Autumn is the best time to be in the orbit of Brooklyn’s four-year-old pre-weathered steel stadium, the Barclays Center. Hockey and hoops season get underway in mid-October, meaning both local teams, the Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders, are in action. And there are multiple non-sports events on the docket as well, like this charming husband-and-wife musical duo, Beyoncé and Jay Z (perhaps you’ve heard of them), who are putting on a benefit concert with a slew of their famous friends.
The next time you’re Barclays-bound, be sure to check out the surrounding neighborhood, which is chockablock with excellent eating and drinking places. Here are 10 of our favorites:
Best chicken sandwich: Shake Shack
170 Flatbush Ave
Conveniently located right across the street from the arena, the local outpost of restaurateur Danny Meyer’s popular burger chain serves up perhaps the finest example of NYC’s latest comfort-food obsession: the chicken sandwich. Crisp and juicy, dressed with lettuce, pickles and a creamy buttermilk mayo on a soft potato roll, the ChickenShack made its big debut right here in Brooklyn. And it beats anything comparable that you might find at the stadium. (Sorry, Carla Hall.)
Best beer: Uncle Barry's
58 5th Ave
With 18 taps and an extensive selection of bottled and canned brews (check the beer list!), this no-frills watering hole, located just two blocks from the arena, is the perfect spot for pre- and post-event suds sipping. The bar doesn’t serve food, but it does offer vintage games and trivia -- mind over matter, dude.
Best barbecue: The Smoke Joint
87 S Elliott Pl
Head a little farther north in Fort Greene for some seriously tasty 12-hour hickory-smoked pulled pork and St. Louis-style rib racks. The hot dogs -- topped with pulled pork, beef, or chicken -- also require mention, because meat on meat is a God-given right, or something.
Best cocktails: Weather Up
589 Vanderbilt Ave
Expect strictly no-nonsense cocktails and a fun, uncontrived atmosphere. Not sure what to order? Opt for the bartender’s choice: pick a spirit and the crafty character behind the stick will custom-make you something seriously sippable.
Best ramen: Chuko
565 Vanderbilt Ave
New ramen shops keep bubbling up in South Brooklyn, but this cozy spot in Prospect Heights is unique. Unlike most NYC noodle shops, where tonkotsu-style pork broth reigns supreme, Chuko’s specialty is a veggie-based soup swimming with tofu and fresh produce, though meatier options are equally slurp-worthy.
Best slice: Pizza Town
85 5th Ave
This old-school pizzeria is a cut above your typical NYC-style slice joint, with ample seating and a whimsical decor. The standard triangular and square-shaped portions are both solid options (each just $2.75), but the pro move here is the stuffed slice, jam-packed with Italian sausage and cheese inside a double crust.
Best sit-down restaurant: Bricolage
162 5th Ave
This casual yet stylish Vietnamese-inspired gastropub is one of the best places to eat right now in NYC. Period. Even if you’re perplexed by the house’s signature “unshaking” beef -- nevermind the metaphysical descriptor, just think: saucy rib-eye -- the Sriracha butter chicken wings are approachable enough for the most simple-minded sports fan. Grab a seat on the lush back patio, if weather permits.
Best for groups/bocce: Union Hall
702 Union St
It’s hip in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard, even though there are bocce ball courts, frequent karaoke/slam poetry nights in the basement, old-book-lined walls, and slouchy couches taken up by bespectacled fathers journaling while waiting for their wives to finish shifts at the food co-op up the block.
Best pub: Alchemy
56 5th Ave
This dark, laid-back food & drink den has above-average taps, big booths, and shelves crowded with knickknacks that make so little contextual sense that they actually make complete sense. As for menu specifics, the grass-fed Angus burger is a standout, served on an onion brioche bun.
Best whiskey: Pork Slope
247 5th Ave.
Chef Dale Talde and partners David Massoni and John Bush, the dudes behind the super-successful Talde, opened this little roadhouse-style bar a few years back and have been slinging classic American eats to the neighborhood’s delight ever since. Pair your affordable porky melt -- cheddarwurst, griddled onions, mustard, rye -- with a pour of Pappy Van Winkle just because you can. Bonus: best tater tots ever.
