To properly understand the food in Sheepshead Bay, it’s important to understand a little about the neighborhood’s history. In the mid-1800s, the glitterati of the time started to take notice of this sleepy agricultural community by the bay. The Whitneys had a house in the neighborhood, the popular Sheepshead Bay thoroughbred racetrack drew huge crowds, and socialites flocked to Lundy’s Restaurant to dine in style along Emmons Avenue. It eventually became known as Brooklyn’s Riviera - and it’s one of the few places in the five boroughs where you can see firsthand what the area was like when, as my grandfather used to say, “Brooklyn was a prairie.”
Today, Sheepshead Bay is mostly residential, but the promenade along Emmons Avenue remains a place to see, be seen, and eat. Cross the Ocean Avenue bridge to walk off your meal and watch the charter fishing boats and a bevy of local swans navigate the marina. Further inland on Avenue U, you’ll find Brooklyn’s second Chinatown, which gives way to a stretch of restaurants that reflect the neighborhood’s diverse population of Turkish, Uzbek, and Russian immigrants. Nearby Marine Park, one of the city’s great under-appreciated green spaces, is home not only to a championship-level golf course, but the Brooklyn Salt Marsh, a habitat for dozens of bird species, including loons, Peregrine falcons, and black herons.
The best way to experience this neighborhood is to approach it like a vacation to another time. I spent my childhood driving down to the water with my grandparents, listening to Louis Prima on the oldies radio station, always hoping the trip would end with a stop at Carvel. Some of the restaurants on this list have been in operation since the 1930s, and you can feel that sense of history the moment you walk in. Others include two restaurants with a decades-old roast beef sandwich rivalry, seafood-centric dim sum, Turkish and Cantonese pastries, and many more great places you should try immediately.
I’ve been eating at Roll ‘n’ Roaster since I was old enough to chew, and it still holds its own as one of the great roast beef sandwich spots on the planet. Here, you can not only get “cheez on anything you pleez” (and trust me, you pleez), you can also order a bottle of Moet Chandon to go with your feast. The decor hasn’t changed much since the restaurant opened in 1971, and the interior feels like a fantasy tavern from an animated film of the same era. The roast beef sandwich on a house-made hard roll with cheez, and double-dipped if you like it sloppy, is why people come here, but it’s worth exploring the rest of the menu. The corn nuggets, little fried gems of creamed corn, are transcendent, and the chicken tenders, especially when dipped in cheez, are a thing of beauty. And nothing cools you down on a summer day like an orange-ade slurped up in the parking lot, overlooking the water. Unless, of course, you spring for the Moet.
If you want to start a fight, ask a native Brooklynite whether they prefer Roll ‘n’ Roaster or Brennan & Carr, then disagree with them. This one is the older of the two, in operation since 1938, and fans of each place tend to be fiercely loyal. The focus here is on the meat. If you’re feeling bold, order the Gargiulo, named for a famous Coney Island Italian restaurant, which is essentially a burger patty on a dipped roast beef sandwich. Their corn nuggets are also very good, and they have Budweiser on tap. Eating inside here feels a bit like eating on a pirate ship, in the best way, but in my experience, Brennan & Carr is a little less consistent than the other option located just a few blocks south. Sometimes your cheese will be cheese sauce, other times it will be a slice of yellow American. But you should try both sandwiches, and make your own decision.
The most upscale restaurant on this guide, Liman is a great place to celebrate a special occasion, entertain out-of-towners, or just escape from city life. The food is Turkish, with a heavy emphasis on seafood, and the energy here is best described as elegant seaside kitsch. Start with an order of cacik, a garlicky yogurt dip with cucumbers and lots of dill, and the ezme salad - you’ll want to eat the salad and dip with everything. Get the pan-fried fresh anchovies when they’re in season, served in crisp golden slabs alongside a pile of lightly dressed red onion. I also really like Liman’s calamari, which is fried in a tempura-like batter and comes with a creamy dipping sauce, a pleasant diversion from the marinara you’ll find at the Italian spots in the neighborhood. Those who don’t love seafood will still find plenty to eat here, including a kebab platter where the real star is the rice pilaf. Come early and try to snag an outdoor table overlooking the water, and call ahead if you’re coming with a big party.
