As far as restaurants go, Manhattan often gets all the fanfare and fame. After all, it is home to Eleven Madison Park, voted the best restaurant in the world, along with 60 or so Michelin-starred restaurants. It's no wonder it's a major food capital. But if New York Times critic Pete Wells has taught us anything, it's that the best meals are sometimes found in the most unexpected places—like the back of a pizza place in Bushwick, for example.
In fact, to New Yorkers, Brooklyn has become the new hot spot for cutting-edge restaurant openings—many arguing that Manhattan has priced out the chefs and restaurateurs that are daring enough to be innovative. That said, finding these hidden gems among the many Brooklyn neighborhoods is easier said than done, and this New York borough isn't one that can be easily navigated by foot (or even subway) in its entirety.
To help you craft the perfect culinary excursion, we rounded up some of the best restaurants in Brooklyn that are sure to be worth the trek. In the mood for a casual brunch, classic French fare, or a 20-course tasting menu? These Brooklyn restaurants won't disappoint.
For a Memorable Plate of Pasta: Lilia
If Lilia has been making waves on the New York City food scene, it might have something to do with its female chef, Missy Robbins, who rose to fame while at the head of A Voce. Or it might be because its menu has received rave reviews from the toughest critics. It could also be due to its flawless industrial interiors complete with sky-high windows, original wood-beam ceilings, and whitewashed brick walls. One thing's certain, it's a sure-fire hit—and the pasta, as Pete Wells describes it, is a "direct route to happiness."
For Lunch With a View: Cecconi's
One of the latest restaurants to hit the up-and-coming DUMBO waterfront is Cecconi's of Soho House fame, and the first branch to hit New York City. Though the restaurant already has locations in London, Los Angeles, and Miami, it had somehow managed to elude the first two Manhattan-based houses, but New Yorkers can finally enjoy its beloved classic Italian fare in a stylish setting that overlooks the Manhattan Bridge and the city skyline.
For Detroit-Style Pizza: Emmy Squared
A Williamsburg staple since 2017, Emmy Squared is the culmination of traditions created by Emily and Matt Hyland, a couple whose love story started with pizza. Their signature square pan Detroit-style pizza offers a crispy crust with a light and airy center. Although this spot is undoubtedly known for its pizza offerings, the menu at Emmy Squared also includes four unique (and mouthwatering) sandwiches, including chicken and meatball parmesan options and a take on the muffuletta, which they call the Emmalatta.
For Classic French Fare: Sauvage
If you're craving a cozy Parisian bistro ambience, a quality wine list, and French fare with an American twist, look no further than Williamsburg's Sauvage. Opened by the owners of the nearby popular oyster bar, Maison Premiere, this quaint spot lends itself just as well to a date night or a dinner with friends. During summer months, the windows open to the park-facing street outside in true French bistro fashion.
For a Brunch of Champions: Sunday in Brooklyn
Looking for a no-frills delicious brunch that's also lively and low-waste? Look no further than Sunday in Brooklyn, a three-story restaurant that's filled with shiplap walls and towering palms. It was opened a little over a year ago by Atera and Major Food Group alums. The space is complete with a coffee shop and gourmet market. The restaurant's sustainable ethos when it comes to food means they have a strong focus on cheesemaking and fermentation—which they reuse in anything from their craft cocktails to their unique dishes.
For Next-Level Ramen: Okonomi
This restaurant serves a traditional seafood-centered Japanese breakfast by day and a seriously coveted bowl of ramen (under another name, Yuji Ramen) by night. In true Japanese fashion, the food prepared at Okonomi is good for you, good for the environment, and honors time-tested traditions. The chef, Yuji Haraguchi, opened the restaurant with the goal of widening Americans' knowledge of Japanese cuisine, introducing new dishes and techniques. This twelve-seater tends to fill up quickly—so plan your visit carefully.
