Carroll Gardens almost feels like a suburb. There are families everywhere, people get really into decorating for the holidays, and, when you’re in the area, you just don’t feel as stressed. It’s kind of like a bubble bath or a Xanax, but in neighborhood form. So if you need to relax and eat something good, head over here. Whether you live in the area or you’re checking it out for the first time, these are all the places where you should be getting food.
Lucali’s signature pizza style is giant and crispy and covered with basil, and the little space has a lot of soul. It’s charming and old-school-feeling, there’s no menu (only a blackboard of pizzas and calzones with a limited toppings), and it’s also BYOB. What all this amounts to is one of the best pizza meals in New York City, and one of the hardest to actually experience. Get here early or you will either wait several hours for a table or be turned away at the door.
Ugly Baby doesn’t have much going in terms of atmosphere, but if this is your neighborhood Thai spot, you’re still very fortunate. The food here is spicy and flavorful, and the menu is essentially a trip around Thailand without having to buy a $900 plane flight. Stop by for some coconut milk cakes, a duck salad, and some “brutally spicy” beef. If you get excited about authentic Thai food, or spicy food, or spicy Thai food, this place is worth traveling for.
When it’s date night but you also want some fried chicken, go to Buttermilk Channel. It’s pricey, but worth it, and the white tablecloths will make you seem classy. And if your date doesn’t want fried chicken, there’s always a very good duck meatloaf, which sounds like something a cartoon wolf would invent. For upscale comfort food, this is the place.
There’s a lot of Italian food in Carroll Gardens, and our favorite restaurant for it is Frankies 457. Everything here tastes homemade in the best way possible. 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 also 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.
Prime Meats is from the same people behind Frankies 457, and it’s a few doors down. Although this place isn’t Italian - it’s more of a German/American restaurant that feels like a 19th-century steakhouse. They do things like schnitzel, sausage, and a giant rib steak for two, and the dining room has both a skylight and an enormous taxidermied deer head. The food is great, and there’s a semi-separate bar area up front where you can eat a smaller version of their burger that tastes like the ideal product of a backyard barbecue.
When you walk into Court Street Grocers, you might notice some $10 chocolate bars and artisan hot sauces and immediately decide that you don’t like the place. We would understand this reaction, but you should also know that they make some very good sandwiches. You should be coming here for your next reuben, patty melt, or exceptional tuna sandwich.
Black Mountain Wine House is possibly the coziest bar in NYC. It’s in a bit of a no man’s land between Carroll Gardens and Gowanus (although it is technically in Carroll Gardens), and it basically looks like you’ve stumbled upon a log cabin on a semi-industrial street in Brooklyn. Inside, you’ll find a fully functional fireplace. Mainly this place is a wine bar, but they also have some salads, sandwiches, charcuterie, and cheese. So if you’re only kind of hungry, and you want to show off your knowledge of cool little spots like this, come here.
Technically, Pizza Moto is in Red Hook, but it’s only about fifty feet from the border of Carroll Gardens - and if you’re looking for pizza in the area, this is a place you should know about. The pizza here is Neapolitan-style, service is casual, and on any given night it’ll be filled with couples, small groups, and parents who are too tired to cook for their kids. The space isn’t very big, however, so make a reservation if you want a guaranteed seat.
Bar Bruno is more of a neighborhood cafe than it is a bar, and it’s open for lunch and dinner every day. They serve Mexican and American stuff like tacos, wings, and a burger, and they also do a bunch of different margaritas. There’s a subtle 1960’s theme to the whole place, and we like it for a casual meal with a friend or a drink and snack while you wait for your chance to eat at Lucali. If it’s nice out, grab a table on the sidewalk.
If you’ve been spent a decent amount of time in the East Village, you’re probably familiar with Italian spots like Frank and Supper. Gersi is the Carroll Gardens equivalent, and it’s where you should go when you want some casual red-sauce Italian. The space is one long dark room that’s perfect for date night, and there’s a big back patio that’s open when it’s nice out. The only real downside is the the fact that this place is cash-only, but at least they give you free bread and bean dip.
Avlee is a Greek spot in Carroll Gardens, and it’s where you should go on a Tuesday night when you need souvlaki. The space is pretty plain, with a bunch of hanging light bulbs and two-person tables, but the menu is surprisingly huge. You can stop by and choose from some grilled meats, a lot of seafood, and a bunch of smaller things like spanikopita and chickpea fritters. This probably isn’t the place to bring a date (until you hit date 100), but if you need a spot to catch up with a friend, it’s great for that.