What would Brooklyn dining be without Andrew Tarlow? The man practically invented the modern Brooklyn restaurant, going on to construct an empire of concepts that dispensed with tradition and applied fine-dining characteristics to casual environments. Here are restaurants where the music plays loudly, the aesthetic is industrial, and everyone wears flannel and jeans — but where the ingredients are meticulously sourced from local producers and the kitchens operate under farm-to-table and nose-to-tail mantras even if their plating is best described as "rustic." This was a novel approach when Tarlow came here, opening Diner in a Kullman car (a trailer-like box many diners were once built in) beneath the Williamsburg Bridge on the last day of 1999. That's a fitting date, if you're into symbolism: It ushered in a new era in Brooklyn restaurants. The food here has always been straightforward and skillful, and the menu changes daily. You might find a half-chicken on the list, or duck leg, or some braised beef. Produce follows the season. There's usually a soup and salad of the day, and if you stop in for breakfast or lunch, you might get frittata or porridge or a burger. Desserts are usually standards, like lemon meringue or flourless chocolate cake. Wine, beer, and cocktail selections are both unusual and excellent, as befits an assiduously trained staff. Remarkably, even as this type of restaurant has become so ubiquitous in the borough as to be mocked as twee, Diner continues to feel novel, and you're as likely to find neighbors here as you are culinary tourists. One caveat: Diner accepts no reservations — another policy that has spread to many Brooklyn restaurants. Be prepared to wait for a table.
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