Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is like waiting in the world’s longest line. There are tourists from end to end, and as you shuffle forward, a second line files past you in the opposite direction. Which is confusing, because if each direction is equally desirable, then why are you doing this in the first place?
You’re on the bridge because Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights are two of the most attractive neighborhoods in the city. They also have good restaurants, and it’s still possible to discover things here. Take the places on this list - unless you live in the area, you probably haven’t heard of a lot of them. Do yourself a favor and make the trip over. Sure, the bridge is crowded, but when you turn around and look at the skyline of Manhattan, you’ll remember why you live here in the first place.
Five years ago there wasn’t that much good food in Brooklyn Heights. Then Colonie arrived, and the neighborhood got the West-Village-type restaurant it deserved. Here, there’s very good, locally-sourced, inventive food that you won’t mind waiting in line for. Squash, farro, lamb belly, cheese from Vermont - you get the idea. Stop by for an excellent dinner, or fight for a seat at brunch. It’s worth it either way.
Gran Electrica serves fresh, relatively light Mexican in a space that’s nice and fun enough for a date or a night out with friends. It’s also by the same people who opened Colonie, and the concept isn’t too dissimilar. Good seasonal food, respectable cocktails, and prices that aren’t insanely expensive (but don’t necessarily encourage you to eat there every day). Another plus is a beautiful backyard, and it’s close to Brooklyn Bridge Park if you find yourself walking around there one afternoon in need of margaritas and guacamole.
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. The front-of-house staff might give you some attitude, but you don’t come here to make friends. You come for the pasta, the chicken liver mousse, and maybe the best pork chop you’ll ever have.
This is another 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 new soon-to-open Soho House building, and this is an open-to-the-public restaurant, originally from London, that they have in the ground floors of a bunch of their locations from Miami to Istanbul. It’s basically totally decent hotel restaurant food, but what makes Cecconi’s stand out from the other Dumbo spots with nice views is their happy hour. Cecconi’s has $4 - $9 drink and snack deals every Tuesday-Friday between 4pm and 7pm.
If you’re dating in Dumbo, Celestine is a new Mediterranean place to bring someone who doesn’t know about your Black Eyed Peas shower playlist yet. 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. Aside from the incredible view of the Manhattan skyline, Celestine’s food is somewhat standard. As long as your priorities rank atmosphere above the roasted chicken and saffron rice on your plate, Celestine will be a good choice.
Smile to Go is The Smile’s counter-service baby cousin. This is their second to-go location (the other is in Soho) and all of their pastries are made by the same people as the original cafe so they’re unsurprisingly tasty. This is a useful place for coffee and a quick snack or something more substantial like sandwiches, salads, and larger protein options that you can take outside and eat by the water.
Brooklyn is the world’s capital of warehouses that also happen to have non-warehouse things in them, like a somewhat out-of-place restaurant called Sugarcane. You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but Sugarcane is a giant, swanky restaurant right next to the indoor carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park, serving everything from a “lobster BLT” sushi roll to foie gras fried rice to a roast chicken. Once you’re in, you’ll understand why Sugarcane would probably make more sense in midtown or Miami (where they originally opened). The place is over-decorated to the point where no two light fixtures are the same, but the staff is absurdly nice and if you need a break from walking around, their bar and lounge is good for a drink and an order of sashimi.
Yaso Tangbao is a fast-casual restaurant by the Jay Street Metrotech station, and they do seriously good soup dumplings. Yes, technically Yaso Tangbao is in Downtown Brooklyn, but we’re not going to withhold neighborhood dumpling intel from you. Especially because this feels like the kind of place that people in the area are keeping secret so that the lines don’t get any longer during weekday lunchtime.
VHH Foods is a counter-service cafe where you can eat things like pork shoulder while you sit on the patio and ask philosophical questions about why the body of water in front of you can’t be called The West River once you’re in Brooklyn. It’s run by the same people behind Vinegar Hill House and they do everything from pastries and brunch to chicken liver mousse and happy hour sangria pitchers. This is a nice option if you want something that’s fast and easy, without tasting like it.
Think Tavern on The Green, but with food that’s actually good. That’s the situation at The River Cafe. Like Tavern on The Green, The River Cafe has been around for decades, is inside a park, and has the same special quality that attracts prom-goers (a circular driveway?). It’s open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner - and, yes, it’s pretty expensive. The prix-fixe-only dinner starts at $125, and men are required to wear jackets. We also encourage men on dates to either bring an engagement ring or make it very clear upfront that there will be no proposing. With a view of Manhattan like the one you get here, that’s the sort of thing you expect.
We’re honestly surprised it took this long for the NYC vegetarian empire to settle in Brooklyn. You know the drill: come here in your gym clothes for veggie market plates, salads that aren’t sad, or lemon pepper chicken sandwiches. While we have your attention, we’d like to remind you that it’s scientifically impossible to tell the difference between gym clothes and lazy clothes. Your secret is safe with us.
