Food & Drink

The Definitive Bay Ridge Dining Guide

Published On 09/30/2016 Published On 09/30/2016
donuts bay ridge
Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Elia Restaurant

Best place to bring a date: Elia

While there are plenty of excellent casual Greek spots in the Ridge, Elia stands above the rest with slightly more upscale versions of your favorite Mediterranean foods in a space that was practically made for a date (think white-washed brick walls, dim lighting, and cloth napkins). The flaming saganaki is theatrical, the beet salad is far more elegant than a beet salad needs to be, and main courses like milk-fed veal chop or the whole grilled fish (for sharing) are enough to make even the worst Tinder date tolerable.

Best brunch: Cebu

Since you probably left your credit card at Cebu the previous night, it only makes sense to stay for brunch when you go to pick it up. While creative cocktails and small plates draw a lively crowd any night of the week, Cebu is best at helping you pick up the pieces the next morning with its comforting brunch menu. Hangover staples like French toast with fresh berries and steak & eggs abound, but you’re here for the daily rotating brunch specials, like crispy chicken & waffles or soft polenta with poached eggs. Yes... in Bay Ridge you can get brunch every damn day, not just on the weekends.

Best pub food: The Wicked Monk

Pub culture is strong among Ridgies. We take our watering holes and our “water” very seriously, and can’t rest peacefully at the end of the week until we “inspect” multiple joints to make sure they’re still pouring proper. Of course, we need some food to keep us going on a steady crawl. That’s where The Wicked Monk, an Irish pub built with parts of an actual Irish monastery and staffed with only the friendliest locals, comes in. The Monk has been in the neighborhood for more than 20 years, but only really got serious about its food when it moved to its current location, which is about twice the size of the original, four years ago. The Reuben spring rolls are a must-order (be advised, you only get two, so plan accordingly for your party size), but mac & cheese is also its own food group at Wicked Monk, with several menu mainstays and a nightly special (like bacon, ranch, and cheddar mac & cheese with chicken).

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Best Italian: Gino's

Mondays in Bay Ridge are so much worse than Mondays in the rest of the city, and that’s because on Mondays, Gino’s is closed. This long-standing, family-owned, polished-yet-casual institution is a triple threat: you can walk in and get a great slice/pie to go, sit down to have a great meal, or have them cater your next party (in the restaurant or out). The crispy-crusted Grandma pie, a fan favorite, comes topped with a perfectly sweet tomato sauce and the freshest mozzarella. The gnocchi is light, fluffy, and generously coated in a tomato basil sauce made even more rich by the same fresh mozzarella. The chicken Parm is by far the best in the borough. If it wasn’t already apparent, Gino's could probably put its sauce and mozzarella on a cardboard box and it would be great.

Best place to get a hunk of beef: Embers Steakhouse

Imagine getting a dry-aged filet, rib-eye, or porterhouse without having to put on a suit or make a reservation four months in advance. Embers is a worthy contender to any of the top steakhouses in the city, only much more affordable and in no way pretentious. Embers also turns the traditional steakhouse on its head with atypical appetizers like an antipasto platter and sides like potato pie with prosciutto and mozzarella. Also, every cut of meat on the menu comes directly from the the butcher shop next door. This is a true neighborhood steakhouse joint, and one that’s hard to find elsewhere in New York.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Best coffee shop for writers: Coffee Rx (Coffee Lab)

Whether you’re writing your memoir or reading Thrillist while trying to think about what exactly in your life has been memoir-worthy, keep yourself caffeinated and connected to Wi-Fi at this laid-back coffee shop known for its modern interiors, friendly staff, and a little thing called the Nutella Monster, which basically amounts to a frappuccino with an enormous scoop of Nutella in it. People risk parking tickets to stop in and get one to-go.

