It's Worth Getting Sloppy For This Grilled Cheese Taco
1. The Breukelen Coffee House764A Franklin Ave, Brooklyn
2. Little Zelda728 Franklin Ave, Brooklyn
3. Gloria's Caribbean Cuisine764 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn
4. Mandela Halal Buffet267 Troy Ave, Brooklyn
5. Benz's Gourmet332 Albany Ave, Brooklyn
6. Basil Pizza & Wine Bar270 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn
7. Franklin Park618 Saint Johns Pl, Brooklyn
8. Branch Ofc.225 Rogers Ave, Brooklyn
This narrow cafe draws in a regular laptop crowd with a menu of espresso-based drinks, Stumptown cold brew, and specialty concoctions like a Nutella mocha and house chai latte. By night, beer and wine offerings, as well as music events, turn the Franklin Ave cafe into a neighborhood hot spot.
The entrance is small and the interior tight, but the bright potted plants, strings of twinkling lights, and constant chatter of neighborhood folk make Little Zelda a Crown Heights hot spot. The coffee shop serves locally-roasted Toby's Estate espresso and a selection of pastries, like flaky chocolate croissants and cheddar chive biscuits. The staff, like the space, is small, so expect to wait longer than usual for your coffee if it's peak caffeination time.
In a neighborhood with no lack of Caribbean restaurants, Crown Heights' Gloria's stands out. Some say it's the bright green and lightbulb-rimmed sign, others say it's the cheap prices. We say it's the massive roti, an infant-sized wrap containing turmeric curries loaded with goat or chicken. The dish, named after the crepe-like wrap it comes in, was designed to be mobile, but we'd suggest you travel with a table and bib in that case. Oxtail soup, callaloo (steamed leaf vegetables thickened with coconut milk), and doubles (a fruit-topped type of chickpea sandwich) offer a crash course in Trinidadian street food tastes, and are worth exploring.
As if the near-ubiquitous waft of spice-infused jerk chicken and fried fish weren't a clear enough indicator, Crown Heights is the epicenter of Caribbean food in Brooklyn, spearheaded by tiny corner spots like Mandela Halal Buffet. The restaurant is hardly furnished, but with enough space for a few clean tables and seats, the halal spot a step up from your standard take-out place. You can still take your food to go, but the warm, savory promise of curry chicken, collard greens, and steamed cabbage might entice you to eat your order immediately.
This speciality fish store caters predominately to Crown Heights' Orthodox Jewish community. Its 100% kosher grocery inventory is stocked with herring, canned tuna, and the house speciality: gefilte fish. While you'll notice an influx of customers right before the Sabbath and high holidays, Benz's imported cheese and olives, plus kosher microbrews, draw locals all days of the week.
The food at Basil Pizza & Wine Bar is calibrated according to the strictest Kosher standards, but that doesn't mean the Crown Heights Italian doesn't have non-denominational fans. The parmesan-dusted fries will speak to your deepest carnal instincts, while entrées like wood-fired four-cheese pizza and pan-roasted halibut will justify the menu's slightly higher price points. While your napkins might get sauced-up, marble tabletops, upright wooden chairs, and classical music make the dining experience a proper and polished one.
It's clear upon first glance that Franklin Park is Crown Heights' designated watering hole. The beer garden's long, communal tables draw everyone for lively first dates to casual after-work meet-ups, while the interior's corner bar might encourage more intimate conversation. Even deeper inside, Franklin Park's restaurant serves juicy Dutch Boy burgers to locals who'd rather not order Mexican delivery for the umpteenth night. There's no way to label the all-encompassing twenty something crowd here, but the bartenders are always friendly, and the beer selection rotating and affordable.
Decked out in '60s-inspired pink and green tiled floors, analog cash registers, and vintage photography, this retro Crown Heights cocktail bar offers a slim menu of three-ingredient cocktails, beer, wine, and pressed sandwiches. The backyard is accessorized with colorful picnic tables that the daytime laptop crowd is prone to take advantage of, and if you're here on the right day, you'll have the option of ordering from one of the myriad pop-ups the bar regularly hosts.