A Brooklyn Restaurant Guide
My Favorite Place for Coffee & Pastries: Yardsale Café
I had no idea what “ruby chocolate” was until Yardsale Café’s life-changing Ruby Matcha cookie. (Matcha is finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves, traditionally consumed in East Asia.) With a slightly bitter matcha green tea base, sweet ruby chocolate, lemon glaze, and salt flakes, this is one of the best cookies I have ever had. Pair it with a matcha latte or any of Yardsale’s refreshing lemonade flavors (ever tried hibiscus lemonade?), and you’ll be longing for a stop at Yardsale every day.
The ruby matcha cookie isn’t the only thing Yardsale is doing right. Pick up a slice of Nutella or cinnamon babka (or the whole loaf) for something sweet or sit out back and order the anchovy plate for savory. Did I mention they are an antique shop too? You can find records, baseball cards, and number of other knick-knacks while you enjoy your coffee.
My Favorite Place for Brunch: Zatar Café & Bistro
I was immediately drawn to Zatar Café & Bistro by their beautiful exterior and outdoor dining setup. Situated on the corner of 12th Street and Park Slope’s quaint 8th Avenue, the team at Zatar Café serves up classic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine like Shakshuka, falafel, and stuffed grape leaves. The Muhammara (a dip made of red peppers and walnuts) is served with fresh house-made pita bread. Sweet, with just a bit of spice, and a texture similar to hummus, this appetizer alone makes Zatar Café worth the visit.
Zatar Café & Bistro’s Eggs and Halloumi Sandwich
The egg and halloumi sandwich is my go-to entrée for brunch, with crispy grilled halloumi, soft scrambled egg, and tangy pickled tomatoes on a buttery brioche bun. If you’re craving something sweet instead, they offer brioche or Nutella French toast. Though I have only been to the Park Slope location, they have a second café on Myrtle Avenue in Bushwick, as well.
My Favorite Places for Dinner:
Bar Tabac’s Beef Tartare
Bar Tabac is my restaurant of choice for a relaxing night out. Sipping wine outside under their tree-lined façade, listening to the live music they host six nights a week, you’ll start to think you’ve stumbled through a portal into one of the brasseries of the Champs Elysées. Boasting French classics like Baked Burgundy Snails, Beef Tartare, and Coq au Vin, Bar Tabac is the perfect place to go if you crave generous portions of delicious French fare in a comfortable, lively atmosphere.
Red Hook Tavern’s Oysters
Red Hook Tavern (Photo at Top)
To me, the name “Red Hook Tavern” implies a bar with a menu of casual bites and sandwiches. To my surprise, when I booked a reservation for the first time, I found a menu featuring Duck Rillette, Spring Pea Cavatelli, and Whole Branzino. Upon arriving to their dining room, you will encounter refined gastropub décor of unique wallpaper, dark wood, soft light, and decorative wine bottles on display. Having recently reopened after a fire forced the restaurant to close earlier this year, Red Hook Tavern’s timeless dining room, friendly staff, and delicious, unique food make it one of my favorite restaurants in Brooklyn.
Red Hook Tavern’s Fluke Crudo Special
Red Hook Tavern serves their Nova Scotia oysters accompanied by a classic mignonette, but with a twist of shaved ice drizzled with Calabrian chili oil. An early-August Sunday night visit meant I was lucky enough to indulge in their fluke crudo special, served with thinly sliced red beet, radish, and an Herbes de Provence vinaigrette. Their Country Ham Croquette combines all the perfection of a Croque Monsieur into one crispy bite.
Red Hook Tavern’s Country Ham Croquettes
My favorite main course is the pappardelle, served with a vibrant lamb ragout that perfectly complements the pasta. Finally, true to the ‘tavern’ name, they feature a burger on the menu- the famous Red Hook Tavern Burger– rich with the flavor of butter and served with Dijon mustard and white onion. Delicious.
From the moment you step off Park Slope’s 5th Avenue into Haenyeo’s beautiful, understated dining room of minimal yet comforting design, you know you are in for a special dining experience. (Picture white walls decorated with live moss art and solid wood tables in an open, spacious layout.)
Haenyeo’s “The Squid and the Whale” Cocktail
Before my first visit, I was told I had to try Haenyeo’s beautiful signature cocktails. I opted for “The Squid and the Whale,” made with mizu lemongrass shochu, egg white, and sesame oil. Creamy, but light; served very cold; and with a delicate sesame flavor, I enjoyed this drink so much I would have continued ordering it throughout the meal if I wasn’t so eager to try other offerings from the menu. The “School Girl Cocktail” (blanc de blanc, elderflower liqueur, and lychee) and “Merle the Pearl” (calvados, lemon, and egg white) proved equally delicious and unique.
Haenyeo’s Dukboki Fundido
I suggest starting your meal with Haenyeo’s raw shucked oysters, topped with individually peeled Concord grapes, which offers a subtle, sweet accent. The sautéed glass noodles with sesame and maiitake mushrooms are a great option for a starter as well.If you want something warmer and are a fan of spice, you can’t go wrong with the Dukboki fundido- spicy rice cakes served in a hot pot of chorizo and melted Oaxaca cheese.
Haenyeo’s Crescent Duck Breast
Haenyeo’s Crescent Duck Breast, served with delightfully bitter grilled Castelfranco, figs, and sesame, is one of the finer dishes I have encountered. The Castelfranco contrasts nicely to the sweetness of the figs and beautifully complements the perfectly cooked, succulent duck breast.
You’re missing out if you skip Haenyeo’s desserts, my favorites being the Beignets and Matcha Crème Brulée. The beignets are light and fluffy once you find them under a generous layer of powdered sugar. They are delicious and make me nostalgic for the days of eating funnel cake at the state fair as a kid in the summer.
Photos by Hannah Cummiskey