99 ESSENTIAL RESTAURANTS®
Photo by Bradley Hawks
355 Metropolitan Avenue
Monday to Thursday 5 to 11 p.m., Friday 5 p.m. to midnight, Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to midnight, Sunday 11 a.m to 3 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m.
Joe Carroll swears St. Anselm is not a steakhouse. It certainly didn't start that way. When it opened in 2009, building on the success of Carroll's barbecue joint Fette Sau across the street and beer bar Spuyten Duyvil next door, it served meaty snacks like scrapple and hot dogs, which you'd have to wash down elsewhere because St. Anselm had no liquor license. Even now the restaurant doesn't stock a wide range of beef cuts. There are only three regular steak offerings: a hanger, which comes doused in garlic butter; a New York strip drizzled with au poivre sauce; and a Flintstonian tomahawk ribeye for two. But so seductive and stunning are those two items that diners tend to overlook delicious alternatives like a chicken brined in sweet tea and a hulking lamb shoulder blade chop. We’re not going to deny it — we too love those steaks. The meat, infused with the tang of the grill you can see sizzling just beyond the bar, and seasoned with salt and pepper, comes drooling savory juice from its ruby center. It is, quite simply, some of the best steak served in any restaurant in the city. What's more, it costs a fraction of what you’ll fork over for beef at one of midtown’s institutions. You'll likely remember the wedge salad you began with, and the unfamiliar and moderately priced glass of red wine you paired to your meal. But you're equally likely to sally forth from St. Anselm and tell your friends all about the great steakhouse where you just dined.
Photo by Dominic Perri
435 Halsey Street
Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Once-remote Bedford-Stuyvesant, which mixes city grit with its picturesque brownstones, is fast becoming a neighborhood for new families, recent young transplants, and hip city dwellers after more space. And over the past five years, a number of restaurants have moved in to capitalize on the dining habits of these new inhabitants. One of the first was Saraghina, a pizzeria Edoardo Mantelli and Massimiliano Nanni opened in 2009 (Nanni has since exited the venture) that has also sprouted a connected bakery. Mantelli obsessed over pizza before going into the business, and he learned to make pies from Luzzo's Michele Iuliano. He freely admits he's not trying to "reinvent the pizza wheel"; rather, he's turning out solid Neapolitan pies, some swiped with the traditional tomato sauce and coated in bubbling mozzarella, others topped with seasonal ingredients, especially if they appear on the specials list. Much has been made of that specials list over the years, for it offers a number of non-pizza dishes that often are superb. Look for pastas, roasted vegetables, and a whole fish cooked in the same wood-burning oven as the pizzas until its skin crackles. Assuming it's warm outside, the most pleasant place to find yourself at Saraghina is in the back garden, a charming oasis sequestered from the rest of the world. At brunch locals fill the breezy dining room and drink excellent bloody marys, built with house-made mix and garnished with a salad's worth of house-made pickles. Any other time of day, consider sticking to the house wine, a liter of which will run you just $27.
Photo by Dominic Perri
In 2009, Matthew Tilden began trading bread for workspace in a pizza shop, which allowed him to start slinging loaves to some of the best businesses across the city. He didn't have an endgame, but he knew he wanted to build a brand. His goal was simple: Make great product in a fun, hospitable environment. At that he has succeeded. Since 2010 SCRATCHbread, his (newly expanded) Bed-Stuy storefront, has churned out an array of wood-oven-baked goods, sandwiches, flatbreads, and grits, plus a large board of build-your-own options. Our advice is to resist the temptation to customize and instead let Tilden take care of business. His grits are like a cross-cultural experience: Soft eggs sit atop a creamy pile of the Southern staple, kale basil pesto and smoked-almond romesco add a fresh element, and crisp bacon finishes it off. On the rare occasions on which he's run out of the ground corn, he has nearly seen revolts. “I was never a baker,” Tilden insists. “I’ve been a savory chef my whole career. I don’t even like sugar, believe it or not. I just like to make bread and pastry.” That’s plenty good enough for us.