Omonia Cafe

Best dessert spot: Omonia Cafe

When you’re in the mood for something honey-covered and sprinkled with nuts, this is the place to go. Omonia does Greek desserts proud, from the basic kataifi (shredded wheat with nuts and honey syrup) to the ekmek kataifi (the basic, plus two kinds of cream). But it's best known for its massive array of chocolate sponge cakes -- some layered with cream or fudge, others coated in more chocolate than one person should consume in an afternoon. The dessert case can be overwhelming, but if you have an idea of what you want and the patience to read the menu descriptions or talk it out with the server, you’ll be fine (also, take your sweet time -- it’s open ‘til 3am during the week and 4am on weekends).

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Best burger: Brooklyn Beet Company

Brooklyn Beet Company is probably the only place in Bay Ridge to tout local farm-to-table fare, but it’s also home to the best burger in the neighborhood. The Original Korzo is a beef burger topped with bacon, Emmenthaler, pickles, and mustard wrapped up in a Slovak dough and fried. Yes, it’s a deep-fried burger. The house-made ketchup is made with beets (of course) and is an earthier-tasting alternative to tomato ketchup that will give new life to your fries. To go along with it all, there’s Korzo beer -- a special hoppy brew made just for Brooklyn Beet Company across the bridge in Staten Island. Now that’s local.

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Best donuts: Mike's Donuts

You’re not getting any fancy or revolutionary donut flavors at Mike’s. There’s no Nutella filling or hibiscus petals coated with gold leaf -- it’s strictly jelly or glazed, or some other old-school donut variety that’s undoubtedly better than anything for which people line up for hours. Every donut at Mike’s is light, fluffy, not too sweet, and perfectly complemented by a cup of coffee. A no-frills, non-franchise donut shop doesn’t stay in business for more than 30 years (with a Dunkin' Donuts right across the street) without doing something right.

Best place for vegetarians: Shangri-La Vegetarian

Amidst all of Bay Ridge’s sushi spots, burger joints, and halal restaurants with beehives of meat spinning in the windows stands this oasis for vegetarians that will please even the most stubborn carnivore. In a neighborhood where Asian food has mediocre representation at best, Shangri-La is a welcome find, with satisfying and flavorful dishes like soba or udon noodle soup with seaweed and tofu, an all-veg mu-shoo, and the chocolate peanut butter bomb -- a towering figure that no mere mortal can (or should) finish on his or her own.

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Best baklava: Antepli Baklava

The Turkish city Gaziantep is known for its pistachios, which are used to make the perfect baklava. Antep (which is what the Turks call it) claims to have more than 100 baklava bakeries, and some Antep natives have settled and brought their baklava-making expertise -- and those pistachios -- to this no-frills bakery. If it isn’t clear by now: get the pistachio baklava. Get it by the pound or by the truckload. Antepli has trays upon trays of it, and people in the back are always making more. The bakery prides itself on using all-natural, preservative-free ingredients, and you can taste the tradition and purity in each bite.

Place to go for a mini-vacation: Casa Pepe

Casa Pepe is a little off the beaten path in Bay Ridge, but it’s a block away from the waterfront and feels like you’re stepping off the streets of Brooklyn and into a welcoming casita. The seafood tapas -- calamari, gambas, and pulpo -- are authentic, and most importantly, totally filling (a rarity when it comes to tapas). If you’re a larger group, opt for the traditional Paella Valenciana, made with fresh seafood like clams and mussels and spicy Spanish sausage in golden rice. Also, don’t miss the 16 different margarita flavors.

Best food worth all the delays on the R train: Tanoreen

Tanoreen is probably the most decorated restaurant in Bay Ridge (it’s made the Michelin Bib Gourmand list, and continues to top lists for the best Middle Eastern food) and deserves every bit of praise. It’s known for taking Middle Eastern food to new levels by embracing Mediterranean influence, seen in dishes like baked Mediterranean eggplant with tanoreen-spiced ground lamb. There’s also the perfect mix of high and low here: typical street foods like falafel and kabobs are made with the same quality and care as more refined entrees like squash yogurt (squash stuffed with lamb and served with yogurt-garlic sauce). But it’s not just the food that keeps people coming back -- there’s also something about the way owner Rawia Bishara walks around the dining room in a power suit talking to every single one of her customers to make sure they’re happy. Don’t end a meal without the knafeh for dessert, which is a both sweet and cheesy, and will have you questioning whether you ever need chocolate in your life again.