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This Dungan spot specializes in hand-pulled noodles, served in both hot and cold variations. Dungan food is the cuisine of one of China’s main Muslim communities, and it pulls influences from all over Central Asia. Go with a group, because there’s a lot to try here. Start with the Dungan-style salad, a zippy mount of shredded carrots with pickled greens and radish. It’s the perfect counterpoint to richer items, like dapan ji, a dish of wide, flat noodles topped with fragrant chicken. The classic lamian, hand-pulled noodles topped with beef, is also required on your table - as is the ash lan fin, a cold noodle dish in a vinegar and soy-based sauce enhanced with fresh vegetables and wobbling batons of bean jelly.
Technically located across the border in Gerritsen Beach, this local-favorite bagel spot might just have the most delicious rainbow bagel in Brooklyn. It’s fluffier and more flavorful than most of its kind, and on the weekend you can get it with colorful funfetti cream cheese. The breakfast sandwiches here are on-point too, and the pumpernickel everything bagel is dense and chewy, like a loaf of great rye bread. Walk down to the end of Gerritsen Avenue and eat your bagel out on The Point, a secluded beach overlooking Gerritsen Creek. Here, you can experience the strange juxtaposition of standing between the edges of the water and the salt marsh, the Belt Parkway humming in the distance. It’s a bit bizarre, like something out of a sci-fi movie, so you’ll need that bagel to keep you grounded.
If you love Cantonese barbecued meats as much as I do, this is the place to find the best in Sheepshead Bay. The variety here is impressive, and you can order most things by the quarter pound if you want to sample suckling pig, duck, chicken, and squid on a single visit. Feed a crew with a whole soy sauce chicken, which comes slightly charred and served in a brown paper bag. It doesn’t need extras, and you’ll be happy to tear into it with your hands. Beyond barbecue, the Singapore mei fun, a dish of thin, curried noodles studded with shrimp, pork, and vegetables, practically punches you in the tongue with just the right amount of heat. Golden Z opens at 10am, which is a great time to come by for a pint of their very good congee. Pork and preserved egg is the classic, but you can also get it with fish, frog, or beef.
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If you’re looking for the kind of meal that will make you wax poetic for weeks after it’s over, Nargis is a great option, and they have a large, covered outdoor seating area that’s pleasant to eat in, even during a downpour. Portions are large, so come with friends and order accordingly. Start your Uzbek feast with a pitcher of homemade kompot, a not-too-sweet fruit drink, one of their many salads, and an order of non - a thick, fluffy round bread that’s perfect for sharing. Pumpkin manti is a must, with a creamy, savory filling and nearly-translucent skin that rival even the best manti down in Brighton Beach. To get the full experience, order a whole fish and the mixed grill kebab platter - both are cooked over a charcoal grill, and you can taste it. The mixed grill platter alone is enough to feed three or four people who’ve been out all day, so it’s worth trying to resist ordering one of everything from the list of appetizers. And trust me, you’ll want to.
When you first walk up here, you’ll wonder what could possibly smell so good. If you ask, the people behind the counter will let you in on the secret of their chicken cutlets, which are made fresh throughout the day. They form the basis of one of their most popular sandwiches, a simple chicken cutlet with “the works” - a blend of lettuce, tomato, mayo, oil, vinegar, and spices that make these subs at once sloppy and crunchy. Beyond that, Jimmy’s classic Italian combo might just be one of the best cold sandwiches in the borough, especially if you add mortadella and order it spicy. It’s a great place to grab lunch for a picnic in the park or a trip out on one of Sheepshead Bay’s many charter fishing boats, which make daily trips out for bass and fluke.
Egg tarts are the go-to at this Cantonese bakery, which makes both the classic and Portuguese-style versions. Both are good, and personal preference will determine whether you prefer the sweeter brûléed option or the silky, more savory-leaning Hong Kong-style tart. They also make milk tarts, a lesser-known cousin of the egg tart with a filling that’s reminiscent of White Rabbit candy, though these tend to sell out faster. If savory snacks are more your style, Long Wong also serves a few types of congee, various dim sum, and steamed rice rolls – one of the only places on Avenue U where you can find them. There’s a lot worth trying here, but if you have room for just one thing, it should be a sampling of their milk and egg tarts.