Photo by Dominic Perri
160 Havemeyer Street No. 5
Tuesday to Saturday 6 to 10 p.m. (bar open to 11 p.m.). Closed Sunday and Monday.
Before chefs José Ramírez-Ruiz and Pam Yung opened Semilla, they presided over Chez José, a vegetable-centric pop-up dinner that became a Williamsburg fixture. Through that endeavor they became Brooklyn ambassadors, traveling the world and cooking at major gatherings of the culinary elite. Semilla gave them a permanent home and hub. "We wanted to capture the same sort of vibe of the pop-up," says Yung. "It's about spontaneity and fun; it's not so serious. We're cooking for you.” The tiny Havemeyer address is just wide enough to accommodate an eighteen-seat, U-shape bar, the center of which opens into the kitchen so that Yung and Ramírez-Ruiz, aided by two servers and a sous chef, can serve each party a multi-course dinner. There’s no printed menu (though they’ll email you a list of what you ate, after the fact), just a carefully curated and reasonably priced list of wines and beers. As for the food, it's best to just let it roll. “It's a tasting menu to most people, but we want it to be like you're coming over and it's someone's house — that kind of trust,” Yung says. Each night brings different dishes, which means each diner is going to have a slightly different experience. What remains constant, however, is the chefs' boundary-pushing approach to produce, a procession that celebrates the season, and a course that includes one of Yung's fantastic experiments with bread. There is no restaurant in the city like Semilla right now, and there are few chefs as obsessed with their craft as Semilla’s. Yung and Ramírez-Ruiz have created an experience that's stimulating and intellectual — but so delicious you might find it difficult to think.
Photo by Dominic Perri
141 Court Street
Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Chef Peter Shelsky had been throwing around restaurant concept ideas for years — and his friends and family were constantly shooting them down. One Christmas, though, while waiting in an around-the-block line at Russ and Daughters, it hit him: He wanted to bring smoked fish and other traditional bagel accoutrements to Brooklyn. This time everyone agreed the idea was a hit. In 2011 Shelsky partnered with Lewis Spada to open Shelsky's of Brooklyn, a small storefront on Smith Street that, as Shelsky now explains it, aims to revive “an old tradition that never really died.” The partners began selling classics like whitefish salad, nova, sable, chopped liver, and latkes, plus a board’s worth of sandwiches slathered with cream cheese and loaded with seafood. The endeavor was so successful that Shelsky's soon outgrew the space and in May 2014 relocated to its current Court Street location. The eatery has since added modern takes on the standards (such as wild king salmon bacon) and, most recently, deli items like house-cured pastrami, corned beef, and tongue. Eastern European food is undergoing a modernization movement here in New York, and Shelsky aims to do his part for what he calls the “Jew food renaissance.”
Photo by Dominic Perri
324 Fifth Avenue
Tuesday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 11 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 11 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Closed Monday.
It may seem hard to believe, but in 2004, Park Slope's Fifth Avenue was still more bodega and laundromat than fine dining. A few key restaurant openings that year led to a boom that ten years later shows no sign of slowing down. One of those restaurants was Stone Park Cafe, which, at a time when its competition consisted primarily of pizza-by-the-slice and Mexican takeout, focused on introducing “neighborhood dining” to what partner Josh Foster and chef Josh Grinker lovingly refer to as “Brownstone Brooklyn.” The food is not overthought — the kitchen focuses on keeping its dishes to three or four ingredients each — but since earning a coveted two-star review from the New York Times, Stone Park has evolved into a more complicated restaurant, with more refined fare and a 325-bottle wine list. It has also become one of the most important New American restaurants in South Brooklyn and a destination for Manhattanites making the trek across the East River. It's hard to go wrong with any of Grinker's meat- or fish-based main courses, but those who fail to order his decadent bone-marrow and scallop tacos have no one to blame but themselves. Just saying.
© 2015 Village Voice, LLC,
All Rights Reserved.