10/03/16 10:35am
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Caroline Fidanza stands in front of Saltie, her seven-year-old sandwich shop on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg. Photo: Georgia Kral

In a neighborhood like Williamsburg, which has arguably experienced more change than any other part of Brooklyn in the past 10 years, finding the familiar can feel like slipping into a snug sweater you thought would never fit again. On one corner, where there was once a modest building there is now an elaborate Whole Foods Market. Across the street, where lines used to form for bagels, people now wait for the latest iPhone, while tapping at their current iPhone.

But just four short blocks east on a busy stretch of Metropolitan Avenue sits a sandwich shop that looks and feels the same as it did when it opened seven years ago.

That place is Saltie, a compact “farm to table” eatery that makes sandwiches loaded with Mediterranean flavors with names like the Scuttlebutt and the Spanish Armada. It’s a neighborhood spot that, according to owner and chef Caroline Fidanza, has thrived in Williamsburg by not changing even as many things around it did.

“We have just tried to continue to be who we are and distinguish ourselves in that way,” she said, in a reflective conversation over unsweetened iced tea on a recent unseasonably warm September day. Fidanza is committed to her craft and business at a time where the restaurant industry, and customer tastes, are changing as much as Brooklyn itself.


“When we opened, it was all about sustainability. People would come in and ask ‘where did you get your eggs from?’ Because they cared, they wanted to know. Now, nobody ever, ever, ever asks anymore.”


We spoke at Saltie, which can seat maybe 10 people comfortably and has famously uncomfortable stools for just four diners. Over the course of 90 minutes, as we chatted about her desire for both change and stability, and about her views on current restaurant trends, more than half the customers chatted with Fidanza as if they’d known her for years, and indeed many of them likely had. (more…)

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09/26/16 12:50pm
Photo: Seth Piracci

Photo: Seth Piracci

Typically when you read about a new bar, the review lingers over the carefully crafted cocktail list, the house-made bitters, the collection of rare mezcals the owner traveled to Oaxaca to get. There’s no shortage of exotic concoctions lit by Edison bulbs in Brooklyn. But the neighborhood bar, the place you go to run into people you know, with solid drinks, a good happy hour, and a comfortable vibe, those we could use a few more of around these parts. Welcome to The Starliner.

Opened in January of 2016 in a former tae kwon do studio a short walk from the Myrtle-Wykoff train station in Bushwick, the well-appointed space is roomy enough to comfortably accommodate big crowds on weekends, but warm enough that you’ll feel just as comfortable settling in for a quiet early evening cocktail. The Starliner’s interior design could be described as fifties diner-meets-Brooklyn-hipster, with oversized red leather booths–including one built into the bar–against tiled walls and clean hardwood floors and matching ceilings. The spacious backyard area has ample seating in the open area as well as a converted garage boasting a giant American flag wall mural which signals Starliner’s work-hard, play-hard ethos. (more…)

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09/06/16 11:24am

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Welcome back from the long weekend! Now let’s get right into it, Brooklyn.

If there’s one theme that has emerged in this long, strange trip of an election cycle, it’s that Americans, New Yorkers included, are ready for political change. If you are dedicated to change then you have to vote–not just every four years in November, but in election cycles big and small. It just so happens that the New York State and Local Primary is next week on Sept. 13 and you should vote in it.

Why? Here’s a quick and dirty explanation. New York City leans heavily Democratic in most races, state, local and national. If you are a new candidate challenging an incumbent of the same party, as is usually the case, that means that your state and local contest is in September. Come November, the Democrats who win next week (again, most state and local offices in NYC are held by Democrats) will be largely unchallenged on the ballot, either running unopposed or against Republicans with minimal backing, funding or actual intention of serving. When very few people vote in September, and the people who do vote are dedicated to the status quo, it makes changing up our representation in Albany very difficult–and leads to the incredibly long terms in state office that we see so often in New York City.

What does that matter? Well, did you know that New York state had one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country during the national primary? Did you read that only 9% of the entire U.S. voted for Clinton or Trump? Do you find it disappointing that pretty much every major candidate in this election cycle is close to 70 years old? There can be no new energy in politics, no new ideas, if voters don’t vote, starting with state and local elections.

