Justin Warner has many credits to his name. Winner of Food Network Star. Owner of Do or Dine. Host of a popular food show on Snapchat. Executive chef of the greatest restaurant that never existed.
That’s an impressive resume to be sure, but as of last week, you can add “author” to it. Justin just released his first ever cookbook, The Laws Of Cooking: And How To Break Them, and as you might expect, it’s not your typical cookbook. The Laws of Cooking is much more like taking a look inside of a Justin’s creative brain than it is an instruction manual for the kitchen. The recipes are personal and logical, and there’s a lot of insight to be gained from the way the book is broken up into several “laws” that govern the universe of food. Pick it up if you’re into learning and want to get better in the kitchen, or if you like the animated teaching style of someone like Alton Brown. Also pick it up if you want to know how to make a foie gras donut, which, you do.
In honor of the book and the now-shuttered Do or Dine, we asked Justin’s to share his Bed-Stuy restaurant picks. They’re wordy, but full of invaluable knowledge. Much like his book.
justin's "Perfect for" Picks
This cat Noel and his family serve authentic Trinidadian food. I did my research, and it’s true. How they manage to recreate the gastrovibes of an island a hemisphere away for under $3 is beyond me. Here’s how to approach: Don’t be fooled by the line. The inside has room for 1.5 people and it moves fast. Walk in and say “One saltfish bake with peppa and one doubles with peppa, please” and smile a lot. They smile a lot and get up really early in the morning so you should repay the kindness, since you are barely about to pay anything at the register. Don’t ask questions. Walk somewhere where you can sit down and unwrap your treasures. The bake is a sandwich made from the most perfectly seasoned salt cod, enveloped between a savory fry bread. Why it’s called a bake is beyond me, but it’s smart because it keeps dingdongs who don’t read this in the dark and out of the line. The doubles is one thing, containing three things: two small frybread pancakes, which work like a two ply taco for the most perfectly cooked chickpeas with tamarind. You will wish you never wasted a dime on chana whatever at your local indian joint. You will also be pleased to know that that the doubles is vegetarian. Pat yourself heartily on the back. You know something cheap and delicious that not many people know about.
Casually show your friends the legendary Biggie video “Fulton Street Freestyle”. Then go to Dynaco and pound numerous craft beers and delicious cocktails. Maybe order a piece of cake. Admire the fireplace in the back…it’s the same one my grandparents had in their cabin in West Virginia. It’s from the Sears Roebuck catalog. You might notice the tunes, which are awesome, crystal clear, and at just the right volume…your friends will certainly comment. Once your friends have said “this is a great bar” (and they will), take them outside and point to the mural across the street of Biggie, and let them know they are standing in the same place that aforementioned video was shot (oddly, not Fulton street). If your guest isn’t impressed at this point, please send them away from Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Kolache is what I think about when I think of Brooklyn. Cleverly disguised as a cute coffee shop with ample space and thoughtful placement of electrical outlets, it’s actually one of the wildest melting pots of culinaria that I’ve ever experienced, and if I leave, it’s one of the establishments I will miss the most. Autumn, who runs the joint, brought a peculiar pastry to Brooklyn called the Kolache. The kolache came from the Czech republic via Texas, where it had a romp with Mexico. It’s Tex-Mex-Czech, and it’s this sort of mashup that I think embodies Brooklyn. The pastry has a bronzed exterior that shines like brioche, but a gentle sweetness of a danish. It can be savory – filled like a bodega sandwich, with egg and cheese, Mexed-out with chorizo, or even elongated and filled with chili-dog fixins. It can be sweet: absolutely bonkers strawberry and sweet cheese, lemon curd, and the like. Like that old salsa commercial, I never imagined Tex-Mex-Czech in New York City. Autumn did, and she’s the culinary heroine our borough deserves.
This place is unbelievable. Vegan, kung-fu-movies-on-the-tube, retro-arcade cabinet, metal-on-the-boombox food. That’s pretty much Toad Style in a vegan nutshell. Their food is good, regardless of its choice of proteins. I had an eggplant parm sandwich there that was among the best i’ve ever had. It wouldn’t leave my hand except to enter my mouth. Their take on a lobster-roll is so creative and kinda sexy in a very cheffy way. They use hearts of palm instead of the lobster meat, and it’s so close to “there” that you kinda question why you ate lobster rolls in the first place. Their banh mi is my wife’s fave. We play Joust on the classic arcade machine and she has the high score. Throw down if you see me there. It’s small and I can’t stand it when people get in the way of the machine, so if you aren’t playing, take it to the cute park a block away or get on your fixie and take it home.
Double Cheeseburger, Wagyu Hotdog, Bone Marrow, Oxtail freaking burrito, Falafel. This is the menu served until three every night at Moloko. It’s like a Bromberg Bros joint without all the Manhattan to get in the way. The space is chill, the bartenders are friendly, and most of all, this place is thoughtful. They pour drinks that will pair with the food for cheap. At 2:40am, the last thing I want to think about is what will go well with my wagyu hotdog. They do that for you. I think the name came from A Clockwork Orange, but it’s also a kinda good house-music act, which is completely irrelevant.