Crown Heights has six zip codes and three public library branches. So when it comes to choosing a restaurant in the neighborhood, you might feel like a baby penguin looking for its mother during feeding time. That’s why we put together a list of the best places to eat in the area. Whether you want kosher barbecue, chorizo breakfast tacos, or a frisbee-sized pile of jerk chicken, this guide has all of the spots that are worth your time.
Between the metal walls, barrel tables, and decorative luggage hanging by the bathrooms, Puerto Viejo looks like a shipping container that crashed on land and started serving really good Dominican food. Which, now that we think about it, would be an excellent Pixar short. This spot works especially well for a fun date night and anytime you and six friends want to get together and drink a little too much at dinner in the neighborhood. Just make sure that the garlicky mofongo is on your table.
The spicy-tomato and coconut-ginger sauce at The Food Sermon could make overcooked pot roast or unseasoned tilapia delicious, but at this counter-service Caribbean spot, they’re served with proteins like rich and tender braised lamb or perfectly-cooked salmon. Our favorite combination is the jerk chicken with brown rice, chickpeas, and spicy tomato sauce, but you can’t go wrong with any combination of ingredients in the build-your-own rice bowls here, especially because they all cost around $13.
If you need dating advice, you might consider chatting with the servers at D’Antan. This casual Italian spot is such a useful non-committal date spot that they can probably help with whatever it is that’s making you check your phone every five minutes. The walls of the dark one-room space are covered in bottles from the long wine list, which has more than 100 options available by the glass. So you can get a couple glasses of natural wine while sharing some cheese and charcuterie, or order a bottle and some pastas, like the tagliatelle that’s covered in crunchy hazelnuts and a ton of rich venison ragu.
Tamra Teahouse is one of our favorite places in the neighborhood and you should go out of your way to eat here. It’s a coffee shop that serves Asian and African mashup dishes. The mellow space feels perfect for eating BBQ pork ribs, and Korean chicken meeyuk soup at dinner in peace. Come here when you’re looking for a relaxing, sit down meal without spending much more than $15.
Besides a share of Apple stock in 2005, the best way to spend $6 is the jerk chicken at Peppa’s. Like the original in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, this location serves a few different Caribbean dishes, but the reason you come here (or order takeout) is the juicy, smoky bird with perfectly charred skin. Even though a “small” is a lot of food, you should make sure to add a few $1 festivals to your order.
Hunky Dory is pretty close to an ideal neighborhood restaurant. Service is friendly, it’s a big attractive space with a skylight and bright blue walls, and it’s open all day. They serve things like chicken liver mousse, pork schnitzel, and a celery root sandwich, and, in the morning, they also make an egg sandwich with soft scrambled eggs. It’s exceptional, and you should get it. Brunch gets pretty crazy here, but you can usually find a table or a spot to hang out at the bar on your average weeknight.
Uotora has a neighborhood feel to it - but it isn’t your average neighborhood sushi spot. The sushi here is very high-quality, and there’s a $70 omakase that’s a pretty good deal considering you get soup, an appetizer, a hand roll, and 10 pieces of things like ocean trout and flounder. In terms of price and what you get. There are also a few sushi and sashimi combos starting at $35, and while that’s probably a little more than you want to spend on an average weeknight, it’s a great option for when you’ve had a long day, and would like to make things feel better with some extremely good raw fish.
Basil is a pretty solid pizza place that happens to be kosher. It’s a nice space with hardwood floors and a pizza oven behind a long marble bar, and it’s good for a casual date or a weeknight meal with a friend. They make crispy, thin-crust pizzas (all of which are vegetarian) topped with plenty of chewy mozzarella, and there are also a bunch of pastas and small plates. But just stick to the pizzas. They’re the best things here, and they’re why you come to Basil.
If Crown Heights was running in an election, Colina Cuervo would be the campaign headquarters. This is an all-day cafe that’s open from 7:30am until 7:30pm, but the Latin food is better than what you’ll find at most all-day cafes. Like tender pork hash with pickled vegetables and hominy, and chorizo and egg tacos that will restore your faith in New York’s breakfast taco abilities. You could camp out in Colina Cuervo all day and be a very happy person. But just know that it gets crowded on weekends.
The people behind Aita in Clinton Hill also run this neighborhood spot in Crown Heights. And like their other Italian restaurant, Aita Trattoria feels classy enough for your parents, but casual enough for a meal in your sweats. The walls are lined with framed portraits of people who look like they arrived in Brooklyn via the Gowanus Canal as well as kitchenware that looks old enough to have arrived with them. Order the lasagna, which is enough for two and will make you doubt the integrity of most other lasagnas.
Generally speaking, fast-casual bowls are about as exciting as the transcript of a filibuster. But the Nigerian food at Brooklyn Suya is different. This is a tiny spot on Franklin Avenue with a few stools, and only enough room behind the counter for a single employee, a rice cooker, a cash register, and an oven full of incredible smoked and grilled meats. Each bowl comes with your choice of protein (we like steak or shrimp), a rice or kale base, add-ons (plantains are essential), and spice level. You should know that even the mild level is intense, and will temporarily claim your mouth as its own.
