having said that I thought the prices were about 15-20% higher than they should have been vs. the quality of the food.

                      The service was correct but cold. Perhaps I was overly sensitive after the game they played with the table but I got the feeling that the servers felt that they were doing us a favor taking our order and bringing our food and wine. I've since heard the same thing from enough people for me to believe it wasn't just my imagination. My assumption is that after years of great Zagat ratings they've taken on a bit of an attitude - they think that they're untouchable.

                      My experiences at Saul have been the opposite. I've been there 6 or 7 times and on each visit I've been made to feel very welcome. They're *glad* for your business and don't take it for granted. I think the food, while priced comparably with Grocery, is better. Not 100% better but enough to be clearly noticeable. I don't mind the prices because they come through on their side of the bargain.

                      Evidently Michelin agrees. Saul has a star and Grocery doesn't. Since the food at Grocery is pretty good I can only think that the difference is that the staff at Grocery treated the Michelin reviewers with the same mild condescension as me. Their attitude had consequences. :-)

                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                        Well put Bob. I concur that the food was always acceptable when I went, just nothing ever blew me away or justified the difficulty to get a reservation as opposed to Saul, where I've typically had no trouble getting one (odd...but I guess Saul is a signficantly larger space). I've even done the tasting menu at Grocery and it still just came off as a place trying to be very manhattan but not really hitting the mark. Saul tries to be Manhattan and I think would do fine if it were there, though maybe wouldn't get as much attention.

                        I also remember once arriving for a Grocery table and being asked to wait a while in the patio where we could have a drink. The patio was barren at the time and empty. There was no one to help us at the small bar and we felt very uncomfortable milling around out there waiting for a sign of life. In the end, I recall, they came to get us for our table and not a word was said about the puzzling patio and lack of service out there.

                    2. re: lichow

                      Aigh. I'll put in a bad word about Saul. Have only been there once, but was terribly unimpressed. Uber-pricey for Bk, and the food was lukewarm and salty as all get-out. Afraid Smith Street remains rather a culinary wasteland. There are copious better options over in Park Slope, and Ft. Greene has some solid options, as well: Stone Home Wine Bar, Olea, Lou Lou all charming and comfortable, if not as fancy-do as Grocery, etc.

                      1. re: endiveboy

                        Right, I have to call foul on the (all too popular fad these days) calling Smith St a culinary wasteland. Please. What Smith St. is, and I'll grant you, is very inconsistent, which is also not acceptable but certainly not the same thing. And Park Slope, in my experience, is also very inconsistent.

                        On Smith Street, I have had excellent meals on repeat occasions at Saul, Lunetta, Chestnut, Po, Chance, Robin des Bois, Ki Sushi, Carniceria, and Patois. I've had reasonably good meals at Grocery too, I just don't think it deserves the hype it gets. Now I'm sure I've also had at least one less than stellar meal at each of these places too, and they're all of completely different callibre (i.e. Chance vs Saul) but they're all quite good at what they do. So please don't make such brash generalizations about a lot of very different restaurants.

                        1. re: Nehna

                          Totally agree.

                          While Smith St definitely has it's mediocre places and off-nights, it's a perfectly respectable restaurant row with a solid list of places I return to, and some that I very much like (similar to Nehna's list above).

                          I've encountered much more unevenness in Ft Greene restaurants, particularly at those you mention, where I've had some pretty blah or bad dishes.

                          Now DUMBO, THAT's a culinary wasteland. :P

                2. re: deepyarn

                  Just want to sound a dissenting note on Queen. After hearing so many on this list tout Queen, we went in August with an out of town guest and were sorely disappointed. It was expensive, the food was nothing special (tomatoes were out of season) and it had little character besides the cheery Italian proprietor tending bar. It's a lot of money for food you could get for less at Fragole, Casa Rosa or Lunetta.

                  1. re: ardnaxela

                    Sorry about your August experience but I think you're absolutely wrong. You can have a bad meal at Luger's but dont say that the steak they serve can be had in most other steak places; you can have a bad slice at DiFara's but you cant just generalize and say that the quality of other local pizza places is equal to Dom's. The quality of Queen's kitchen (depth, talent and ingredients) is way above the others. I'm not knocking the 3 you list, especially since I go to 2 of them (I'd love to hear more about CRosa on the board as I'm not familiar with it) but I can assuredly state that you're comparing apples and oranges if you think they're at Queen's general level. Again, that's not to say that bad meals, not worth the $$, cant be had at Queen... and I'm sure (& sorry) that you had one. I've had some as well. But, order mozz. at all 4 places and only one will put down a plate of a fresh homemade quality product. And only one will have created a mozz. dish with a similarly homemade fresh anchovy sauce instead of only serving varieties of sliced mozz, tomato and basil (which they usually do as well).

                    1. re: Steve R

                      umm, i think that Bruni said exactly that about Lugers two weeks ago.

                      1. re: ceasar11

                        Even a blind squirrel finds nuts once in awhile.

                    2. re: ardnaxela

                      I agree with you ardnaxela. I've been to Queen a few times and what I paid for was nothing special. To call it a "Must Eat" in Brooklyn is a bit of an overstatement.

                      I would HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend Jack the Horse at the corner of Cranberry and Hicks. Great professional (yet casual) service, awesome bartender (one of the most talented and knowledgable bartenders I've ever met - try his specialty "Man of Leisure"), delicious food (short ribs I had were unforgettable), and the ambiance it so different from anything else in Brooklyn (busy but not noisy.)

                      1. re: bluishgnome

                        I guess that this is how we learn about each other's tastes. We not only disagree on Queen but I've been to Jack the Horse several times wanting to love it (nice room, nice owners) but have found the food very mediocre. Nothing bad, just not anything I'm impressed with. Oh well.

                    3. re: deepyarn

                      I went to Grocery with great expectations. I felt the service was cold, the food was so-so, in the sense that there wasn't a lot of clarity of flavor, and a lobster tart, I felt had been reheated from the day before. No big deal if it worked, but it didn't work. faye

                    4. there was a good link on this topic a few weeks back listing top meals at top brooklyn restaurants. i couldnt find it via search though.

                      my picks:
                      -malfati for primi, roasted meat skewers for entree, pear/chocolate cake for dessert at al di la
                      -shitaki mushroom with leek flan and braised pork belly entree at 360
                      -porterhouse for 2 at peter luger's...obviously
                      -square pie with sausage, mushrooms, onion, anchovy at difara
                      -veal sweetbreads and any pork entree at applewood

                      3 Replies
                        1. re: sam1

                          roasted meat skewers? @ al di la? I'm mystified!
                          and I'd keep the malfatti, add grilled chard stems (don't ask why, just order), and affogato for light dessert

                          There was a really good Carroll Gardens thread going a few months back
                          and this thread on weekend treks

                          1. re: pitu

                            i forgot to put al di la on my list. you remind me, as you choose specific menu items, that anyone coming here should eat some fried cauliflower. I prefer Fountain tho i'm sure there are other spots.
                            It's just one of those dishes that's often overlooked, but utterly revelatory...

                        2. Lots of great places to eat! Here's a few dont miss spots:
                          al di la
                          Palo santo
                          Sheep Station
                          Happy Eats!