Local Bites: the best places to eat and drink in Brooklyn


In Manhattan’s shadow no more, Brooklyn is the place to find some of New York City’s most exciting and original eateries. 

The truth is that Brooklyn is a culinary embarrassment of riches; you could eat at a different spot every single day of the year and never be disappointed. Since I moved here three years ago, trying a new restaurant has become somewhat of a weekly tradition, and I’ve found quite a few favorites. So, with the help of my fellow Lonely Planet Brooklynites, I’ve narrowed down a more manageable list of the best local haunts across Gotham’s most populous borough. 

It’s important to note that while the most popular places require reservations, Brooklyn still holds out the possibility of walk-ins, especially on weekdays and before the evening rush. The smaller your group, the easier it will be.

Looking to venture beyond Brooklyn? Eat your way through these iconic New York City neighborhoods.

Collage of the Otway Bakery storefront and a spread of the bakery's pastries
L: Otway Bakery’s cheery storefront is the perfect place to start your morning. R: A spread of Otway’s fresh pastries – including their seasonal grilled calçot Danish © Otway Bakery

Breakfast

Offering arguably one of the best breakfast burritos in Brooklyn (on Earth?), Ursula impresses me time and time again. This is one of the few places I’d join a line for – and has the even rarer distinction of motivating me to get up and out of the house early on the weekend. Other hits on the menu include the blue corn pancakes and chilaquiles – bonus points for the vegetarian and vegan options, too. If you can’t make it for breakfast, they also serve lunch and dinner. 

If you prefer to satisfy your sweet tooth in the morning, go to Otway Bakery. Located on the border of Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights, this local pastry shop has an array of baked goods worth stopping in for. From the cardamom bun to a classic buttery croissant, their decadent treats are best enjoyed to go, during a picnic in nearby Prospect Park.

Collage of the IXV Coffee storefront and one of their lattes with heart latte art
You’ll find more than lattes at IXV Coffee – like reworked vintage clothing © IXV Coffee

Coffee

Cafe Regular du Nord is a little hole-in-the-wall spot in Park Slope that I magically stumbled upon while trying to find my bus stop. A large mural encompassing the main wall and old-school padded booth seats exude charm. This is my favorite place to enjoy a cappuccino, a croissant and a book whenever I am in the area. The seating inside is limited, but they also set up sidewalk tables if the weather is nice. Since Café Regular is also a short stroll from Prospect Park, you can head to Brooklyn Botanical Garden after your cup of coffee. 

Further north, pop into IXV Coffee, a zero-waste shop that is a triple threat in the world of sustainable goods: beyond coffee, they sell reworked clothing and home goods. Lonely Planet’s Senior Director of Content Laura Motta loves stopping in to grab one of their “amazing lattes.”

A collage of interior shots of Gertie and Café Paulette
L: Lunch (or breakfast) is ready to be served at Gertie © Ann Douglas Lott / Lonely Planet. R: Customers unwind at Café Paulette’s bar © Café Paulette

Lunch

With elevated takes on classic Jewish cuisine, Gertie is the restaurant to find a “Jew-ish”–style meal: sample some latkes, tuck into the pickle platter or select one of their delicious sandwiches. For a similar style of food with a fancier vibe, check out their sister restaurant, Gertrude’s, for dinner. It’s one of Lonely Planet Creative Director Annie Greenberg’s favorites: “Jewish and French-American bistro is now a new category I didn’t know I absolutely needed.“ Note that reservations for weekend tables at Gertie are a must. 

Delve into a photo-worthy French meal at the quaint Fort Greene’s Café Paulette – a neighborhood staple for over a decade. Laura Motta suggests a stroll through Fort Greene Park before cozying up in the cafe with a steaming bowl of French onion soup. It’s an ideal way to unwind and relax mid-day. 

Collage of Long Island Bar's cheese curds and an exterior shot of the bar
L: The fried cheese curds at The Long Island Bar are a must. R: The bar’s decor remains true to its 1950s roots © The Long Island Bar

Aperitivo 

Rhodora represents one droplet of the wine-bar wave that has taken over most of the city, and it’s totally worth the hype. While on the pricier side, the marinated olives are a must, and the burrata topped with tomato jam will likely be gone in a matter of moments. Annie Greenberg describes it as “the best and most bustling corner wine bar with no attitude and all the best bottles and small plates.”

On Atlantic Ave, the border between Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights, The Long Island Bar has been around since the early ’50s, its interior relatively unchanged. This will forever be the place where I learned to love a martini – they are simply fantastic here. On the menu is a variety of American classics, from a top-notch burger (with a side of arguably the best fries in all of Brooklyn) to deviled eggs and cheese curds. It’s cozy yet lively, and one of my favorite places to enjoy a cocktail and bar food with a friend before a night out.

Collage of an exterior shot of Bar Mario with customers seated at under umbrellas; second photo is an overhead shot of many of the restaurant's pasta dishes
L: Bar Mario diners get to enjoy Red Hook’s laid-back vibe. R: A spread of Bar Mario’s comforting Italian dishes © Bar Mario

Dinner

When I suggested adding Ugly Baby in Carroll Gardens to this list, there was a chorus of agreement from my coworkers that it’s the best Thai food in the city. Come ready for a serious kick and heed the spice warnings on the menu. While their plates are constantly changing, you can always expect traditional Thai dishes with breathtaking, innovative twists. Ugly Baby is walk-in only, with limited seating – so an earlier dinner is the way to go if you want to avoid a wait. 

Bar Mario is everything you want in a comfort-food pasta spot – and one of Senior Director of Content Brekke Fletcher’s favorite spots in the city. Down in Red Hook, this unassuming restaurant serves hearty portions of classic Italian fare; come for the heaping plates of noodles, and stay for the great atmosphere. Brekke’s insider tip? Hit Sunny’s Bar after dinner for drinks and live music to round out the night.

Collage of a spread of food at Ornithology Jazz Club and two musicians playing a set on the drums and bass
Plant-based Mediterranean dishes with a side of live jazz at Ornithology Jazz Club © Ornithology Jazz Club

Bar

Doris is a sultry local spot in Bed-Stuy that I once described as the perfect third-date location. It’s also a great place to hang out with friends, as their back patio has tons of seating and accommodates larger groups. (If you get tired of playing pool, don’t worry – they have a ping-pong table, too.) At Doris, the cocktails are delicious, though their fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches might be even more tempting.

Ornithology Jazz Club in Bushwick is a great place to start or end a night out. Daily live jazz shows for only a five-dollar cover and reasonably priced drinks make it easy to sit back and enjoy. If it’s crowded, a sister establishment and jazz-listening room, Cafe Ornithology, is just next door. If you’re trying to bar hop, just across the street is Mao Mao, which serves Thai street food and cocktails in an old cinema-turned-restaurant.





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