Boston Restaurant Blog -- May, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Just got back from a trip to Brooklyn, NY to see family. Whenever I go to the New York City area, I tend to stay around Manhattan, but this trip was all about Brooklyn (and a bit of Queens, too). We arrived in the area on Saturday afternoon after a quick stop to get some incredible cheesesteaks at Doogie's in Newington, Connecticut (read more about Doogie's in our July, 2006 blog entry). After driving around the Midwood, Kensington, and Park Slope sections of Brooklyn for a bit, we went to a huge birthday party that took place in a warehouse in Prospect Heights. The food there was catered by a restaurant in the Upper West Side of Manhattan called Bistro Ten 18. The food from Bistro Ten 18 was some of the best I had on the entire trip, with the vegetable lasagna being particularly good.
The party lasted awhile (and the warehouse was about 100 degrees, so it was a slow morning for me. We eventually drove over to Midwood to grab some breakfast at an authentic Jewish restaurant on Kings Highway called Adelmans Deli. After a number of fair to middling meals at various Boston-area delis, it was refreshing to go to a place like Adelman's, which had nearly everything you could every want from a Kosher restaurant. We ordered a number of items, including a corned beef omelette that had some of the best corned beef I've ever tried. The beef knish was also excellent, as was the kasha varnishkes. And the potato pancakes were thick, fresh, and had just the right amount of onion taste to them. The place itself was a classic, with thousands of framed baseball cards lining the walls, as well as many other sports memorabilia items.
Because we had such a late (and hearty) breakfast, we held off on lunch until mid-afternoon, spending time relaxing at the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights and driving through the beautiful streets of Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens before heading back to Midwood to try what some consider the best pizza place in the country. DiFara, which is on Avenue J, has an almost legendary reputation for outstanding pizza, so the excitement built rather quickly as we waited in line there. I was intrigued by the way the owner of DiFara prepared the pizzas--he used a grinder for the fresh cheese, cut the basil with a pair of scissors, and added olive oil to the top of each pie by using what looked a bit like a bronze watering can. And the results were......well, they were really good, though I must say I was slightly disappointed. This was a truly incredible pizza, but what knocked it down a notch for me was the sheer amount of olive oil on top. If it weren't for the fact that the pizza was swimming in oil, I would probably consider the pizza at DiFara to be the best I've ever had.
The olive oil from DiFara weighed heavily in our stomachs, so we were in no rush for dinner. We spent the rest of the afternoon drooling over the beautiful houses in Midwood before driving down to Coney Island. I was almost tempted to get a hot dog at Nathan's, but I was way too full (and the crowds were excessive), so I passed. We spent some time in Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay before wandering over to a classic Italian place on Avenue R called Michael's Restaurant. This Sheepshead Bay institution was everything I expected from an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn; Michael's indeed had an instantly familiar feel to it, almost like something out of an old movie. I loved it, plain and simple, and the food (linguini pesto and veal marsala), though not the best I've had, was perfectly fine, with decent prices considering the great atmosphere and the classic feel to the place.
After dinner, we took a leisurely ride back through Millwood (I really liked that neighborhood!), ending up back in Brooklyn Heights at Cafe Buon Gusto for some late-night cappuccino. It was raining out, but we sat outside under the awning and watched folks walk up and down Montague Street for awhile, before driving down to the docks below Brooklyn Heights to soak in one of the finest views in the entire New York City region. The view of the New York skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge from this spot is unforgettable, and one that every visitor to New York should try to see. One other note about this area: Grimaldi's is only a couple of blocks up the road, so you can grab one of New York's best pizzas, then walk down to the docks to walk off the food. I really wanted to do this, but my stomach was about to burst at this point, so it wasn't about to happen, unfortunately.
Monday morning rolled around, and we debated whether to go to a diner we saw in Midwood, but decided upon a change in scenery on the way back, so we drove up to a particularly nice section of Flushing, which is a part of Queens. We stopped at a place on Main Street called Main Street Bagels and Appetizing, which turned out to be the culinary highlight of the trip. Main Street Bagels is an old-fashioned food place in a heavily Jewish neighborhood. We ordered bagels and blintzes and grabbed a couple of stools, at which point we noshed on bagels that were so much better than anything I've had in Boston that it is difficult to put into words. They make the bagels daily on the premises, which says a lot about the freshness, but there was something else that made them so good. (I wish I knew what the secret ingredient was!) One final note: We got to chat with the woman who sat next to us for a good amount of time. She was a local who told us about many of the better restaurants around the Flushing area. It was great to get a perspective on this interesting neighborhood; I definitely want to head back there at some point.
On the way back from Brooklyn and Queens, we stopped for lunch at a fairly-well known dining spot in Manchester, Connecticut called Shady Glen. It was a rather confusing place, with groups of people waiting in line in at least two different sections of the place, and a large number of waiters and waitresses seemingly running in every direction possible at the same time. Unfortunately, our service was lacking, and the food was a mix of good and not-so-good. The ice cream was excellent, however, so if I ever get back to Shady Glen, it will be for that reason alone, but I think that next time I will probably hit the nearby Vernon Diner instead.
It was indeed a whirlwind trip to Brooklyn this weekend, but one that I will not soon forget. Not all of the meals were top notch, but I'm glad I got to discover some of what this vastly interesting borough of New York has to offer.
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