The River Cafe - 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 - a nice stop after strolling on the Brooklyn Promenade. 84 Montague Street
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), a polish kielbasa sausage, and pierogi filled with meat and sauerkraut. 80 Montague Street
Montague Street is the main street of Brooklyn Heights but lacks the “cute” vibe of Court and Smith Streets in Cobble Hill and 5th and 7th Avenues in Park Slope. (I have yet to see a customer at Mattress Firm.) But I love Gallito’s Kitchen for Mexican, Pinto for Thai food, B. Good for a healthy salad and smoothie, Hanco’s for the shredded chicken bahn mi and bubble tea - plus City Chemist for what feels like a small-town pharmacy, with high-end beauty products (it’s an NYC/Hamptons chain). Towards the end near the promenade, you’ll get to Heights Cafe and Teresa’s.
Sociale - Perfect for any time of day and really great pasta and salads. Love eating outside here.
Noodle Pudding - On a cold winter's night, you can't beat the warm, busy vibe of red-sauce Italian (the chef is from Ischia, off the coast of Naples) at Noodle Pudding. No reservations, no obvious sign! 38 Henry Street
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.
Almondine - One of the best bakeries in NYC and smells like the great European bakeries. Amazing croissants (chocolate, almond, veggie!) + raisin danishes. Such a treat to get something and eat it on a bench overlooking the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges and Jane's Carousel.
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 perfectly charred crust, the freshest toppings, and a great under-the-Brooklyn-Bridge vibe. There will be lines, but it move pretty fast.
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.
Sahadi’s - Incredible, famous specialty food store on Atlantic Avenue. Come here and grab a number to fill up at the bulk bins with all kinds of nuts, dried fruit, olives, and more. The spice section is amazing, too. Or just wander around.
Taro Sushi - Great, local sushi joint. I will walk here from Brooklyn Heights to pick up sushi.
Sushi Katsuei - The best sushi omakase I’ve had in NYC. Thanks for taking me, my dear friend Dayna Brandoff!
Convivium Osteria - For a cold winter's night when you want to feel directly transported to Tuscany. Everything is delicious. Take a look at the wine cellar downstairs.
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 - My favorite Sunday route: taking Rocco to off-leash in Prospect Park before 9am and then coming here. Perfect coffee made by Irishman Martin. [Martin up and left one day, and he passed it on to a very nice woman. I still miss sneering Martin.]
Ghenet - Delicious Ethiopian food on a random, not charming 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. Great to combine with Bagel World and Cafe Martin. :)
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 cherry blossoms in the spring but not on 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
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.
Lillo - My new favorite place in Brooklyn. This postage-stamp sized space is run by Lillo (decidedly NOT stamp-sized), who used to run a bakery in Rome. Come after 10:30am for the best coffee and Italian cornettos (less buttery than a croissant, faintly scented with orange zest), at lunch for great sandwiches, and dinner for incredible pasta and cabbage alla Lillo. No bathroom and cash only!
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 crave the shredded chicken bahn mi (medium spicy). It's one of New York's best sandwiches. Pair it with a peach bubble tea.
Gersi - Beautiful outdoor garden/neighborhood spot. Get their strozzapreti pasta to split. Great for families and cozy in winter, too.
Espresso Me - A new favorite coffee shop on Atlantic Avenue for the coffee, juices, food and a nice space.
One Girl Cookies for tiny two-bite cookies and a great, casual breakfast spot.
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.
MilkMade Ice Cream - BEST peanut butter and jam ice cream ever. They only serve one person at a time, so be prepared to wait. Amazing seasonal flavors and great cones, like red velvet.
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 bar vibe.
Frankies 457 - Beautiful small garden (they do tons of wedding receptions here!) and great 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
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.
Tom's Restaurant - The ultimate decades-old Brooklyn diner, with CINNAMON ROLL PANCAKES (and a surprisingly great crab cake). I feel like everyone living in NYC should go at least once.
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 - When we lived closer, we often took 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.
Dough - Go to the original Dough in Bed-Stuy for the most insane, delicious, enormous yeasted doughnuts you'll ever have. We walked a lot of miles that day to justify the size of these things. If you don't want to trek all the way there, there is now a Flatiron location and they also stock them at Whole Foods and coffee shops. But I loved walking from Brooklyn Heights to Bed-Stuy, exploring Fort Greene and Clinton Hill along the way. Favorite: plain glazed!
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.
Devoción - The most beautiful, spacious coffee shop with a greenery wall and roastery at the front.
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: Go to Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop to feel like you’re in 1953 in the best possible way – fresh, not oily, delicious doughnuts. 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. Champion Coffee for iced oat milk lattes (a few locations).
Roberta's in Bushwick - worth the hype. Great pizza.
Union Pizza Works