We saw a baby crying outside here once, and we assume that’s because the baby was too young to comprehend how attractive his surroundings were. This is the ideal neighborhood cafe on an ideal block in Brooklyn. It’s small, quiet, and laid-back - and the food is at the perfect quality level: very good, but not so life-changing that the place gets flooded with people from other boroughs. Stop by for brunch or a seasonal Italian/American dinner before a walk along the Brooklyn waterfront.
When your parents are in town and you don’t want to do the prix fixe thing at River Cafe, take them to Atrium. Not that it’s stuffy or old-fashioned - it’s just sort of nice in the way that much of this neighborhood is nice. It’s clean, well-designed, and looks like someone bought it online and had it trucked over from a warehouse full of stylish restaurant concepts. The food is just about what you’d want to eat with your parents as well: duck, steak, brussels sprouts, rigatoni, etc. Solid, to be sure, but nothing risky. And if you live in the area, you might want to consider Atrium for your next brunch with friends.
When people hear the word “tavern,” they generally think of a something that’s more bar than restaurant. But this place is the opposite. Up front, there’s a bar, but most of the floor is covered with tables. It feels something like a Blue Ribbon Brasserie opened by your parents, and it’s kind of refreshing. Service is friendly and informal, the space is homey, and the food is more-than-adequate stuff like roasted chicken and grilled octopus. Your parents would also like this place.
Grimaldi’s is one of the most famous old-school pizzerias in New York. Is it the best pizza in the city? Probably not. But people line up for it, and people generally line up for good things. Like the last Star Wars. That wasn’t bad. Then again, people also lined up for the last last star wars. And that wasn’t great. The moral is, you can’t trust people. But you can trust a place that’s been making bubbly, chewy pizzas in coal-fired oven for several decades.
What’s going on here? In the window it says this place was founded by Patsy Grimaldi, so it must be related to Grimaldi’s right? It isn’t. Well, it is - but only because Grimaldi sold his original operation then decided to get back in the game. So guess what? You can get pizza from a coal-fired oven here as well, charred crust and all. (It’s also only a few doors down from Grimaldi’s.) There’s still going to be a line out the door, but it might not be as long as its competitor’s.
This is yet another option for pizza in this part of Brooklyn, and, unless you’re a food tourist (nothing wrong with that), this is where you come for a charred pizza with bubbly crust that will make you wonder why you considered waiting in line for Grimaldi’s. Sure the oven’s fueled with wood, rather than coal, but that’s just a different kind of delicious. You’ll keep wondering about the lines, however, so you should try Grimaldi’s too. But Dellarocco’s is where you go for a low-key pie.
The fact that these people refer to skate as “skate fish” makes us wonder what everyone else has been feeding us, and that’s only one reason why we like this place. This simple French food might not blow your mind, but if you need a restaurant that looks like a cafe in Williamsburg or the West Village, Chez Moi has you covered. Come here for a reasonably priced steak frites and some frog legs (if you’re feeling adventurous). It’s a good place to bring a date, and it’s a good place to convince a date that you’re the sort of person who eats frog legs.
Henry’s End is a neighborhood spot that’s been around for decades, and it sort of looks like a dive bar. Granted, it’s a cleaner than a dive bar, and they serve veal four different ways. It’s also about one paint job, one new set of china, and one Vinegar Hill House alum away from being featured on the cover of Bon Appetit. We doubt any of that will happen, however, so stop by the next time your aunt’s in town and she wants to eat some somewhat fancy food in Brooklyn Heights.
Heights Falafel is cheap. That’s the first thing you should know. The second is that the food is like a really good halal cart. This might not sound remarkable, but if you put a halal cart in a storefront, it becomes a whole lot more useful. If Heights Falafel had the locations (and hours) of Mamoun’s, it would clean up. The falafel is better, the ingredients are fresher, and you don’t have to be drunk to enjoy it.
Unless you live in Brooklyn Heights, you’ve never heard of Noodle Pudding. This is the definition of a hidden gem: no website, no sign, cash-only, and a name so stupid you’d have to know this place was good in order to walk in. What you get is above-average Italian at affordable prices in an atmosphere that feels more down-to-earth than any new place with fancy flatware and a font supervisor. Bring cash, bring your parents, bring a date, or just bring yourself and eat heaps of gnocchi.
The original Fornino is in Williamsburg, but their Neapolitan-style pizzas fit in just fine down in Brooklyn Heights. This is yet another alternative to the lines at Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s, and it’s a much better option for summertime dining. Fornino is in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and, when it’s nice out, there’s a big roof where you can sit and watch the sunset over Manhattan. Find toppings here that range from asparagus to fennel sausage and sopressata. And if you’re not in the mood for pizza, have a salad, some meatballs, or a prosciutto calzone.
If you’re allergic to just, like, really cute things, you should stay away from Almondine. First off, it’s located on a street where the American Society of Unreasonably Happy People would gladly begin their parade (if there were such organization). Second, it’s a tiny French bakery with all kinds of pastries that would look (and taste) much worse if you baked them yourself. Come here for an almond croissant or a sandwich on fresh-baked baguette. You can eat at one of their little tables, or take your food to nearby park.