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The sign outside just says “Donut Shoppe,” and that’s what you get at Shaikh’s Place: a classic donut shop donut. While you won’t find any experimental flavor combinations here, you will find exceptionally good basic flavors that cost around a dollar apiece. The incredibly light yeasted donuts are the star here, and they come frosted with sprinkles or filled with either cream or jelly. The cake donuts are great too, with a crisp exterior that gives way to a tender, open crumb. The chocolate cake donut is my personal favorite - it has the deep flavor of cocoa and is less sweet than you might expect. A half-dozen donuts will run you just over five dollars, and you’ll find that it’s a little too easy to eat that many in a single sitting.
For seafood-lovers who want something that’s not battered and fried or drenched in butter, head to Wing Hing, where your meal greets you from a wall of tanks near the entrance. Come hungry and with people who can eat, because you’ll want the ginger scallion lobster (and maybe also crab), clams with black bean sauce (and maybe also razor clams), and whatever else looks good from their rotating menu of specials. They do full dim sum service on the weekends, and usually also have a small selection of to-go dim sum available throughout the week. From their main menu, I love the Peking-style pork chop: think long, thin slices of bone-in pork, fried to a crisp and served with a vat of sweet and sour sauce that makes it feel almost dessert-like.
The Randazzo family has been serving seafood on Emmons Avenue since 1932 and it shows. They’re most famous for their fried calamari (Gal-ah-MAD, in the local dialect), which is served with a homemade marinara sauce that comes in both medium and hot varieties. The baked clams and zuppa di mussels with red sauce are also worth trying if you like your bivalves hot, and their raw bar options are reliably good, which is not surprising given that you can practically toss your empty shells into the water from the storefront. For a non-seafood option, the fried zucchini is coated in classic Italian-style breadcrumbs and comes with a side of the same red sauce that Randazzo’s devotees love.
There are 15 Carvel locations in Brooklyn, but the one on Coney Island Avenue is an experience unto itself. As soon as you arrive, you’ll be struck by the old-timey facade and colorful Fudgie the Whale mural that add to the feeling that this is a local soft-serve shack rather than a franchise. They usually have at least six flavors to choose from at any given time, but pistachio is always on tap, usually available as a twist with cold brew, which is arguably the most compelling reason to make the trip out to this particular location. The line can be long here, especially in the summer, but even hanging in the parking lot waiting to hear your number called is part of the charm.
Safir has a dizzying variety of baked goods despite the cafe’s small size. The baklava is very good at this popular Turkish bakery, especially the pistachio rolls and milky walnut squares, but the butter cookies and savory pastries are even better. I’m partial to the oreshki, a clamshell-shaped Russian cookie stuffed with a rich caramel filling, and the kandil simidi, a sesame-coated cookie that gets its unique flavor from mahlep, a seasoning made from ground cherry seeds. The potato boregi has an unexpected hint of spice and makes for a filling breakfast or lunch before heading out for a day of fishing or golf nearby. You can also get Turkish-style coffee and tea here, as well as special occasion cakes.
Located in the building that once housed the popular Lundy’s Restaurant, which dominated the neighborhood from 1926-1979, Cherry Hill Gourmet might just become your new favorite grocery store. The Spanish Colonial-style building is a designated landmark, and it’s worth coming here for the decor alone, which includes original casement windows and cherry blossom detailing on the ceiling. The selection here skews Eastern European, though they carry specialty ingredients from all over the world. The deli counter is home to an impressive array of sliceable jellied meats, as well as heart and star-shaped salame. If you like rare oils and vinegars, they have dozens. Stop by the pastry case and try to pick just one thing to take home. If you can’t decide, the Kiev case is not to be missed, a layered meringue and cream cake that’s a perfect marriage of crispy, crunchy, and creamy textures. There’s also a dedicated parking lot, so if you have a car, you can really stock up.