Los Angeles Times

Where to eat in Brooklyn

Here are some of our favorite places in the borough, from DUMBO to Bay Ridge.

In a simply decorated space on Smith Street, Savoy alumna David Wurth turns out New American cooking that has turned this newcomer into a neighborhood favorite. The dining room is as clean-looking as the food is clear-tasting: plain wood floors, wooden-topped tables, ceiling beams, and aluminum chairs set the tone. Main courses like grilled trout with olive stew, hanger steak with fried yuca (standing in for the frites), and a percfect roast chicken anchor the menu. And what pulls it all together is that the place is open late. Now, that's a crowd-pleaser. (271 Smith Street; 718-243-0049)

Five Front
The comfort food at this DUMBO standby has propelled it into the front ranks of neighborhhood restaurants. The crowd is a hip, grown-up group and the setting has a cool quality of its own. The place is as kid- friendly as its sister restaurant, Park Slope's 12th Street Bar and Grill, and the service is attentive. The $19 prix-fixe Monday, Wednesday and Thursday is good value, and summers, the garden is greatly in demand. (5 Front Street; 718-625-5559)

The Williamsburg branch of the Thai mini-chain draws a hip young crowd to this massive but stylish place. Yes, you expect the fiery food, and you expect the DJ. But what about the two bars, the Buddha, and the reflecting pool? If you're hungry, go for the seafood, and don't miss the Drunk Man noodles. 114 North Sixth Street; 718-384-8850

The Grocery
By many accounts, this small storefront is one of the city's best restaurants. It's a romantic-looking place, understated and elegant, and there's a pretty garden out back. The ever-changing menu displays a knowing way with market-driven New American cooking: think of garlicky clams or slow-rendered duck breast or a signature dish of homemade sausage with black bean salad. Drawbacks? Only two come to mind: Service can be slow, and the space is limited. (288 Smith Street; 718-596-3335)

The Minnow
Aaron Bashy knows a thing or two about fish (he worked at both Le Bernardin and Alva), and he intends to teach Brooklyn what he knows. While his menu carries a few turf-oriented dishes, surf's the thing here: specialties like hearty New England fish cakes with spicy aioli or more elegant preparations like grilled lobster with mushroom-flecked linguini all served in a spare but pleasant brick-walled space. At brunch, bluefish hash lends an unusual flavor. The restaurant draws in locals and even some Manhattanites; the place is family-friendly--Bashy is passionate about broadening kids' culinary horizons. (442 Ninth Street; 718-832-5500)

Tuscany Grill
With its small, cozy bar and mellow lighting the Tuscany Grill is a relaxed neighborhood place that offers a hint of romance. The dining room is serene, with pale walls, low-ceilings, polished floors, and comfortable seating. The Tuscan grilled pizzas with about any topping you can think of are popular. But the kitchen is also known for its pastas - try the farfalle with grilled shrimp, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and pignoli. There is plenty of grilled fish, like crispy grilled salmon with eggplant mashed potatoes, and a chicken with goat cheese dish that has a following. Clam roast, and roast pork fill out an earthy menu. (8620 Third Avenue; 718-921-5633)

Bar Tabac
This crowded neighborhood place has everything a Francophile could want, from the familiar diamond-shaped sign out front to the yellow-painted doors that look as if they were lifted straight out of small-town France to the strategically placed Ricard pitchers and Lillet signs. There's even a table football game, once a mainstay of every provincial cafe. The menu offers the simple pleasures of the traditional neighborhood bistro: spicy Merguez sausage; salads livened up with warm goat cheese; good, garlicky escargots; a well-prepared house-made pate; nicely roasted chicken. The food is fine, and the young crowd is enthusiastic, jamming the tables and spilling out onto the sidewalk in summer.(128 Smith Street, 718-923-0918)

Gingko Leaf Cafe
Tranquil is the best way to describe this tiny tearoom/sushi bar in back of Miyo Sasaki's Japanese gift shop. All blond wood elegance, it opens out onto a classic Japanese garden complete with granite sculptures (courtesy of the owner's husband, Toshio), a calming waterfall, flashing goldfish, and polished stones. The food is equally classic, if a little restricted: a choice of the freshest bento boxes in the borough plus five varieties of tea. The drawback: service can be very slow. (788A Union Street; 718-399-9876)

Pete's Downtown
The bridge. The river. The glamour of the skyline at night. All are part of the Brooklyn vibe, and Pete's taps into it with splendid views and Italian-American home-cooking with just enough jazz in it to make things interesting. The restaurant has been around since 1894; today, the main dining room is a spacious, airy room with tin ceilings, big windows, a brick wall behind the bar, and lots of vintage photographs. The food is a mix of traditional red-sauce pastas and updated classics. At dinner, try the rigatoni with portabella, prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, and spinach or the penne with hot peppers, sausage, and tomato. Service is friendly, prices are fair, and the view can't be beat. (2 Water Street; 718-858-3510)

Blue Ribbon
Several years ago, Bruce and Eric Bromberg opened their first Blue Ribbon, in Soho, delighting the neighborhood with dishes like marrow bones, pigeon, and a then-novel seafood plateau. Over the years, they blanketed the neighborhood with Blue Ribbon Sushi and Blue Ribbon Bakery, finally crossing the river to open a Blue Ribbon in the Slope. This is a big L-shaped space that used to be a grocery store---perfect for the hordes of locals who stay up late (the restaurant is open till 4 a.m. weekends, till 2 a.m. during the week) or for the families who are welcomed with a casual dining scene even the most finicky kids won't turn their noses up at. Among the appetizers, assorted soups and salads, and mains, you'll find some familiar offerings: fried oysters, paella, steak tartare, a foie gras terrine, and a pupu platter that includes ribs and chicken wings. There are some new additions, too: the surf-and-turf includes lobster, a strip steak, and French fries; and the land and sea platter has catfish and chicken. The paella and the pigeon are as good as they were in their original habitat, and the desserts--especially the hot-fudge sundae--are as satisfying to the trendiest foodie as they are to the littlest eater in his high chair. (280 Fifth Avenue; 718-840-0404)

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