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1. Elia Restaurant 8611 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209

When you think of Greek food, Astoria most likely comes to mind, but Elia in Bay Ridge makes a strong case for authentic Greek food that’s more than a cut above your typical gyro joint. With white-washed brick walls and a wood-beamed ceiling, this rustic taverna will transport you from Brooklyn to Greece with elegant dishes like flaming saganaki and slow-braised lamb shank. This is Mediterranean food of course, so expect a fair amount of seafood, like grilled shrimp with pomegranate couscous and king salmon wrapped in phyllo.

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2. Cebu Bar & Bistro 8801 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209

Cebu is a lively and spacious American bistro in Bay Ridge serving up creative cocktails and shareable plates, along with a comforting, seven-days-a-week (!) brunch menu. You'll find plenty of Brooklynites here most nights of the week, sipping on drinks like the Green With Envy (cucumber vodka, elderflower, liqueur, cucumber, and lime) or a Moscow Mule, but the big crowds pour in during brunch to cure the hangovers they got from those very cocktails. The killer brunch menu features staples like French toast with fresh berries and steak & eggs, plus rotating specials like crispy chicken & waffles or soft polenta with poached eggs.

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3. Wicked Monk 9510 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209

The Wicked Monk is the real deal when it comes to Irish pubs: this Bay Ridge spot is built with parts of an actual Irish monastery and staffed with only the friendliest locals. The Monk has been in the neighborhood for decades, and upped its food game when it moved to its current location, which is about twice the size of the OG. The Reuben spring rolls are a must-order, and so is the mac & cheese, which is essentially its own food group here: there are several menu mainstays and a nightly special, such as bacon, ranch, and cheddar mac & cheese with chicken.

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4. Gino's Restaurant 7414 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209

This Bay Ridge pizzeria is proudly old school-- they've been slinging dough since before you were born and their dishes taste like they're from the Italian grandmother you never had.

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5. Embers 9519 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209

Nestled into Bay Ridge, Embers may not be swanky enough to run in the same crowd as the finest New York steakhouses, but it's of the same quality and won't force you to put on a suit or drain your savings to enjoy a nice filet mignon. This neighborhood restaurant turns the classic steakhouse on its head with atypical appetizers like an antipasto platter and sides like potato pie with prosciutto and mozzarella. Not to mention, every cut of meat on the menu -- from porterhouse to ribeye -- comes directly from the the butcher shop next door. It's a steakhouse you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in the city.

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6. Coffee Rx 6903 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209

It's worth paying for a parking meter (or risking it) to get caffeinated at this sleek and chic shop that easily has the best coffee and service in Bay Ridge. With Wi-Fi and plenty of seating, lots of Brooklynites post up here with laptops, books, and conversation -- oh, and the Nutella Monster, which is basically a magical frappuccino with an enormous scoop of Nutella in it. From cortaditos to lavender lattes and avocado toast to donuts, all of the menu items here are served up by the friendliest staff, who'll lift your spirits right before you find your parking ticket.

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7. Omonia Cafe 7612 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209

If you’ve made it from Manhattan to Bay Ridge, congratulations, you deserve something sweet and ooey gooey from Omonia Café’s epic dessert display case. A product of Bay Ridge’s omnipresent Greek culture, Omonia not only churns out traditional Greek desserts, like flaky Baklava and Galactoboureko, but also whips up be-all and end-all cake concoctions, like cheesecake baklava and semolina-almond sponge cake. If you’re feeling ambitious, precede your dessert with one of Omonia’s more savory options, like Shrimp on the Barbie or a spinach pie. The café is constantly teeming with confection-hunting warriors, so be prepared to wait. But fear not, with hours extending well into the early morning (3am on weeknights and 4am on weekends), you won’t be shut out.

