01/09/17 10:28am
From the outside, The Islands doesn't look like much, but don't make the mistake of passing it by. Photo: Georgia Kral

From the outside, The Islands doesn’t look like much, but don’t make the mistake of passing it by. Photo: Georgia Kral

In this series, we take you inside the restaurants we keep going back to–neighborhood spots that always deliver on their promise of good food and hospitality, even if they don’t necessarily look like much from the outside.

The facade is unassuming. Located next door to a Key Food and sharing the grocery store’s awning, you may miss it the first time you look for it. But The Islands (803 Washington Ave.) is a Prospect Heights gem: the food is phenomenal and the ambiance unparalleled.

Windowed doors open into a shoebox-sized room. Along one side is the kitchen, big enough for two people, tops. A counter with three stools abuts the prep area and there’s room for maybe five people to pick up food to go or wait to sit at one of the four tables upstairs. To get to the “dining room” guests must climb up a blue ladder and through a hole in the ceiling. No joke. Diners over six feet tall may have a hard time eating in, as the ceilings are quite low upstairs.

But that’s all part of the charm. The Islands is equally known for its unconventional space and its fiery Caribbean dishes.

I’ve visited The Islands many times and each time I tell myself to try something new. But I just can’t. That’s the true test of a dish. Can’t go without it? Crave it? There’s something happening that you can’t control. My order: jerk chicken, curry vegetables and a side of mac and cheese. If I’m dining with more than one person, curry goat or stew peas and dumplings get added to the mix. (more…)

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ladyj1

The true gems in your life deserve something stunning, and Lady J +1 is filled with bold, beautiful gifts. The trendiest indie fashion and accessories boutique in Prospect Heights/Crown Heights is also home to the design studio of Lady J Jewelry Designs. Inside the intimate storefront on Classon Ave. you’ll find a huge selection of award-winning jewelry that is known for its use of striking gemstones like Rutilated Quartz and Super Seven Stone, all designed to look as good as they make you feel.

You can also shop other indie designers and artisans including:

Apparel by Mary Meyer, Eve Gravel, Emilime, Family Affairs and Samantha Pleet
Handbags & clutches from Saint Catello
Ceramics by Jonathan Castro and SKT, palo santo
Candles from Morphologically and LoveNature, and much, much more!

Lady J +1 is located in Prospect Heights/Crown Heights right near Berg’N, and everything in store is shoppable online at ladyjjewelry.com. (This season, you can even select in-store pickup and they will have it gift-packed and ready to go for you!)

Get all your gifts and stuff your stockings, too, at Lady +1, open every day 12pm-7pm, except Mondays. Just don’t wait too long to pick out the perfect gift because they procure limited quantities for the holidays, and it all goes fast.

A few things you’ll find in store and online:

ladyj1_sevensisters_detail

This style of Lady J’s signature Super Seven necklaces is already sold out, but there are more available online. The Super Seven stone is so-named because it contains seven different minerals, including amethyst and smokey quartz, and is known to exhibit the phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire, an etheric auric light reminiscent of the “holy light” around church towers and treetops visible due to atmospheric electricity. It produces electromagnetic waves, providing a self-luminous quality, and assists one in “seeing” auras. Plus, it’s gorgeous.

ladyj1_rutilatedquartznecklace

Rutilated Quartz is one of the few gemstones desirable because of its inclusions. This gives it a special allure and desirability as a unique gemstone. This one-of-a kind piece features a fine-silver bevel setting and hangs on a 20” silver chain with a lobster-claw style clasp. Fierce and beautiful at the same time.

ladyj1_virgotop

Inspired by the constellations, this Snake’s Tail top by Eve Gravel is full of geometric connectivity. The button-down top features a loose fit, side front pocket and rolled sleeves. Can be tucked or worn loose, depending on the stars.

02/08/16 10:23am

When Carnitas El Atoradero closed its doors last spring, the news inspired laments far beyond the pint-size storefront in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. Many a food blogger had documented their obsession with the authentic Mexican fare owner Denisse Lina Chavez had been serving, luring mole-lovers to a quarter of the Bronx that doesn’t usually get many visitors from other parts of the city.

