The Best Restaurants In Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights
There's more to these neighborhoods than overpriced tourist traps.
Some New Yorkers still think of Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights as overpriced tourist neighborhoods that are best avoided until you're hosting an out-of-towner who simply must walk the Brooklyn Bridge. But these neighborhoods have changed a lot in the past few years.
Yeah, it's still a pricey area, and on the weekends it can, in fact, get packed with tourists, but there are plenty of great reasons to spend time exploring this extremely cute part of Brooklyn. Food-wise, you can find everything here, from a street cart that low-key has one of the best (and most affordable) lobster rolls in NYC to some over-the-top fancy restaurants that offer the perfect waterfront backdrops for a proposal, with lots of places that fall somewhere in-between.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
Unless you live in Brooklyn Heights, you’ve probably never heard of Noodle Pudding. This place doesn't have a website or a sign, and it's located on quiet side street where you mostly just find locals. But you really need to eat here. A rarity for New York City, Noodle Pudding is an under-hyped Italian spot that serves great food and isn't especially hard to get into. (It's walk-in only.) The old-school space is charming, the big windows in the front open up in the summertime, and the bar is a wonderful place to have a martini and a massive serving of lasagna. This restaurant is cash-only, but that somehow only adds to the charm.
If you can’t bear the thought of sitting at a restaurant packed with hot moms and remote tech workers for lunch, go to Thai Sidewalk instead. This street cart makes solid food, and you’ll probably spend around $15 for lunch. The real power move, though, is to get the lobster roll, which only costs $20 and is quite literally overflowing with huge chunks of lobster that come lightly dressed with a peppery mayo. Apart from that, our favorites here are the pad see ew and the curry puffs, but you can’t really go wrong. Walk a block or so to Pebble Beach and have your Thai takeout with a view. It beats a sad desk salad any day of the week.
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At first glance, Mint Heights might seem like your garden variety casual Indian spot, but a few standout menu items take this place up a notch. Start with an order of crispy okra, which is one of our favorite okra dishes in Brooklyn. It comes in a huge pile and gets a salty, tangy kick from lemon juice and chaat masala. We also love the dahi vada, especially when it’s hot out. Mains here are pretty good across the board, but the one thing you absolutely must get is the crab curry. Imagine a deconstructed crab cake smothered in a velvety coconut-based sauce laced with mustard seeds, red chilies, and curry leaves. We’ve never had anything like it.
Vinegar Hill House
Yes, this place is technically in Vinegar Hill. But no one really talks about Vinegar Hill, and all these neighborhoods were just named by real estate developers anyway. So, yeah, we’re throwing Vinegar Hill House on this list. A classic Brooklyn restaurant (and great brunch choice), this place is where you go for pasta, chicken liver mousse, and maybe the best pork chop you’ll ever have. If it's nice out, come here around opening time and grab a table in the backyard.
Vineapple is the kind of neighborhood joint that you’d actually factor into your real estate decisions. The food here is homey and Italian-ish, as embodied by the prosciutto-stuffed breakfast burrito. On weekdays, they keep a whole section of tables reserved for folks who want to post up with their laptops, so you won’t feel like you’re intruding if you use their space as a satellite office. We love the cold brew slushie, which is blended with a touch of oat milk and simple syrup, as an afternoon pick-me-up. They also serve full menus for dinner and brunch.
This is a big, waterfront restaurant where dressed-up people eat pasta while sitting on velvet chairs or, if they’re lucky, under a covered patio. Cecconi’s is in the bottom of Dumbo House (AKA the Soho House with a nice pool deck), and it's basically a totally decent hotel restaurant. The menu is Italian, with options like pasta, pizza, and, of course, tuna tartare.
The only way Celestine could be closer to the water is if it were on a boat, so it’s best if you can get a seat outside or near the window. This restaurant in Dumbo has a great view of the Manhattan Bridge, and it's the perfect place to book a last-minute table for an important meal that you forgot to plan. The Eastern Mediterranean food—mezze, octopus, branzino, etc.—gets the job done, and the riverside setting feels special-occasion worthy.
If you want to take the '90s revival trend and translate it to your next nice dinner, you might as well do so at the River Cafe. The food at this special-occasion spot in Dumbo is prepared well, even if it’s a bit uninspired—but the real draw is the picturesque view from the main dining room, which is as close to eating in the East River as you can get. Dinner is a fixed-price three-course situation, and afterwards you can take a stroll in their private garden. It looks like it was airlifted from a Thomas Kinkade painting, complete with fairy lights in every tree.
Butler Bakeshop Dumbo
There are lots of overpriced, overrated spots in Dumbo, but Butler isn’t one of them. This all-day cafe is our go-to for a leisurely weekday breakfast, a lunch with a laptop, or pastries and iced coffee before a walk along the waterfront. The wifi is fast, there are ample outlets, and the staff won’t give you side-eye if you hang out and take Zoom meetings for a few hours. This is also a great low-key brunch spot if you don’t want to have to put on a whole outfit or make a reservation on a weekend morning.
Everything at this Palestinian spot (the sister restaurant to Ayat) feels intentional, and you get the impression that a lot of effort went into the details. We suggest you try the ouzi lamb, the bamia, and a few of the eight flatbreads topped with everything from shawarma to pistachio. The flatbreads are dangerously cheesy (Chester Cheetah voice), and therefore undeniably good, but we find that they’re best utilized as drinking snacks—which brings us to our next point: This restaurant is BYOB.
The Osprey isn’t just another overpriced waterfront hotel restaurant. While it is pricey, in a hotel, and on the waterfront, the food here is legitimately good. Start by ordering the pull-apart roll with salmon rillettes topped with Ossetra caviar. (It’s $45 bread, but it's worth it.) It’s easy to get a walk-in or a last-minute reservation, even for a big group, so this is a great option to have in your back pocket. Time your dinner right and you’re just steps away from the ideal post-meal walk to take in the sunset from Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Din Soup Dumplings
If you thought you had to ride the F train into Manhattan for decent dim sum, think again. This Brooklyn Heights dumpling shop makes everything in house, from hand-pulled noodles to extremely cute mushroom-shaped bao filled with, yes, an assortment of mushrooms. Start with the chef’s choice assortment of dumplings so you can pick your favorites before going in on a larger order. We’re obsessed with the chicken and cabbage dumplings, which have pretty blue detailing thanks to butterfly pea flower in the dumpling wrapper. The xiao long bao here are on par with some of our favorites in Manhattan and Flushing, with thin skins and a good soup-to-meat ratio. The space is cute, too.
Whichever restaurant you choose from this list, be sure to save room for a stop at Amai Bā. They make their ice cream on site, with flawless texture and flavors that pack some serious punch. We haven’t been able to stop thinking about the Monkey Business (banana and chocolate swirl with crushed macadamia nuts) and Matcha Chip flavors since the first time we had them. Even their vanilla is better than most vanilla ice creams, with a creaminess that plays particularly well with espresso in the form of an affogato. Amai Bā also serves locally-roasted coffee, which might just be the excuse you need to have some ice cream before noon.