The River Cafe might be my all-time favorite restaurant in New York. The views of the bridge and lower Manhattan are magical. Expensive but I like it better during the day for the best views - and Sunday brunch is less $$$$.
Heights Café - A basic neighborhood mainstay on Montague St with pretty good food - a nice stop after strolling on the Brooklyn Promenade.
Teresa's - I love this diner, serving both American and Polish fare, right next to Heights Cafe. Try the orange ricotta pancakes, apple blintz (shredded apple wrapped in a crispy, thin crepe), and a polish kielbasa sausage.
Jack the Horse Tavern - Located on a picturesque Brooklyn Heights corner (only a couple blocks from the Promenade), this neighborhood tavern feels so welcoming & warm. The menu barely ever changes, but I love it. There's also a great bar if you just want a glass of wine.
Iris Cafe - My favorite restaurant food in Brooklyn in a tight but cozy space. Great for any time of day - I love the chilaquiles at brunch.
River Deli - A cozy corner Italian restaurant that kept its old name from when it was actually a deli. Fun to sit at the bar and drink wine served by the Sicilian bartender.
Brooklyn Heights Promenade - Strolling the promenade is one of New York City's most memorable experiences. Gazing out over the East River, you can see the Statue of Liberty, all of Lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline. Brooklyn Heights lies adjacent, with regal brownstones and quiet tree-lined streets.
Juliana's Pizza - Juliana's is located in Grimaldi's original location, where I used to go for many years. After a big legal thing, Grimaldi's moved a few doors down. But it is owned by Patsy Grimaldi who started Grimaldi's long ago AND they kept the Grimaldi's coal oven. The pizza has pefectly charred crust, the freshest toppings, and a great under-the-Brooklyn-Bridge vibe. Go early to avoid the lines.
Brooklyn Bridge Park - If you're in Brooklyn Heights, walk down Joralemon Street to Brooklyn Bridge Park, a former industrial wasteland turned beautiful city park. In the summer, don't miss the Ample Hills outpost for ice cream (the oatmeal lace is unreal - brown sugar cinnamon ice cream with oatmeal cookies), and Smorgasburg on Sundays from 11-6pm. Or just go at sunset for an incredible view.
New York Transit Museum - A favorite for city kids, there are interactive displays and cool old subway cars, all in a historic 1936 station.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge - If you have time for one, walk the Brooklyn Bridge. At 1.25 miles, it's one of New York's most iconic walks. Be prepared to dodge whizzing bicycles and crowds of really slow visitors (try going early in the morning or on a weekday). But if you walk the Manhattan Bridge, it's much less crowded, and you get the best view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Sunset on the Manhattan Bridge is truly magical. Then you're basically right in Chinatown when you get to Manhattan.
Taro Sushi - Great, local sushi joint.
Applewood for farm-to-table fabulous food - one of my favorites in the whole city. [I can't bear to remove it, but Applewood is now closed-March 2016]
Bagel World Park Slope - Feeling gluttonous? Order a toasted everything bagel sandwich, with bacon, eggs, cheese, salt & pepper. It is the best salty, chewy, savory bite. If you have a dog, there are treats at the window.
Cafe Martin - Hands-down, my favorite coffee shop in New York. It feels so much like Europe to me. We'll take Rocco to off-leash in Prospect Park before 9am and then come here. Perfect cappuccinos made by Irishman Martin and the carrot muffins are a nice snack on the way home.
Ghenet - Delicious Ethiopian food on a random corner on 4th Ave
La Villa Pizza - This place has been in Brooklyn since 1982 and has surprisingly great New York pizza. Great for delivery.
Du Jour Bakery - A great meeting spot in Park Slope, whether you just want an iced tea or one of their salads/sandwiches.
Stone Park Cafe - Consistently great food and one of Brooklyn's brightest, cheeriest brunch spots. I come here a lot.
Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store - One-stop shop for quirky gifts, cool cards, and old-fashioned candy. Fun browsing. 232 Fifth Avenue
Lion in the Sun of Park Slope - Wonderful stationery. 232 7th Avenue
To me Prospect Park in the spring/summer somehow evokes the countryside of England. I love the amazing Grand Army Plaza Farmer's Market on Saturdays (better than Union Square Greenmarket!) and Dog Beach to watch the cute pups swimming & splashing each other. Dogs are allowed off-leash before 9am and it's quite a show.
On 5th Ave and 4th Street, there is another very good farmer's market in Park Slope. It starts at 10am on Sundays.
Brooklyn Museum - NYC's second-largest museum, close to Prospect Park, somehow manages to feel undiscovered.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden - So beautiful - try to see the stunning cherry blossoms in the spring but avoid a spring Saturday with insane crowds. Other highlights include the Japanese garden, the Shakespeare Garden, and the Conservatory with tropical and desert pavilions.
Pastosa - Where the Italian side of my family goes for the best canned tomatoes, peppers, pestos, frozen pastas (famous for their ravioli) & fresh cheese, meats, and much, much more! Go to the flagship store at 7425 New Utrecht Avenue and it's best to take a car service because you'll be lugging so many things back home.
Tommaso - Super old-school Brooklyn and great to go around Christmas time
Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill/Carroll Gardens
Battersby - I thought I was over tasting menus until I had this one - great value for unfussy, imaginative dishes - not artsy plates of foam that make you hungry for a piece of pizza after. A tiny space (28 seats) with great lighting - known as one of Brooklyn's best "destination" restaurants.
Books are Magic - When BookCourt closed on Court Street in Cobble Hill, I was actually depressed. But this is a magical new bookshop in the neighborhood, owned by best-selling author Emma Straub.