Here are two Brooklyn candidates who will be on the ballot for State Senate next week, each running against other Democrats who have been in office for more than a decade. (You can view all the seats up for election here.) We’re not endorsing these candidates–we’re not here to tell you how to vote. We’re making the point that if you actually care about the system as whole, every race matters and there’s more opportunity to get involved in our political system than you might think. It’s also a chance to make sure that you are registered to vote on Nov. 8–the deadline to register for the general election in New York State is Oct. 14.  (more…)

08/02/16 9:00am
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Brighton Beach is waiting for you, at the end of the Q. Photo: Regina Mogilevskaya

I will choose Brighton Beach over the Rockaways any day, and it’s not just on account of my last name. This laid back beach boasts irrefutable seductions: It’s easily accessible via the Brighton Beach stop on the B or the Q train, from which the sand is less than a five-minute walk. It’s spacious and rarely overcrowded. And the best part? It doesn’t feel like a damn American Apparel ad.

Though on the outskirts of what is essentially Little Russia/Odessa, the crowd that’s scattered across the beach is always diverse, and families are very much welcome. The bathrooms leave much to be desired (wear your shoes and hold your nose), but the water is consistently warm and tranquil and the sand is clean, you know, for New York. Unlike the Rockaways, the Brighton Beach boardwalk is relatively bare when it comes to food and drink (apart from Tatiana and Café Volna, two pricey Russian restaurants whose pleasures we’ll leave for another time). So while you won’t find tacos or happen across a hip flea market here, there’s a very undeniable allure to this boardwalk, beautiful and aging in the harsh sunlight. Whether it’s the gusto of foreign languages swirling around you, or the unparalleled people watching, there’s something about Brighton Beach that will make you feel much further from your apartment than you are, maybe even like you’re on an overseas adventure.

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Poppy seed-filled pastries at La Brioche Café on Brighton Beach Avenue. Photo: Regina Mogilevskaya

Before you set foot on the sand, hit up some of the small shops and bakeries that line the streets for snacks, salads and sandwich makings. You won’t regret it. One challenge is that in many stores the signs are exclusively in Russian, so if you have a friend with some Slavic language skills, hit them up for their assistance. Or get ready to point and nod and smile a lot. And keep in mind that the Q train will get you here in under 30 minutes from Atlantic Terminal, so it’s a solid shorefront destination even in the winter, when many of the hot dishes will be even more appealing. Here are three of the best spots to stop and stock up. (more…)

08/01/16 12:04pm
You really cannot beat the view at Brooklyn Barge in Greenpoint. Photo: Ellen Killoran

You really cannot beat the view at Brooklyn Barge in Greenpoint. Photo: Ellen Killoran

If you’re not among that privileged group of New Yorkers who head out of town for the month of August, not to worry: The Brooklyn Barge in Greenpoint is here to serve all your staycation needs. You may have heard that this bar-on-a-boat is prohibitively packed during the evening hours, and indeed, earlier in the summer the crowds were overwhelming. But on two recent visits in late July, the barge was perfectly pleasant, a relaxing riverside spot for slightly overpriced cocktails and a truly spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline. (more…)

07/18/16 10:24am
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Head to Bobek Deli early for the best choice of hot dishes. Photo: Brendan Spiegel

When I was checking out the array of trendy new restaurants popping up in and around Kensington earlier this year, I came across one unsuspecting little spot that is far from trendy but definitely shouldn’t be passed over by serious eaters.

Bobek Deli is the kind of place you would probably walk right on by if the assortment of Polish canned food in the front window didn’t grab your attention. But inside the narrow, angular space, behind rows of Polish tabloid magazines and Slavic-brand potato chips, there are some fantastic culinary creations worth exploring. First, There’s a  butcher’s cold-case filled with about a dozen un-pronounceable offerings like zwyczajna (a smoked and cured pork kielbasa made with black pepper and garlic). Another case is stocked with fresh-baked pastries and fruit-filled bowls of Jell-o. But the real prize is the unsuspecting hot-food bar in the back, where a daily array of freshly-made to-go items offer rib-sticking Eastern European comfort food to dedicated regulars. (more…)

06/20/16 11:47am
Nowadays is more like a park where booze is allowed than your typical bar. Photo: Nicholas Rinaldi

Nowadays is more like a park where booze is allowed than your typical bar. Photo: Nicholas Rinaldi

Not quite a beer garden, Nowadays is probably best described as a park where drinking is encouraged. Any discussion of Nowadays should also mention upfront that this place is pretty out of the way, but it’s more than manageable from the L train–the hard-to-spot entrance is about a five minute walk from the Halsey stop, in a neighborhood you probably wouldn’t have visited five years ago. (And for anyone wondering, the area feels as safe as Morgantown.)

