99 ESSENTIAL RESTAURANTS®
Photo by Robyn Lee/Creative Commons
Historically, Bensonhurst was known for its large population of first- and second-generation Italian immigrants. But like the rest of the borough (and city of New York), the only constant is that it's always in flux. The area is now home to multifarious ethnic communities as well as stalwarts of the old guard, a mix that lends itself to excellent diversity in dining options. For proof, head to 18th Avenue, where you'll find a hodgepodge assortment of Chinese and Italian eateries and shops. Among them — and just a few doors down from a 40-year-old ravioli shop — sits Hand Pull Noodle and Dumpling House, an ideal example of the neighborhood's new Fujian roots. Since 2008 the unassuming automat has been stretching and stuffing dough for a steady following of adoring crowds. Its namesake items are some of the best around. Dumplings, steamed or fried, are chock-full of fragrant pork; noodles are pulled thin, then stir-fried or served in aromatic broth. Flavor combinations of the latter run from an Americanized spicy buffalo wing to a traditional combo of beef, beef tendon, tripe, pork chop, and egg.
Photo by Dominic Perri
454 Van Brunt Street
Tuesday to Thursday noon to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday noon to midnight, Sunday noon to 10 p.m. Closed Monday.
When Hurricane Sandy shattered Red Hook, few believed the outsized barbecue restaurant Bill Durney had projected for a cavernous industrial space on Van Brunt Street would ever open its doors. But eleven months later, with the help of indefatigable community hands and nary a cent from the government or insurance, Hometown Bar-B-Que sold its first plate of brisket and cemented its reputation as one of the city's finest smokehouses. Since that day in 2013, the born-and-raised Brooklynite's menu has evolved, but the core vision remains unwavering: Pay homage to the live fire pits and beef traditions of Texas with a New York twist. In Durney's case, that twist often manifests as a synthesis of spices and flavors derived from the multicultural community of his youth — like succulent lamb belly bánh mì, a tribute to Vietnamese grocers; and bacon pastrami tucked into a tender, steamed bao, a teasing nod to his Jewish neighbors. Besides brisket, in-the-know patrons order Korean sticky ribs, which are first smoked and then fried, off the “secret menu." A solid selection of American whiskeys, regular live music, and the now-classic beef ribs capped with the salty-sweet hard-earned bark that's a hallmark of eight to ten hours of smoking convert the steady stream of customers into loyal regulars.
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