Cafe Pedlar - Adorable coffee shop on Court Street in Cobble Hill with Stumptown Coffee.
Cafe Luluc - One of Brooklyn's best brunches, this French-style bistro smells like hot coffee and eggs. Do. Not. Miss. The. Pancakes. They have a caramelized, slightly crunchy top layer - order one to share for the table. Love the back garden in the warmer months.
Black Mountain for wine & that cozy Brooklyn feel, the perfect wine bar (this is technically in Gowanus)
Hanco's - I order almost one thing exclusively on Seamless - a shredded chicken bahn mi (medium spicy) from Hanco's on Smith Street, or I pick it up here. I will order it straight off a plane to have something to eat when I'm greeted with an empty kitchen. It's one of New York's best sandwiches.
One Girl Cookies for tiny two-bite cookies
Bar Tabac for live music and appetizers. Great brunch. French-inspired.
Lucali for amazing pizza and ambiance
Paper Source for browsing and gifts
Ki Sushi - Delicious sushi flown in from Tokyo & great rock shrimp tempura
Watty & Meg - True neighborhood spot with a great bar.
Mazzola Bakery - It feels like time has stopped at this corner Italian bakery. I love their olive bread.
La Cigogne - It feels like you've stumbled upon the perfect Brooklyn gem - affordable, with great food and nice owners. They serve Alsatian (a region in France) cuisine, and play old French movies (no sound!) during dinner. They specialize in Alsatian tarte flambées, a paper thin, crispy dough topped with things like onions, bacon, and creme fraiche.
Joya Thai - Cheap, delicious Thai food with a lovely back garden
Congress - Easygoing, Brooklyn-y vibe. One of the newer bars on Court Street
Frankies 457 - Beautiful small garden (they do tons of wedding receptions here!). Homey, high-quality Italian.
Exit 9 Gift Emporium - I can come here and easily spend an hour. You'll find a quirky something for everyone in your life. 127 Smith Street
Cobble Hill Cinemas - It feels like 1985 at this rickety movie theater, but I love it.
Fort Greene/Prospect Heights/CLINTON HILL
Prospect - Great vibe and food from Chef Kyle McLelland on Fulton Street in Fort Greene - sit at the chef's table/bar in the back.
Locanda Vini & Olii - Just absolutely perfect - that neighborhood spot you wish you had on your block. Tucked away in a 130+year-old pharmacy, the food is hearty and Tuscan. Buy a bottle of their special olive oil (which you can taste for a few bucks) - the olives come from the chef's family home in Italy.
The Greene Grape Annex - The Greene Grape is Fort Greene's gourmet grocery store. A short walk away is this cool "annex," an all-day coffee shop & wine bar. I'm loyal to Cafe Martin in Park Slope most weekends but the coffee here is great and so are the breakfast treats - try the bacon, egg & cheese hand pie (not overly decadent) and the toad in a hole, an egg baked in a small brioche roll.
Walter's - If you're looking for a perfect neighborhood Brooklyn spot, this is it. It's right at the corner of Fort Greene Park, and has a fun, laid-back vibe with a great, casual menu. Not expensive!
Olea - Another great neighborhood spot - always lively, great Mediterranean tapas, and brunch.
Sumi Sushi - My go-to take-out sushi - one spicy crunchy tuna roll & the sashimi trio (salmon, tuna, yellowtail).
Brooklyn Flea - The Brooklyn Flea feels fresh and original with housewares, jewelry, crafts, and artwork, rather than a typical musty flea market. There are also local food vendors like the Red Hook Lobster Pound (176 Lafayette Avenue).
Fort Greene Park - I often take Rocco to off-leash before 9am here. It feels so neighborhood-y. The farmer's market on Saturdays at the edge of the park is wonderful. There are great views of Manhattan and the Empire State Building at the top of the park.
Lilia, located in an old auto garage, is now one of Brooklyn's big-time hot spots. The space is gorgeous, and the food is just perfect - Chef Missy Robbins is known for her pastas. Worth trying to score that hard-to-get reservation.
Antica Pesa - The original is a beloved 90+ year restaurant in Rome. This second location serves the best pasta & Italian wine in an airy, modern space.
Emmy Squared - Detroit-style pizza (square, deep-dish, crispy crust) that is - no exaggeration - insanely good. Worth the trek and whatever wait you have! They'll call your cell phone when something opens up. Eat at the bar for a shorter wait.
Peter Luger - Classic NYC steakhouse (since 1887!). Try going at lunch to try the Luger-Burger, only available until 3:45pm daily.
Maison Premiere - Paris-meets-New Orleans at this spot, known for its absinthe and oyster selections, centered around a marble bar.
Radegast Hall & Biergarten - If you're craving a German beer hall, this huge space delivers on atmosphere (although it can get really loud) and food - pretzels & mustard, bratwurst, schnitzel, and cold pitchers of beer.
A Great Greenpoint Food Tour: Lucky Luna for duck buns, noodles of the day, and carnitas tacos; Jaslowiczanka Bakery (just say "The J Bakery") for a super old-school Polish vibe - the menu is in both Polish and English; Moe's Doughs for a sweet honey-dipped doughnut, Torst for a Nordic-inspired vibe, fancy hot dogs (with Polish mustard and relish), and cold beers; Frankel's, a new Jewish deli inspired by the best in NYC (Zabar's, Barney Greengrass) with great bagels and a killer pastrami sandwich; Xi'an Famous Foods (the original is in Flushing, Queens) for spinach dumplings and spicy noodles; The Brew Inn for a dive-y Brooklyn bar ambiance and crispy tater tots.
Roberta's in Bushwick - worth the hype. Great pizza.
Union Pizza Works