On an average evening at Nowadays groups of friends cluster at picnic or cafe tables, beers and hot dogs in hand. On busier nights, you may have to wait in line for a bit at the bar, which is separate from the food truck selling a surprisingly sophisticated menu of upscale street food. The beer menu is a rotating offering of regional brews, like Narraganset and Lagunitas, that run $6 or $7 a pop. Wine, red and (sometimes) white sangria, and prosecco on tap are available for $8, with bottles also available (but strangely, pitchers of beer are not). This is the kind of place you might worry would be cash only, but cards are accepted–which is a good idea, as the nearest ATM machine is blocks away. It’s a solid, reasonably priced selection, but we wish they had a full liquor license for cocktails. (more…)

06/13/16 12:09pm
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Eat tacos and sip rose for a good cause this summer. Photo: Regina Mogilevskaya

Be honest–when was the last time your good deed for the day was purchasing and devouring tacos? Never? That’s about to change. For the rest of the summer you’ll be able to pop by the backyard at Greenpoint’s San Damiano Mission, fill up on some seriously delicious tacos, and know that your money is going toward a noble cause–the repair and restoration of the church’s 104-year-old pipe organ.

“Josh Cohen, my partner over at Extra Fancy, does a lot of outreach and support in the neighborhood, and that’s how he befriended the Sam Damiano Mission,” explains Extra Fancy co-owner Mark Rancourt. “They asked if [we] wanted to use their yard for the summer as a food and event space, and we went for it.” Rancourt says that figuring out the menu was easy enough–who doesn’t love tacos?

Currently, Holy Smoke (the punny name of the summer pop-up) offers beer, rosé, chips, and a choice of three tacos: chicken mole, hickory-smoked pork, and portobello, and all three are pretty flawless as far as tacos go. All of the profits from the pop-up will be donated to the organ restoration project. (more…)

06/06/16 9:29am
Photos: Two Yutes

Photos: Two Yutes

When Michael Bruno opened Michael & Ping’s Modern Chinese Take-Out in Gowanus six years ago, the restaurant may have seemed a bit random. Bruno, who grew up in an Italian-American family in Bensonhurst, didn’t actually know that much about cooking Chinese food (and there’s no actual Ping, the second name’s just for effect), but he’d eaten loads of takeout growing up in New York, and saw an opening for an eatery focused on American-style Chinese classics like Kung Pao chicken and beef and broccoli, but made with high-quality local ingredients. Industrial Third Avenue was nowhere near the foodie destination it is today, but it was the perfect location for a delivery-focused spot, given the proximity to Park Slope, Cobble Hill and other booming neighborhoods.

Fast forward six years later: Michael & Ping’s is thriving, while the neighborhood long mocked as a fetid Superfund site is filled with shiny condos, farm-to-table restaurants, and lots of new businesses. For his second enterprise, housed within Michael & Ping’s, Bruno opted for something a little closer to home. 2 Yutes, billed as “a Brooklyn panini pop-up” is “a little more in my wheelhouse,” says Bruno. “It’s all what I grew up eating in Bensonhurst–at places like John’s Deli and Lioni’s. There’s no great sandwich shop in this neighborhood, so I decided to give it a try.” (more…)

05/23/16 11:48am
Falcon Laundry is courting locals for rooftop cocktails. Photo: Kelsey Smith

Falcon Laundry is courting locals for rooftop cocktails. Photo: Kelsey Smith

Williamsburg has a new waterfront watering hole. Falcon Laundry has cast itself as a new neighborhood staple, a place for in-the-know locals more than a go-to spot for tourists spilling over from Smorgasburg. Built inside a–you guessed it–former laundry, which also took a turn as a steel fabrication mill, Falcon Laundry is a two-level bar and restaurant with rooftop patio drinking just in time for summer.

Take a seat at the long bar if you’re a party of one or two, or settle in to one of the comfortable green leather booths tucked against alternating walls of brick and wood paneling, for unrushed table service with a bigger group. You’ll likely also notice that the prices are surprisingly gentle for this part of Brooklyn. There are several choices on the wine list that are less than $10 a glass; the rosé from Wolffer Estate in the North Fork is an especially great deal at $8. Happy hour runs until 8pm with a rotating cast of wines for $6 and beers for as low as $5, with many locally-sourced choices in the mix. (more…)

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