For Bar Bites and Wine: Denizen
This Williamsburg wine bar is surprising in more ways than one. First, Denizen's small bites menu caught the attention of Michelin critics, gaining inclusion it in its 2018 guide. Second, the staff is incredibly knowledgeable and friendly and serves in a true neighborhood atmosphere. Third, its wine list is—as we would expect from a quality wine bar—off the charts. This is the perfect spot to hunker down at the bar on a weeknight and order plates to share (or try its tasting menu, which is under $50). Let the bartender guide you with your wine choice, and if nothing else, try its Long island porgy crudo—it's that good.
For NYC's Best Tasting Menu: Blanca
You may not expect a two Michelin star restaurant to be hidden in the back of Roberta's, the infamous pizza place in Bushwick, but that's what makes Brooklyn great. Blanca, a twelve-seater counter overlooking an open kitchen, serves a 20-course tasting menu exclusively—with no substitutions. Go with an open mind (and a fat wallet). If New York Times critic Pete Wells gives it three stars, you know it's bound to be delicious.
For Casual Cool Cuisine: Sugar Raw Bar Grill
With locations in Miami, Las Vegas, and Brooklyn, Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill isn't exactly a local's only spot; however, its stellar menu and fantastic location by the water in DUMBO make it a must-visit Brooklyn restaurant. Run by award-winning Chef Timon Baloo, the hot spot offers shared plates from three different kitchens, including an open fire grill, raw bar, and traditional kitchen. Dine outside for a view of the Brooklyn Bridge or sit inside to soak up the elegant industrial atmosphere.
For Natural Wine: The Four Horsemen
It doesn't get much cooler in Brooklyn than a wine bar owned by the lead singer of electronic rock band LCD Soundsystem. James Murphy and his wife Christina Topsose opened The Four Horsemen with Justin Chearno in 2015 and its since become a Williamsburg destination for natural wines and a hip atmosphere. The restaurant also serves up lunch and dinner with plates like avocado squash, beef tartar, and fried green tomatoes.
For Mediterranean Fare on the Water: Celestine
Enjoy Eastern Mediterranean cuisine as close the water as you can get at Celestine. Located on the bustling DUMBO waterfront in Brooklyn, the restaurant offers sweeping views of the downtown skyline from its position under the Manhattan Bridge. Expect seasonal fare inspired by the Mediterranean, Northern Africa, and the Middle East, courtesy of Executive Chef Garett McMahan. Don't forget to inspect the impressive wine list and cocktails influenced by the infamous spice route.
For a Neighborhood Hangout: Olmsted
Located in Brooklyn's Prospect Heights, Olmsted is the definition of a neighborhood restaurant. At the helm of Chef Greg Baxtrom, the outpost offers seasonal dishes inspired by ingredients that grow right in its own backyard. Named after architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the spot features a 50-seat indoor/outdoor restaurant with beautiful gardens for a relaxed atmosphere. Although the entire menu is impressive, the s'mores truly can't be missed.
For Cozy Décor: Vinegar Hill House
Unsurprisingly, Vinegar Hill House is located in the quiet Brooklyn neighborhood of Vinegar Hill. You'll likely need a reservation to get a table at the eclectic spot, but the food is definitely worth the extra effort. Open for brunch and dinner, the menu boasts everything from sourdough pancakes and shrimp and grits to chicken liver mousse and Mezzi rigatoni with lamb ragù.
For a Casual Steakhouse: St. Anselm
The words casual and steakhouse don't usually end up side-by-side when describing a restaurant, but that's exactly what St. Anselm is. Located in Williamsburg, the eatery opened in 2011 with a menu that miraculously listed a signature steak for the price of just $15 (for reference, you can find premade salads for more than that in Manhattan). Although the price of the signature steak has gone up to $24 in the past few years, the restaurant still offers delicious food at a great price. Be warned, the small spot doesn't take reservations so you may have to wait an hour or so to get a table.
For Chic Interiors: Pheasant
A Mediterranean-inspired bistro with strikingly bright and airy interiors, Pheasant is a Brooklyn oasis run by husband and wife Cat Alexander and Vincent Fraissange. With a paired down menu of exclusively seasonal dishes, expect to enjoy naturally flavorful offerings like house focaccia and marinated olives to start followed by crispy asparagus, roasted octopus, and a maple-brined heritage breed pork chop.