Williamsburg’s Most Eaten a.k.a. Goodbye To All That (Food)
In some ways I marvel at the kinds of people who remain friends with their exes. Either they’re highly evolved and easygoing or in denial and out of touch with their emotions. I take the opposite stance on most things including former neighborhoods where neat, tidy breaks also feel preferable. Even if it’s not on purpose, once I move, I’m gone.
I loathed Carroll Gardens and environs, a.k.a. food writer central, irrationally for probably seven of the eight years I spent there. I have not returned even once in the past two years despite curiosity about Dover, Take Root and the revamped Long Island Bar. Hometown BBQ doesn’t count, right?
Sunset Park has also failed to draw me back, I did dabble a bit in Clinton Hill, I’ll admit, and it was only this year, 14 years after I left, that I began softening on Ridgewood. Williamsburg? We’ll have to see.
My past year and a half in Williamsburg was just a blip, always meant to be temporary, and for all its ills I don’t hate it (as long as I stay on my side–the right side–of Metropolitan Ave.). I’m not saying I will miss it when I move this week, but it’s doubtful I’ll turn my back on it altogether (especially considering that a majority of my friends still live in North Brooklyn–at least until I can convince them to migrate to Queens). It’s a pretty good eating neighborhood. Here are some of my favorites.
If someone ever hacked into my Seamless account, they would incorrectly assume I was a Qi Thai Grill fanatic since the duck salad is my most common Times Square office lunch order and the Brooklyn branch is occasionally responsible for my dinner. I never eat in; the glitz is weird. The food, if chosen carefully, is real, though: tendon salads, crazy spicy pork stir-fries, khao soi, and even those non-traditional Ovaltine ribs.
Pasar Malam also filled a void. I never thought I’d live to see the day when I could get laksa and rojak brought to my door. Good Malaysian food in this neighborhood makes no sense at all, but why question it?
I don’t go to Zizi Limona as often as I should even though I often have the urge for the pita stuffed full of kofta, charred vegetables and equally charcoal-ly black babaganoush. The food is creative, kind of Israeli, and Macedonian house wines are only $5 a glass. When someone asks for a restaurant recommendation in the neighborhood, this is often my suggestion but people see hummus on the menu and blow it off as run of the mill Middle Eastern. Don’t do that.
Cheap oysters are a dime (or should I say a dollar?) a dozen in these parts–St. Mazie, Miller’s Tavern, Extra Fancy and Desnuda are all within 3 blocks of my apt. It’s Maison Premiere that wins, though, despite the rigmarole. The selection (roughly 18 varieties) and cocktails are incomparable.
Because I tend to avoid overt bread (yet absorb carbs in a zillion other forms) I rarely eat sandwiches. You just can’t follow that thoughtless rule for life as long as Saltie exists, though. Whether the hearty, meatless Scuttlebutt or pate-rich Balmy, these are the focaccia-bound sandwiches to make allowances for even if it makes you want to take a nap when you still have work to get done.
For burgers, Peter Luger is the master. Everyone must go at least once for lunch.
Blue Collar, on the other hand, is a fine In-n-Out approximation but the mildly hostile counter service (even after using Seamless pickup to minimize interaction) is always off-putting. No matter how I articulate that I ordered online, I’m looked at like I’m simple-minded and met with an exasperated “What?” All I wanted was a double cheeseburger one evening, and ended up with someone else’s order of a single, fries, plus two hot dogs, which threw me into a rage. I hate hot dogs, which I realize makes me an un-American monster and was reinforced by social media reactions. I haven’t been back since.
Yes, the fried chicken at Pies ‘n’ Thighs is really that good. The pies aren’t so shabby either.
Then again, the fried chicken at The Commodore is pretty amazing too. Same pedigree. The nachos are also textbook awesome nachos. It fills me with deep shame to say that I’ve never had the cheeseburger.
I was on a Forcella bender, but then Motorino bounced back–and with a $12 pizza and a salad lunch special. Both have merits. Hmm, did everyone know there was a Motorino in the Philippines? Hong Kong, sure, but this is news to me. The menu looks exactly the same, with the addition of San Miguel beer.
BBQ-wise, BrisketTown probably gets the most attention, and rightly so. Mable’s (pictured) doesn’t elicit as much chatter, but it’s also respectable, refreshingly unpretentious and never painfully crowded.
Sometimes–often, in fact–it’s not about the food. The chilly January afternoon I was solo apartment-hunting for the first time in 13 years, I ended up on the next block at Taco Chulo having a mid-week brunch of rajas thick with melted cheese and chorizo grease. Neither Tex-Mex exactly nor Mexican, this heftiness is the definition of comfort food. And then at the bequest of a non-food-lover friend, I’ve ended up at Taco Chulo nearly every weekend since for sometimes the rajas hash, sometimes the queso benedict, occasionally the smothered burrito and at least one $6 double mimosa. Sometimes the playlist is horrible dad music, sometimes the Pastels and Exploding Hearts make me believe my dead iPod has been revived. There are no lines, it’s never crowded and will no doubt eventually fade away and be quietly mourned as a member of Old Williamsburg when it’s staunchly second wave.
San Loco is truly bottom of the barrel, but if you’re drunk and lazy enough to consider delivery at 2:45am, they come through–and quickly. It’s good to know they are there with nachos and quesadillas in desperate times.
Notable, but not most eaten: Xixa, Onomea, The Elm, Bamonte’s, St. Anselm (I had a fantasy that I’d regularly dine at the bar but never got over my solo dining phobia). I feel like Diner belongs here too, but if I were being honest I’d have to admit that I haven’t been once during this stint. I’d go in a heartbeat, though, if anyone was game.
The ones that got away: Meadowsweet, Gwynett St turned Lachlan, non-brunch Hudson and Delaware, The Commodore’s burger, Meat Hook Sandwich, Reynard, Shalom Japan, Traif. I never once ate at Smorgasburg and regret it not a whit.
R.I.P. Dumont and White Castle.
Update: I completely forgot about newly Michelin-starred Luksus. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