99 ESSENTIAL RESTAURANTS®
Photo by René Atchison
"Nathan Handwerker” may sound like the name of a very specific kind of entertainer, but this particular Polish expat introduced New York to the joy of wieners (wait) in 1916, when he and wife Ida launched Coney Island landmark Nathan's Famous. Remarkably, the restaurant stayed in the hands of the Handwerker family until 1996, after which it became an international fast food chain with a world-renowned eating competition. You'll still find the least diluted version of the brand in Brooklyn, and nearly a century and millions of hot dogs later, the iconic stand serves as a benchmark for processed-meat cookery. The all-beef hot dogs break apart with an aurally pleasing snap thanks to natural casings, and you can have yours slathered in chili, cheese, or peppers and onions. The fryers yield golden-brown corn dogs and stubby wedges of browned, crinkle-cut fries. The flagship's post-Sandy rebuild included the addition of a raw bar — an initial feature of the restaurant that was axed in the 1950s, we’ll have you know — so you can now celebrate summer with the briny pop of clams to go with your tube steak. That makes for a seriously fab surf-and-turf with inimitable New York terroir.
Photo by Dominic Perri
38 Henry Street
Tuesday to Thursday, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 11 p.m., Sunday 5 to 10 p.m.
Brooklyn’s claim to great Italian restaurants ranges from old trattorias to modern takes on the motherland’s disparate regions. Somewhere in the middle is Noodle Pudding, a signless Brooklyn Heights eatery that has been feeding locals for two decades. Antonio Migliaccio (migliaccio, a sweet, pasta-based dish from the island of Ischia — a noodle pudding — isn’t on the menu, sad to say) opened this place in the Nineties, fusing his Neapolitan culinary upbringing with what he could find in the local markets. Today the restaurant runs at its own unique cadence, akin to the haphazard, welcoming ambiance you'd encounter in Italy, as opposed to the measured march of a typical New York dinner. If you're after seasonal ingredients and contemporary presentations, turn your attention to the specials list, which is nearly as long as the menu and includes pastas, appetizers, and entrées. The five-course “Trust Me” tasting menu may be offered, likely served by members of the kitchen staff. Many diners come for the mainstays, however, for those are the dishes that bring comfort. Order a pasta or two (half-portions, if you want) — tagliatelle bolognese, say, or rigatoni alla siciliana — pair your meal with a bottle or two of inexpensive red wine, and finish with tiramisu. Be sure to say goodbye to the bartender on the way out — he'll be waving at you.
Photo by Dominic Perri
18 Wyckoff Avenue
Monday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 6 to 11 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 11:30 a.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 to 11:30 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 to 11 p.m.
Few restaurants are as indicative of their surrounding neighborhood as Northeast Kingdom is in 2015 Bushwick. Its intimate interior — partial brick façade, daily specials on chalkboards, stag-bust sconces — evokes an organic twee that never feels forced, a du jour hipness that obscures the fact that this farm-to-table mainstay has been consistently superb for a decade and helped spur the proliferation of this aesthetic. Husband-and-wife co-owners Paris Smeraldo and Meg Lipke populate their menu with organic produce and seasonally foraged fare — they're wholeheartedly committed to the farms and forests of rural New England. Go during the cold months and you might find unctuous pork ragout, the pasta slathered in layers of creamy ricotta and enhanced by shallots, pistachios, and generous amounts of every Bushwicker's favorite ingredient: kale. But don't let all these gentle vegetables fool you — the real winner here is the burger. Ground beef sourced from upstate New York is salted and seasoned, topped with tobacco onion, Vermont cheddar, and house-made mayo. Easily one of the best burgers in Brooklyn, it has been known to bring grown men to tears. Match it with craft suds poured on tap, or a brown spirit (perhaps mixed with ginger ale). This, friend, is what Bushwick is all about.
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