Brooklyn, New York foodie guide: where locals eat and drink
Williamsburg foodies are venturing past its iconic brewery to Brooklyn’s northernmost neighbourhood, Greenpoint, bordered by the East River’s Newton Creek. Trendy bistros and bars have popped up here beside traditional grocery stores and bakeries run by the area’s Polish and Jewish communities
Looking for pizza restaurants in Brooklyn? Want to find the best bars in Greenpoint? Check out the best places to eat and drink in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick and beyond, from pizza and ramen joints to bagel shops and intimate bistros.
Once Manhattan’s poor neighbour, famed for its Italian restaurants, Brooklyn’s restaurant scene these days is less one-trick pony, more Champion the wonder horse of culinary and cultural cross-pollination. (You can check out our guide to where to eat in Manhattan here)
Where to eat and drink in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Williamsburg is Brooklyn’s chicest neighbourhood and close to the flag-flying summit of its culinary heights.
Okonomi /Yuji ramen – for ramen
This dinky spot, on a leafy residential road in Williamsburg, is home to just a handful of tables plus four seats at a wooden counter. Grab a spot in the evenings to watch chefs in the open kitchen prepare pickled vegetables, clam lips with mustard miso and spicy seafood ramen topped with dancing katsuobushi flakes. Ingredients change daily and soups showcase lesser-known fish varieties such as madai seabream sashimi, roast perch or monkfish liver.
During the day, Okonomi serves Japanese set meals of rice, miso soup, fish, veg and an egg. There’s no menu, just choose how you want your fish-of-the-day cooked – salt-roast, dry kelp-cured or glazed in sweet miso.
Nick and Sons Bakery – for cinnamon rolls
Nick Heavican’s minimal shop and open-plan working bakery is dominated by a counter piled with bakes of the day (think cranberry and orange zest scones, rosemary sourdough, trays of focaccia, cardamom-laced pain-au-raisins and za’atar croissants). The cinnamon rolls are legendary – huge, icing sugar-coated swirls, reminiscent of those served at Braud og Co in Reykjavik (Nick took his inspiration from charismatic Icelandic baker Gusti (link to feature)). For lunch, try croissants filled with pork shoulder and cheddar or sourdough sarnies stuffed with pastrami.
Amor y Amargo – for aperitifs
Slouch at the marble bar of this fun hangout and peruse bottles of bitters, vermouth and amaro. Cocktails are stirred, not shaken, and there are no mixers, just pure, punchy, bitter drinks. Try the refreshing grapefruit-led Di Pompelmo with a dash of tequila, or the smoky Renaissance Man. The bar’s speciality is the 8 Amaro Sazerac, featuring the house Amari blend (a mixture of no fewer than eight different types).
Lilia – for Italian food
Chef Missy Robbins’ Lilia restaurant is one of the hottest tables in town. Try the sheep’s milk cheese-filled agnolotti with honey, saffron and dried tomatoes and you’ll understand why.
Brooklyn Winery – for wine
Brian Leventhal and John Stires gave up lucrative day jobs to found a winery in an old dairy in Williamsburg and it’s doing so well they’re expanding, opening another near Washington DC. Not many grapes grow in New York but with the help of winemaker Conor McCormack they source grapes from across the States. You can book a tour and enjoy a tasting in the wine bar with its tables and chairs made from old church pews.
Smorgasburg – for market vibes
Williamsburg is full of markets, from Mccarren Park Farmers’ Market to Smorgasburg, a Saturday waterfront fixture with food stalls selling everything from doughnuts to oysters, New Orleans po’ boys to popcorn.
Gourmet stores range from the Bedford Cheese Shop to Mast Brothers, which offers factory tours and chocolate tastings (don’t miss the goat’s milk flavour), and Zen-like tea emporium Puerh Brooklyn, which stocks 70 hand-picked teas and exquisite teaware.
Where to eat and drink in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Williamsburg foodies are venturing past its iconic brewery to Brooklyn’s northernmost neighbourhood, Greenpoint, bordered by the East River’s Newton Creek. Trendy bistros and bars have popped up here beside traditional grocery stores and bakeries run by the area’s Polish and Jewish communities.
Frankels – for bagels
Head to this contemporary take on a New York-style deli to try a toasted, hand-rolled poppy seed bagel filled with smoked salmon, punchy horseradish beets, dill and cream cheese. Other recommended eats include a hot pastrami rye sandwich and Anita’s braised brisket on griddled challah bread.
