photo credit: Alex Staniloff

A table with food inside Swoony's.



Carroll Gardens

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightDinner with the Parents
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Every few months, a new restaurant comes along serving American bistro classics and tip-toeing around the fact that it’s cosplaying Applebee’s for people who don’t know what riblets are. A glance at the menu at Swoony’s—iceberg wedge, cheeseburger, creamed spinach—and we wondered whether this Carroll Gardens restaurant was the latest spot to be disguising itself as suburban casual (see: Bernie's, Gertrude's). 

The bar and dining room inside Swoony's.

From the same people behind nearby Cafe Spaghetti, Swoony’s self-identifies as a bar and grill—but it’s far from basic. Their burger, a decadent double patty that ranks amongst our best, is served on a Portuguese bun, dripping with Thousand Island dressing, and their caesar salad consists of asparagus topped with boquerones. A genius short rib au poivre comes in a pool of peppery cream sauce, giving the city’s best fine dining spots a run for their money—and the lively room is packed with people who’ve figured this out.

Swoony's is like a perpetual family reunion, set in the home your luckiest friend will inherit from their grandma. Fine China and nonsense tchotchkes line the walls of the 1930s townhouse, safely stored behind glass cabinets where the stroller set can’t reach them. You might have to dance around a few toddlers on the way to the bathroom, but if you’re on a date or drinking with friends, it’s not going to affect your experience at the adult table.

Fish, orzo, burger, creamed spinach, iceberg salad, short rib, and fries at Swoony's.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

A plate of short rib and fries, and a piece of short rib on a fork.

The short rib au poivre at Swoony's. photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Hands holding half of a burger.

Swoony's burger. photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Fish, orzo, burger, creamed spinach, iceberg salad, short rib, and fries at Swoony's.
A plate of short rib and fries, and a piece of short rib on a fork.
Hands holding half of a burger.

That said, things get groovy early here. The soundtrack shifts from Dylan to disco around 6pm, and long before bedtime, the bartenders are busy trying to keep up with cocktails orders and draft pours from a tavern-style bar in the center. 

Cafe Spaghetti’s backyard still owns the summer, but Swoony’s is just around the corner to give you a warm welcome home in the winter—or anytime you want a burger and a martini on a Monday. It's further proof that these people know how to create neighborhood restaurants made for the movies. But their ability to blend nostalgia with something new (see our notes below on their fantastic creamed spinach) make it worth the trek, no matter where you’re coming from. This is Carroll Gardens casual, at its finest.

Food Rundown

Short rib au poivre and fries.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Short Rib Poivre

By far the restaurant’s best dish, these rectangular slabs of short rib cut like butter, and come with enough pepper cream sauce to coat every last french fry.
Lobster orzo in a silver pan at Swoony's.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Lobster Orzo

Despite its ties to Cafe Spaghetti, Swoony’s keeps a cap on their pasta dishes. But this Greek-leaning lobster orzo is a great, creamy, fresh tomato-and-seafood combo. Unless everyone at the table plans to fully gorge on fries, get this to share.
Creamed spinach topped with breadcrumbs in a white bowl.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Creamed Spinach

On some nights, this creamy, custard-like spinach has an almost crust-like layer of toasted breadcrumbs on top, and the 80-20 greens-to-bread ratio is just how we like it. There are some caramelized onions hiding in the cream too, adding sweetness. Get this—even if you order an entree that normally wouldn't pair with it. Even if you normally wouldn't ever order spinach.
Dorade and clams in a tomato sauce, on a white plate.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff


If you want a fish dish, skip the boring brown butter cod, and order this instead. It’s cooked “Manhattan clam chowder style,” which means the filet, with gently crispy skin, is surrounded by littlenecks, potatoes, and onions in a light tomato sauce.
Iceberg lettuce half with tomato, bacon, and cheese on top.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Iceberg Wedge

We like how they arrange this classic. All of the usual suspects—blue cheese, bacon, chopped tomato, fried onions—are piled on the flat side of a half sphere of lettuce, so you can easily cut into it like a steak.

French Toast

If we could, we’d invite ourselves to dinner with you just to see your reaction to this “french toast.” It is, indeed, a piece of thick toast, but with a crispy, crackly crust that’s a cinnamony barrier to the airy bread inside, and it’s topped with walnuts and maple syrup. If you’re lucky enough to live with a professional chef, this is your next midnight snack request.

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