Where To Eat In Carroll GardensHere are all the best places to eat in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn's most relaxing neighborhood
Quiet, almost suburban Carroll Gardens is like sipping a cocktail in a bubble bath, but in neighborhood form. There are families everywhere, people get really into decorating for the holidays, and you can spend many relaxing hours window-shopping for brownstones without ever getting bored.
Heck, maybe you’ve done more than window-shop, maybe you live here. If so, we salute you: this is a great neighborhood with great food, including NYC’s best pizza, and one of the city’s indisputably great Thai restaurants. Here's where you should eat in the area.
Lucali makes some of the best pizza in New York City. Naturally, you’ll need to show up an hour before they open to get a table—and wait hours more before you can actually eat at this legendary BYOB spot. Even though it opened in 2006, Lucali feels like a holdover from old-school south Brooklyn, with well-used taper candles and hand-labeled jars of tomato sauce. There are only two things on the menu: pizza and calzones. You can choose from a handful of toppings: we recommend keeping the pizza simple, and adding hot peppers and pepperoni to the calzone.
At Ugly Baby, squeeze in with your companions and prepare to sweat over some of the city’s most delicious Thai food. This narrow, colorful restaurant is known for bringing the heat, so it’s not a great choice for people who like things more on the mild side. But if looking through watery eyes at a whole fried fish sounds like your idea of a good time, you’re going to love it here. The menu changes often, but usually includes laab ped udon, which is listed as “stay away spicy.” We recommend it.
The deli counter at Court Street Grocers has a cult following for its overstuffed sandwiches with unusual but delicious combinations like the Tunaberry, a mix of tuna salad, horseradish mayo, white onion, cranberry sauce, and arugula. They also make very good breakfast sandwiches. There’s no indoor seating, but there is a picnic table outside where you can hunker down with your hero. Court Street Grocers also sells gourmet pantry items like hand-rolled couscous and fancy tinned tomatoes.
Every neighborhood needs a spot where you can drink a pet-nat and have a server tell you to order two-to-three small plates per person, and in Carroll Gardens that place is Bar Bête. Here, you can split tuna toast and crispy duck fat-fried potatoes at a marble table, and look deeply into someone’s eyes as you both realize that yes, those potatoes might be the best thing on the menu, and yes, you will be here on a regular basis. End your meal with the yellow cake, which has a cake-to-icing ratio, of 1:1 and a liberal shower of flaky salt.
Eating at Bobbi’s Italian Beef feels like riding a DeLorean through a wormhole and ending up in the 1980s. Vintage Vienna Beef posters line the walls, old movies loop on the TV, and the booth seating will remind you of going on pizza dates as a teenager. As the name suggests, Italian Beef is the specialty here, and it’s some of the best you can get in New York. They also make great Chicago dogs (prepared according to a strict set of rules laid out in that Vienna Beef diagram on the wall), and both personal-pan and tavern-style pizzas.
The panzerotto at Panzerotti Bites makes us wish that every frozen pizza pocket of our youth would take a trip to Puglia to learn a thing or two. Made to order and oozing with cheese and tomato sauce, the classic fried version is hands-down the best walking snack in the area. Swing by for a light weekday lunch, or for an afternoon snack after spending a beery Saturday at Talea with friends who just had a baby and no longer drink at night. There are tables inside, but it’s pretty dark, so sit out back under hot pink umbrellas or take your panzerotto to-go and continue your walk down Smith Street.
Of all the things one can get at an Italian restaurant, we don’t know if we’ve ever been dying to order the spaghetti pomodoro. But if there’s anywhere to eat your rent-week favorite in public, it’s Cafe Spaghetti, where a simple tomato sauce on handmade pasta is surprisingly rich and buttery. This restaurant also has one of the best backyards in Brooklyn—complete with a decorative baby blue Vespa and limoncello-colored umbrellas—where you can sit with a spritz and pretend you’re in some prestige food documentary about discovering regional Italian cuisine.
Carroll Gardens locals probably don’t want you to know about Big Tiny, an always-crowded French bistro that only takes reservations by phone. Cozy wood paneling, warm globe lights, wall-mounted bicycles, and art deco posters are the perfect setting for excellent versions of bistro classics like escargot, tartiflette, and cassoulet. And the Big Tiny burger is one of the best in the neighborhood. A thoughtful wine and beer list changes often—come here with your friends who love wine but not necessarily wine bars. It’s also a great date night spot.
Vinny’s is a longtime neighborhood staple that specializes in homestyle Italian cooking. Come here when you want unfussy, delicious comfort food that you can eat in your comfiest loungewear while still getting a change of scenery from your couch. (This place also does a lot of takeout and delivery.) The dining room is built around a giant steam table that serves as the basis for much of the menu. The fried calamari and rigatoni alla norma are solid orders, and if you’re just grabbing something to take back home, get the eggplant parm sandwich. It’s massive, saucy, and very cheesy.
Santo Brúklin is a Brazilian spot that does an excellent job with traditional dishes like feijoada and moqueca, but makes a great burger, too. Brunch in the dining room or heated backyard is very popular, probably because of the perfect caipirinhas and fun fusion dishes like fried chicken with yucca waffles. Get at least one order of the pão de queijo. Their version of Brazilian cheese bread comes with a side of ground, spicy ’nduja that makes it arguably the best version of PDQ in NYC.
There’s a lot of Italian food in Carroll Gardens, and our favorite restaurant for it is Frankies 457. Everything here tastes homemade, it’s simple and reasonably priced, and you might lie awake some nights thinking about the sausage in their orecchiette. The brick-walled space is charming, and there’s a great backyard. Feel free to bring your kids, your parents, or a date—everyone will like this place. They don’t take reservations, however, so be prepared to stop by, put your name in, and go grab a drink while you wait for your table.
A pizza place from the people behind Frankies 457 Spuntino and Franks Wine Bar, F&F is located in a converted garage between these two very good Italian spots. But unlike its neighbors, F&F is a counter-service slice shop with a rotating list of minimal toppings. The crust is crispy, the sauce is incredible, and the cheese tastes like it was just delivered by a friendly dairy farmer hours before being baked. There’s a nice sidewalk patio out front where you can stare lovingly at your half-finished slice, and wonder how many of the world’s problems could be solved by bringing together a few people who treat bread like a vitamin.
Pretty much every neighborhood in NYC has a cute, casual Italian restaurant where you can grab dinner for around $40 per person. In Carroll Gardens, that restaurant is Gersi. The long, dark space has enough exposed brick and candlelight to qualify as romantic, and the menu involves red-sauce classics like lasagna and chicken parm, as well as some more seasonal items like grilled asparagus and various vegetable-topped crostini. Focus on the pasta, and don’t ignore the free bread that comes with a bean dip on the side.
Avlee Greek Kitchen is no Taverna Kyclades, but for the price, it’s exactly what it needs to be. For around $20, you can get a platter that comes with pita, two sides, and your choice of protein. You can pick from a bunch of different things like falafel, halloumi, and lamb souvlaki, although we tend to go with the grilled chicken breast skewers (paired with the Greek fries). This place is about as casual as it gets, with some homey decor and a handful of small tables, so head over and grab dinner with your roommate when you’re too lazy to cook.