Upon exiting at the M/R station at the 4th and Union stop we were tempted to pop into Schnack Express, but did not want to risk offending our much appreciated local guides Colin and Kate who spent hours preparing our gastronomical hit list. Soon we were very happy about our restraint - the hit list was very long. Union Street north of the station on 4th Avenue, as well as 5th Avenue south from there, yielded many great places to dine and purchase foodstuff and libations for the homefront.
A casual dinner after a day in Brooklyn – maybe at Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum or on a long stroll visiting the boutiques on 5th Avenue:
Bonnie’s Grill – While the menu at this luncheonette cum roadhouse states that it serves hot & spicy regional American cuisine, its upstate New York grounding is quickly revealed by the Rhinegold signage on the walls, a picture of the Buffalo Bills second most famous quarterback to wear number 12 hanging by the grill, and the appearance of Beef on Weck ($8.95). We are not sure what was more enjoyable: devouring a plate of fantastic Chicken Wings ($6.95 for 10 / $11.95 for 20) or watching the fervent intensity of the cook/owner, who mans the grill for every plate, as he folded the freshly fried wings over and over again in a bowl with wing sauce almost dancing with said bowl.
La Villa – Every neighborhood should be lucky enough to have a pizza option this good. The excellent pizzas ($9-$23) are topped with housemade mozzarella and fired in one of their two pizza ovens. Both ovens, wood and coal, produced fine pies, and our friends from Chicago even offered up high praise for a thicker, sausage topped round from the coal oven. Although sometimes packed, bites of fresh baked foccacia while you wait to be seated serves as a salve for the hunger pain.
Bar Ries – This welcoming spot, more bar than restaurant, serves up some basic Mexican. It garners mention due to its above average salsa and a tasty fresh Sopes ($5). While they offer $1 off Dark & Stormy’s when it is raining or snowing, the killer backyard has us looking forward to warm weather.
To make a night of dining in Brooklyn, there are at least two great options in this neighborhood:
Rose Water – While we can not tell you exactly what is on this oft changing menu right now, we can confidently state that you will probably love eating your way through Ethan’s creations. Focused on seasonality and tied into the local supply chain, the menu is often comprised of hard to choose between dishes. Prices are reasonable, the wine and beer selection is well chosen, and up front John and his staff make you feel welcome. If you do stop in, be sure to put your name on the mailing list as they do cool special events – Pig Dinners, Passover Seder (which is not a Pig dinner), and this summer, a Muscadet & Seafood night.
Al di Là – Our local guides live right across the street and strangely, unbeknownst to them, treated the place in same manner as New York’s newest Food Blogger – they ignored it. The same reason for all parties was the difficulty in being seated at a constantly mobbed reservationless establishment. Eventually trying some off peek hours, Emiliano, the co-owner with his super talented wife Anna Klinger who runs the stoves, now recognizes them and popping in to enjoy stellar Italian food from the Northern region of Veneto is easier. While they wait in their apartment, you can enjoy the Wine bar Al di Là opened right around the corner until your table is ready.
When you find yourself in this area, spend some time in the great markets of this neighborhood:
Bierkraft – With an endless beer selection ranging from nearly every American great microbrewery to the far corners of the European brewing world, if they only sold beer they would be a hit. When you add in the wide selection of artisanal cheeses, dried goods, chocolates, and meats (including fun things like Niman Tasso Ham), this place is worth going out of your way for.
A & S Pork Store – Mozzarella is king here, and we made delicious pizzas at home for almost a week after scooping up a loaf of the housemade cheese. Based on that cheese and the wonderful dried sausages we brought home snacking, the cold Italian sandwiches are probably tasty too.
Park Slope Food Co-Op – It is a good thing Gothamist’s love for the Greenmarket and its network of farmers is well cemented, or it might be at risk. Without the somewhat onerous burdens of membership, we enjoyed helping our friend pick from a selection of well-sourced, incredibly fresh fruits, vegetables and other foodstuffs, all at too low to believe prices. We may even consider joining next winter for a few months while the Greenmarket is on hiatus.
We keep hearing that Cocotte is quite good, especially their burger, but their half week closed schedule made it tough to swing a visit. Any thoughts about this place ?