Chez ma Tante – for neighbourhood vibes
White-washed brick walls, dark wood furniture and flickering candles set the tone at this intimate neighbourhood joint in the heart of Greenpoint. The seasonal menu of European dishes rotates between the likes of fennel sausage with butter beans and chanterelles, stracciatella cheese with marinated kale and anchovy crumble, and trout tartare with creamy oyster Pernod sauce. There’s classic lemon tart for pud, as well as maple crème brûlée and seasonal sorbets. The succinct wine list includes sparkling rosé from Greece, Oregon orange, and a wide range of French wines, from Jura whites to Burgundy reds.
Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop – for donuts
Make a beeline for this Greenpoint stalwart for its chocolate-frosted rings and cream-filled donuts. Flavours of the day are displayed until they run out – try gingerbread crullers, Bavarian cream fillings and strawberry ice-cream donut sandwiches. Linger at the counter with a coffee or take away to eat while you mooch around Transmitter Park, with its jaw-dropping views over the East River to Manhattan.
Paulie Gee’s – for pizza
This creative pizza restaurant has been a must-visit for years, in no small part for its trademarked Hellboy pizza ‘pie’ topped with spicy soppressata salami and chilli-infused honey. Newer to the area is Paulie Gee’s slice shop, a couple of streets away, serving Neapolitan-style pizzas in a casual, contemporary environment (they’re also available to take away).
Achilles Heel – for cocktails
In winter, soak up cosy vibes by the fire at Achilles Heel cocktail bar. Order a ‘hotter toddy’, a warming concoction of bourbon, apple brandy, walnut and ginger, or for something more refreshing, a Psychic Sand’s mezcal, crème de cacao, citrus and honey combo. Pop in at lunchtime for a loaded porchetta sandwich with fermented cayenne aioli, pickled onions and a fried egg on She Wolf Bakery pizza bread.
Glasserie – for Middle Eastern small plates
For date-night vibes, book a table at this buzzy Middle Eastern bistro and try fried cauliflower with caper yogurt, chicken with roast apples and kale, and pine nut-studded lamb sausages.
Where to stay in Williamsburg – The Hoxton
This slick hotel on the Williamsburg/Greenpoint border sits metres away from the iconic Brooklyn Brewery. Sip hoppy, amber-gold lager in its stylish lobby lounge and restaurant, Kleins, or head up to the rooftop bar, Summerly, in the warmer months to soak up Brooklyn vibes over a cocktail and a plate of fresh seafood. Book a room on the Manhattan side for uninterrupted views of the New York skyline.
Doubles from £159, check availability at booking.com
Where to eat and drink in Bushwick, Brooklyn
Ballsy Bushwick – one of Brooklyn's up-and-coming areas – is peppered with gourmet pitstops.
Roberta's – for pizza
Behind Roberta’s graffitied walls is a joint with attitude and one mean pizza oven. Tuck into Roberta’s ‘Famous Original’ the crispy base smeared with rich tomato, creamy mozzarella, caciocavallo, parmigiano, chilli flakes and oregano.
Hops and Hocks – for craft beer
This is a craft beer store, growler filling station (a growler is a reusable beer bottle or flagon) and charcuterie with gourmet sandwiches to go and beer, cold-brew coffee and kombucha on tap.
Where to eat in Downtown Brooklyn
Ample Hills Creamery – for ice cream
Head to Ample Hills Creamer for ice cream in a pretzel-, gluten-free-, chocolate chip- or M&M-cone. Try ‘It Came From Gowanus’, the saltiest chocolatiest, most orange-scented, brownie- and hazelnut-packed ice cream. If you need a reason to traipse across the bridge to Brooklyn, here it is.
Museum of Food and Drink – for a spot of culture
It’s no accident that the Museum of Food and Drink is based in Brooklyn. What started life as a nomadic exhibition travelling around New York with a cereal-puffing machine to educate the public about contemporary food issues found its permanent home in an old warehouse in Williamsburg at the end of 2015. “There are so many established food cultures here, from Italian restaurants to Polish to Dominican,” founder Peter Kim explains. “Brooklyn is a microcosm of New York.”
Written by Alex Crossley and Lucy Gillmore