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Why You Should Be Eating in Sunset Park More Often

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Contrary to what Seamless may have you believing, you didn’t move to New York (or, for natives, stay in New York) to eat takeout on your couch. So if your dining routine is feeling a little meh, it’s time to get out there and taste something new. And you should start with Sunset Park, the buzzy South Brooklyn neighborhood your cool college friend moved to before you ever Googled "Industry City." 

Sunset Park is a treasure trove of unique restaurants, cheap eats, and multicultural culinary gems worth seeking out -- and returning to. Maybe you’ve already made a weekend expedition to Industry City to dine around Japan Village, the 20,000 square-foot all-Japanese food hall or more of the development’s eateries. “Creating an authentic and global food scene has always been a high priority [here],” says Jim Somoza, director of development at Industry City. That likely has to do with the diversity of neighborhood itself. About 32% of Sunset Park residents are Asian and 39% are Hispanic, in addition to being home to a large population of immigrants and first-generation families. Accordingly, dim sum, tacos, and tortas are all local specialties, at a volume that’s above and beyond that of most New York neighborhoods. 

So, ready to make your way south? Here are six great reasons you should be eating in Sunset Park as often as you can. 

It’s home to hard-to-find and unique cuisines 

The outer boroughs are loaded with international culinary gems that expats and travelers crave and Sunset Park is the spot for some hyper-regional and specific dishes that are impossible, or at least super difficult, to taste anywhere else in the city. Inside the Fei Long Food Court (the market itself is worthy of its own food tour) Taste of Guilin serves Guilin-style rice noodles, thick and bouncy and available stir-fried with pickled bamboo shoots and clams or braised duck. A bevy of noodles in broth are also served, with dishes topping out at under $10. Gobble up rare-to-Brooklyn Taiwanese rice rolls at Nuan Xin Rice Roll, where the traditional breakfast snack is made with sticky purple rice and stuffed with a range of proteins or kimchi. And at Langkawi, expect to taste lesser-represented Malaysian and Thai dishes, like fish head rice noodle soup (trust), sizzling stingray served in a banana leaf, and the supremely spicy sambal petai. 

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Dim sum makes an excellent brunch

New York’s official dim sum equation: the longer you have to travel on the subway from Manhattan, the more dumplings and rice rolls you can inhale. A group hang at one of Sunset Park’s glorious dim sum establishments is infinitely better than another generic Benedict brunch, and anyone who grumbles about the outer-borough commute can volunteer to wait in line at Egg next Sunday. Ready for shumai, scallion cakes, egg tarts, and Instagram-famous piggy custard dumplings? Head into Bamboo Garden’s banquet room before 2pm for top-notch and unique dim sum. East Harbor Seafood Palace is another local must, where you’ll be flagging down carts full of steaming dumpling trays, deep fried squid or chicken feet, and shrimp noodle rolls.

It’s a worthy destination for group dining

Can’t crawl out of bed in time for dim sum? Plan your group meetup around Sunset Park’s shareable eats, which makes it super easy to split the check and give whomever suggested this tasty outing major cred. Reserve a group table for Korean barbecue at Korean Tofu House or 99 Favor Taste; or dip into hotpot at LaoJie and Mister Hotpot, which has a wonderfully clubby vibe and stays open until 2am. The whole squad can go bowling after your feast at one of NYC’s last remaining retro alleys, Melody Lanes (yes, there’s also an arcade and blue margarita-slinging bar inside).

You can build your own taco crawl

If you’re an active eater, plan a route traversing Sunset Park based on its notable taquerias. Kick it off at Ricos Tacos, where you’ll be tempted to fill up on traditional Mexican street tacos heavy with spicy pork, chopped onions, and cilantro. After sampling, grab a Jarritos soda to go and head down Fifth Avenue to Tacos California, where over a dozen varieties of tacos are under $2, ranging from carnitas to bomb barbacoa enchilada. Continue to Tacos Matamoros, where you can switch it up with a tamale, or indulge in shrimp, chorizo, or steak tacos, among others. Last stop on this half-mile stretch: Tacos El Bronco, a cash-only food truck (as well as a nearby restaurant) doling out styrofoam containers of $2 classic tacos that deserve their reputation (and the line outside). Once you’re stuffed, stretch out in nearby Sunset Park (yes, that’s the name of the local green space) or stroll through Green-Wood cemetery as you digest.

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There’s legit pizza with international influences

It’s not hard to find solid pizza in nearly any Brooklyn neighborhood, but Sunset Park has a few pizzerias truly worth traveling for. At Xochil, aguas frescas and tacos al pastor help chase down the breaded chicken slice, served on a wonderfully sturdy crust. At 1960s mainstay Gina’s, Albanian, Mexican, and Puerto Rican cuisine influence the menu, particularly in the carnitas and jalapeño topped pie; the “crazy plantain” sandwiches, in which fried plantains stand in for bread to caress fillings of shrimp, fried chicken, steak, or roast pork; and if you’re still hungry, add a knish. Spiro’s serves up a taco pizza scattered with your choice of meat, shredded lettuce, and pico de gallo, and you can hack the menu to top your pie with souvlaki or gyro meat if you’re eager for more mash-ups. And, of course, Luigi’s is the whimsical pizzeria straight out of a junk food dream -- think penne alla vodka and baked ziti pies, along with crispy bacon ranch, a strangely satisfying salad pizza doused in Italian dressing, and pigs in a blanket sold for 50 cents a piece.

The sandwiches are cheap and plentiful

If the aforementioned “crazy plantain” concoction has you ready to stuff down sandwiches in Sunset Park, just wait. Don Pepe Tortas & Jugos offers the best tortas in town (order the Mexicana Doble Queso), plus Ba Xuyen makes incredible banh mi ($5 gets you a choice of sandwich), and Bensonhurst legend Lioni Italian Heroes just moved into the nabe, offering a menu of 150(!) hot and cold sandwiches to taste your way through. Hashtag goals.