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1. Shake Shack170 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn
2. Uncle Barry's58 5th Ave, Brooklyn
3. The Smoke Joint87 S Elliott Pl, Brooklyn
4. Weather Up589 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn
5. Chuko552 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn
6. Pizza Town85 5th Ave, Brooklyn
7. Bricolage162 5th Ave, Brooklyn
8. Union Hall702 Union St, Brooklyn
9. Alchemy56 5th Ave, Brooklyn
10. Pork Slope247 5th Ave, Brooklyn
Right across from the Barclays Center, this Brooklyn outpost of beloved burger chain Shake Shack serves all the original standbys, like the signature American cheese-topped ShackBurger, and the bacon and chopped cherry pepper SmokeShack burger. The Flatbush Ave Shake Shack was also the first location to debut the runaway hit ChickenShack, a crisp and juicy chicken sandwich dressed with lettuce, pickles, and buttermilk mayo on a soft potato roll.
Uncle Barry's is exactly the bar you go to when you're looking for a cheap place to drink before (or after) an event at the Barclays Center. The Park Slope watering hole is basic in all the right ways, and its beer selection includes 18 taps as well as canned and bottled brews. There's no food, but you're on 5th Ave., so there are plenty of options nearby.
Combining tried-and-true BBQ methods with skills picked up from years at fine dining establishments, this roadhouse-style spot is doing eats like St. Louis ribs, pulled pork smoked for 12 hours over hickory, and what some consider to be one of the best hot dogs in the game -- which, by the way, you can also top with pulled pork, beef, or chicken.
You can expect strictly no-nonsense cocktails at this smart speakeasy in Prospect Heights, which is unmarked on the outside, simply recognized by its white-brick exterior. There's plenty of standing room inside the chic, white-tiled space to accommodate weekend crowds, who head here to enjoy old-fashioned cocktails like the Kentucky Maid (bourbon, lime juice, simple syrup, fresh mint, and cucumber) or the Bartender's Choice (an expertly crafted surprise). But if the bar is already full upon arrival, don't fret -- there's seating in Weather Up's adorable back garden, too.
Created by three Morimoto vets, this Prospect Heights noodle nook slings some of the city's best ramen. Chuko offers a few varieties of noodle soup bowls, from classic miso, pork, and chicken broths to the more fusion kimchi version with ground pork, scallion, and egg. The steamed pork buns are solid appetizers, but the fried Brussels sprouts with fish sauce and peanuts, and the miso-dressed kale salad with crispy sweet potato, are welcome, if untraditional, complements to the silky, steaming entrees.
The ample seating and kitschy decor give Pizza Town an edge over typical New York slice joints, as do the pies themselves, available in triangular or square-shaped slices. You'll find an array of topping combos displayed behind the counter, from Buffalo chicken and meatball to olives and eggplant, but the move is to order the stuffed slice, which packs Italian sausage and cheese inside a double crust.
Bricolage exudes the intimate feeling that you're eating dinner at a Park Slope brownstone, albeit one decked out in princess chandeliers and dishing plates of modern, Vietnamese fare. The chefs and owners worked at The Slanted Door in San Francisco before setting up shop in Brooklyn, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the inventive creations coming from Bricolage's open kitchen, like Sriracha butter wings, pork ribs in tamarind-hoisin sauce, and savory crepes with mushrooms and bean sprouts. While the dimly lit, exposed brick space has an irresistibly cozy vibe, we can't think of a better place to bite into summer rolls than on the gorgeous back patio.
Union Hall in Park Slope is a cozy, multi-purpose venue outfitted to resemble a stately library with bookcases, banquettes, and a fireplace. It features two bocce ball courts, outdoor garden seating, and a basement space that often hosts comedians and indie bands. There's something on Union Hall's schedule every night of the week, whether it's an NPR live radio show, bocce tournament, or themed happy hour. The bar's down-to-earth vibe is complemented with craft beer and simple bar food like burgers, empanadas, and house-made soft pretzels. The crowd is mostly made up of local Brooklynites, and though don't have to roll up in tortoise-shell frames and cuffed jeans, you'd certainly be in good company if you did so.
Kevin Read, former bartender at Lucky Strike, opened Alchemy as a nod to townhouse gastropubs in London, going so far as to bring in a 100-year-old bar to provide extra authenticity. Count on American and British comfort food with unusual culinary flourishes and above-average taps, meant to be enjoyed in big, comfy booths. The surrounding shelves are crowded with knickknacks that make so little contextual sense that they actually make all the sense. There's even a secluded backyard for prime warm-weather brunch seating.
This whiskey-centric bar in Park Slope serves classic all-American food like fried chicken sandwiches with iceburg lettuce and ranch, cheeseburgers on potato rolls, and baked mac & cheese. Inspired by the movie Road House, the space has a honky-tonk-meets-roadside diner vibe thanks to kitschy antiques collected by the bar's crew over the years. The kitchen closes at 2am daily, so it's great for any late-night greasy food cravings.