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8. Brooklyn Beet Company 7205 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209

At Bay Ridge’s Brooklyn Beet Company, vegetables from the restaurant’s rooftop garden are a refreshing reminder that farm-to-table menus can work masterfully in New York when done right. Homegrown herbs, heirloom tomatoes, Hungarian banana peppers, and other veggies find their way into dishes like apple raisin potato latkes and the Wunderwurst, a sampler of cured sausages with organic ale mustard and freshly-grated horseradish. It’s the place you might go to gaze lovingly at your date across a tiny table while you both try to forget the image of sinking your teeth into that large hunk of burger meat. Of course, Brooklyn Beet’s gem is its Korzo burger, which deserves a pat on its deep-fried lángos-coated back for all the accolades it’s received. Finally, if it’s ketchup you’re craving, make sure to slather the crowd-favorite homemade beet iteration onto any and all of your dishes; you won’t find any of that fake stuff here.

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9. Mike's Donuts 6822 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220

This beloved BK counter service only coffee shop has been a breakfast mainstay since its inception. Family owned and operated, Mike's serves up all the classic treats (Boston cremes, jelly glazed, old fashioneds, etc) alongside some of the best cup of joe we've had in a while. Make the journey to Bay Ridge and see what all the fuss is about.

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10. Shangri-La Vegetarian 7400 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209

Shangri-La is Bay Ridge’s one-stop-shop for vegetarian Asian cuisine, a welcome addition in a neighborhood dominated by Middle Eastern restaurants and burger joints. The fusion menu is inspired by Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, and Singaporean cuisines, and while you can expect standard dishes from each (think pad thai and bibimbap), the vegetable add-ons and soy meat substitutes inevitably mean you’ll make healthy choices. The restaurant is relatively austere in décor, and the only pop of color you’ll likely spy is in the small vase of flowers at each table.

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11. Antepli Baklava 7216, Brooklyn, NY 10305

Plain and simple, Bay Ridge’s Antepli Baklava has mastered the fine art of Baklava. It’s not unusual for New Yorkers to traverse boroughs to get here, for this no-frills bakery is the real deal; their varieties include cheese, walnuts, and pistachio, all of which you can purchase by the pound. Perhaps the taste is so pure (down to the syrup, buttery layers, and crunchy nuts) because Antepli orders its ingredients straight from Gaziantep, Turkey, the “Land of Baklava.” While a bit more expensive than some other local sweets shops, this Turkish delight is worth every penny.

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12. Casa Pepe 114 Bay Ridge Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220

Casa Pepe rejoices in both Spanish and Mexican culture, and you’ll fittingly find influences from both cuisines at the Bay Ridge restaurant. The menu has a strong emphasis on seafood, as seen in Spanish stews like zarzuella de mariscos and paella marinara, and standard Mexican dishes like pescado a la Veracruzana. Be sure to start your meal with an order of guacamole, which is prepared tableside as all worthy guacamoles are. Casa Pepe’s inviting interior is elevated by whitewashed stucco walls and lantern-like lamps that’ll pluck you out of your New York world and transport you to a faraway casa on a hill.

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13. Tanoreen 7523 Third Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209

Tanoreen serves up large-portioned and aromatic Middle Eastern food that's well worth the trip to Bay Ridge. Pretty much everything here is worth trying, but the real winner is the musakhan, a Palestinian flatbread pizza topped with slow-cooked onions, spicy chicken, roasted almonds, and sumac. It's definitely a share-plate kind of place so come with a group and order copious amounts of grape leaves, fried halloumi cheese, and shish kebab.