Izzy’s is a casual kosher barbecue spot about a ten-minute walk from the Utica Ave subway station. Whether you keep kosher or not, you’ll appreciate the peppery beef ribs, fried chicken sandwich, and an admirably snappy hot dog. But our favorite thing here is the lean but tender brisket. It’s smoked for 15 hours, to the point where you’ll be able to see the char along the edge of each cut.
You should always know where your neighborhood slice place is located, like an emergency exit on a plane. In Crown Heights, that place is Brooklyn Pizza Crew on Nostrand Avenue. BPC is from the team behind Williamsburg Pizza and like that spot, there are always a mix of thin-crust square and round slices available, but we like the Sophia Loren the best. It’s made with a ton of basil and tomatoes on it, and big patches of mozzarella that look like the cartoon version of spilled white paint.
At Mayfield, you’ll find comfort food with an emphasis on Southern dishes like buttermilk fried quail with spoonbread. It’s a crowd-pleaser, most of the entrées are less than $30, and if you just want some good food between two pieces of bread, there are a bunch of things like a BLT, a reuben, and fried chicken sandwich. Come have a burger on a weeknight or bring a date for some oysters and steak tartare.
Cafe Rue Dix is where you should meet friends for dinner and drinks before a night out in the neighborhood. This French-Senegalese spot is covered in West African masks, the bar is painted with geometric patterns that look like Senegalese textiles, and loud afrobeat music is always playing. It’ll be hard to not dance a little while you order the beef mafe (peanut stew) or a whole branzino.
Chavela’s is where you go for Mexican food in Crown Heights. It’s been around for years, and you’ll pretty much always find a crowd here. That’s because the food is great, the space is good for groups, and most things cost less than $20. Also, margaritas. People like to drink margaritas. It has something to do with tequila, lime juice, and brain chemistry. Get a few here along with some queso. This place is also good for brunch.
If you can’t make it to a region of the world where the ocean water is clearer than the stuff in your Brita, have some jerk “chicken” or chickpea curry at Ital Kitchen. This BYOB Carribean spot is covered in wooden masks, hanging plants, and mix match chairs under two-top tables, which makes it feel like a beach shack in the French West Indies. Grab a seat here, or if the weather’s nice, walk straight to the big back patio and order a few dishes from the entirely vegan and vegetarian menu.
This counter-service spot on Nostrand Ave is one of our favorite places to eat Trinidadian food in the city. The doubles, aloo pie, and roti filled with things like curry goat or chicken are all solid options, but if you’re really hungry, get the oxtail dinner - it comes with a side of plantains, rice, and peas and it’ll leave you feeling full for the rest of the week. It’s difficult to spend more than $12 on food here, so this is an affordable dinner option that you can actually be excited about.
On a quiet corner in Crown Heights, La Ñapa looks like an all-white coffee shop where you could probably get a CBD latte. But this casual tapas spot is actually a Venezuelan street food secret hiding in plain sight. They specialize in arepas, blue corn tamales, and chicharron. Come for dinner or weekend brunch with someone who likes eating pork.
Catfish is about equal parts restaurant and bar, and they serve Creole food until 2am every night. This place also appears to have every kind of hot sauce (in case that’s a priority). Get the chicken fried steak. It’s a decent cut of beef made infinitely better once it’s breaded, fried, and covered in gravy. It also comes with about five green beans, which they’re probably legally obligated to provide.
Come to The Ryerson with a date who you want to impress without looking like you’re trying too hard. This Southern comfort spot has a nice wooden bar and a backyard where you should drink a cocktail, eat fried chicken, and have a moment of silence for whoever invented string lights.
Gueros is one of the only acceptable places for breakfast tacos in New York City. It’s a tiny spot with a front patio, a small but all-around solid menu, margaritas - oh, and it’s cheap. Come by yourself or come with a friend. It’s casual here.
If fast-casual sushi sounds questionable to you, check out Silver Rice. You’ll wish you lived closer. This place offers around nine different rolls, and they make them all to order. You can also get a bowl here, and it’ll be similar to what every poke place is selling now (although the fish won’t be cubed). And if you don’t want an entire bowl, you can get a cup. Yes, a cup of sushi. We’re pretty sure they invented that.
No matter the time, Trinidad Golden Place is probably going to have a line of people waiting for things like coconut rolls and raisin buns. Luckily the line at this Trinidadian bakery moves fast, so make sure to come prepared knowing what you want to order and with some cash in your pocket. Aside from some delicious doubles (spicy chickpeas wrapped in two layers of pastry dough) and a goat roti the size of an airplane squishy pillow, this place also serves a bunch of Chinese-American dishes like lo mein and fried rice.
Barboncino is this neighborhood’s top pizza place. The brick-oven pizzas here are Neapolitan-style, the space is good for groups, and it’s family-friendly. By all means, come here for a weeknight or weekend dinner. There will always be a crowd in the big, candle-lit space, but not an unmanageable one.
Cent’anni is a neighborhood Italian spot where you can eat perfectly fine pasta in a big dining room that feels like a place where bears could happily hibernate. Sit at the bar, order some ragu, and try to find a way to get five months off just to sleep every year.