El Atoradero started as a tiny temporary taco operation run out of the back of Chavez’ small Mexican grocery, and quickly expanded into a not-much-more expansive restaurant next door. The eatery continued to attract fans as Chavez whipped up mouthwatering Mexican dishes with imported ingredients that she sometimes risked life and limb to track down. A lease dispute led to its close last year, but Mott Haven’s loss is Prospect Heights’ gain. Brooklyn resident Noah Arenstein (a partner in Bushwick’s Arrogant Swine and a loyal fan of Chavez’ culinary creations), had the brilliant idea of reopening El Atoradero in a space he’d already been working on (formerly home to the short-lived Mason & Mug).

So just half a year later, the newest incarnation of El Atoradero is here, with Chavez trading in her hole-in-the-wall for a full-size restaurant that’s much larger than its four-table predecessor, and complete with upgrades like a custom masa machine for fresh tortillas made on-site, plus a few Brooklyn-style additions (think blood orange wheat ale and $4 Mexican coke). The new Atoradero features returning favorites like picadita rellena–a shallow boat of masa (corn dough), slightly thicker than a tortilla and filled to the brim with a meat of your choice, and quesadillas with squash blossoms or huitlacoche (a Mexican corn fungus).

Perhaps the most notable new addition is the fact that the new masa machine turns out exclusively blue-corn creations, which makes for hearty tortillas that stand up to Chavez’ very saucy meats, and sturdy blue-corn chips to dip into her delicious guacamole. The Mott Haven pricing did not come along for the ride (that would probably be too much to ask given Prospect Heights rents these days), and it’s perhaps safe to say that $15 cemita sandwiches and $20 plates of cochinita are unlikely to be luring many Bronxites down this way any time soon.

Mole enchiladas (Photo: El Atoradero, Instagram)

Mole enchiladas Photo: El Atoradero via Instagram

(more…)

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11/30/15 9:10am
Liz Kwon and Chelsea Altman's new restaurant White Tiger brings Korean flavors to Prospect Heights. Photo: White Tiger

Liz Kwon and Chelsea Altman’s new restaurant, White Tiger, brings Korean flavors to Prospect Heights. Photo: White Tiger

White Tiger, a Vanderbilt Avenue hotspot-in-the-making from chef Liz Kwon and Chelsea Altman, the owner of a host of neighborhoody spots around Brooklyn including Allswell in Williamsburg, doesn’t have a lot of competition in Prospect Heights, or beyond. The restaurant, which opened earlier this fall, seems determined to prove that it’s more than just the only Korean spot around. Prioritizing the inventive over the homestyle, White Tiger eschews tradition and aims to please a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood above all. If Kwon’s menu is somewhat hit or miss, White Tiger–named for the national animal of Korea–is still a solid choice for a memorable night out.

This is in no small part due to the strong–in more ways that one–cocktail list: The namesake White Tiger ($9) is a tropical take on a margarita with coco lopez and red chili. The Southie ($10) is reminiscent of a dark and stormy with lemongrass ginger syrup, and The Citrus Moon ($11) is a perfectly sweet and unusual blend of flavors (moonshine, rice wine, chamomile) that balance each other beautifully. The Naughty Kimchi, an interpretation of a Bloody Mary, is the only cocktail misfire: It’s just too thin and watered down, and leaves you wanting a great version of a kimchi Bloody Mary, which sounds delicious.

(more…)

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06/22/15 10:46am
Fancy-pants plates make way for a fantastically simple burger at Franny's family's latest (Photo: Rose's)

Fancy-pants plates make way for a fantastically simple burger at Franny’s family’s latest. Photo: Rose’s

When Franny’s, one of Brooklyn’s long-beloved pizza institutions, moved into a new, larger space two years ago, owners Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens branched out into the original spot with Marco’s, an upscale Italian trattoria. When it opened, I found Marco’s quite tasty but definitely too pricey for the neighborhood, and while it got some stellar reviews, the neighborhood seems to have agreed, as Marco’s shuttered just over a year later.

The Franny’s team has held on to the space though, and their latest incarnation seems to have taken that criticism to heart. Rose’s Bar & Grill, which debuted a few weeks back, couldn’t be further from the refined, four-course ambiance that set the tone at Marco’s. (more…)

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