Brendan Spiegel

Articles by

Brendan Spiegel

Brendan is a Manhattan native who keeps getting tricked into moving just one more neighborhood further into Brooklyn. Currently in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, he expects to reach the Coney Island boardwalk by early 2018. He deals with his housing anxiety by eating and drinking pretty much everything he passes by in the borough, and enjoys writing about it all for Brooklyn Based. When not stuffing his face in Kings County, he is a travel writer stuffing his face in other countries, and Editorial Director/Co-founder of the digital publication Narratively. @brendanspiegel

09/12/16 9:00am

After a slow summer season, fall is traditionally the busiest time of year for restaurant openings, and this year is shaping up to be no exception. Yes, Brooklyn, you’ll have a new place to scarf down kale salad and burrata in almost every neighborhood this autumn. But forget the standards–here’s an advance look at seven spots that have us chomping at the bit.

Photo: Gumbo Bros.

Photo: Gumbo Bros.

Where you’ll be warming up in cold weather It’s hard to imagine wanting winter-warming stews right about now, but when the snows blow in we’ll be ready for some Louisisan gumbo fo’ sho’. Two fresh-faced LSU grads are set to bring a little Cajun flavor to Kings County with The Gumbo Bros. After operating pop-up locations at various food markets around the city, their centrally located Boerum Hill brick-and-mortar store debuts this November-ish, with authentic gumbo and po’boys, plus chicory coffee and — for when it heats up again–Abita root beer floats. 224 Atlantic Avenue (at Court);

Photo: Skyseeker

One of Ichiran’s ramen isolation booths. Photo: Skyseeker

Where you can eat without saying a word If you detest dinner party chitchat, you’re gonna love the concept of Japanese ramen chain Ichiran, which lands in Brooklyn this October. The restaurant is made up of wall-facing “flavor concentration booths” that block you off from other patrons and allow you to focus on slurping. Their porky broth, chewy housemade noodles and spicy red pepper-based sauce are supposedly worth the attention–Ichiran’s locations in Asia draw dearly devoted followings. Note: probably not the best date night spot. 374 Johnson Avenue (near Bogart); (more…)

07/18/16 10:24am

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…)

06/06/16 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…)

04/25/16 9:00am

When Jane Miller Rennert moved to Windsor Terrace 12 years ago, she had no plans to open a restaurantmuch less establish the burgeoning Prospect Avenue foodie empire she now oversees with business partner Jeremiah Fox.

“It was really just being in this community and seeing what the needs are that made us want to do this,” says Miller Rennert. “Windsor Terrace really dictated what we opened.”

The pair originally met at Juice Box Wine and Spirits, which Miller Rennert’s brother opened and where Fox worked as a longtime manager. Almost three years ago, they found a vacant office space one block up Prospect Ave and started working on their dream restaurant project. It took a couple years to turn the quirky, narrow little property into Della. In the meantime, when another space became available across the street, the duo quickly moved on opening two somewhat less ambitious projects: The Prospector, a trendy beer and cheese shop, and The Fox and The Crepes (which serves pancakes, not forest creatures).

The train-car-like dining room (Photo courtesy Della)

The train-car-like dining room (Photo: Della)

With Della, which finally debuted this January, they sought to give “our wonderfully sleepy neighborhood,” as Miller Rennert calls it, a “neighborhood restaurant that over-delivers.” The beautiful little restaurant is worth the wait. (more…)

03/13/16 8:41pm
Yes, you can get a Guinness at Hartley's. Photo: Spencer Starnes

Yes, you can get a Guinness at Hartley’s. Photo: Spencer Starnes

Americanized Irish pubs in New York all have the same basic blueprint: giant spaces with loud TVs, greasy fish ‘n’ chips, and an array of faux-vintage “Lovely Day for a Guinness” signs hung on dusty exposed brick walls. When Mike O’Sullivan and Jim Dunn, who worked together at Sláinte in downtown Manhattan for several years, along with Dan Grace, a rugby teammate of O’Sullivan’s from back home in Ireland, opted to open their own pub in Brooklyn, they set out to do something decidedly different. (more…)

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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


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01/04/16 10:57am

Another year, another 12,567, 999 restaurants or so getting ready to open in Brooklyn. More hipster food halls? Check. Even more fried chicken sandwiches? Of course, check. So which newcomers are worth getting worked up over?  Well, here’s a serious start. From some very oversized openings to little mom-and-pops, expansions of popular outposts, and the revival of at least one shuttered favorite, here are the 10 upcoming Brooklyn restaurants we’re most excited to dive into, fork first, in 2016.

Photo: Emily

Get ready for Detroit style, crispy squares at Emmy Squared. Photo: Emily

1. Emmy Squared Clinton Hill-ites tired of waiting for a table at wildly popular, pint-sized pizzeria Emily will have another option this spring. Emily’s husband-and-wife owners are debuting this new spot in a former Subway sandwich storefront nearby. Working with Paulie Gee’s vet Lou Tomczak, Emmy Squared will serve Detroit-style square pizza (crisp-edge slices cooked in a pan), plus an enticing lineup of serious sandwiches. 913 Fulton Street (near Clinton Avenue) (more…)

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12/07/15 9:03am
Taking baked potatos to a whole new level (Photo: Mekelburg's)

Taking baked potatoes to a whole new level. Photo: Mekelburg’s

The garden level of a red-brick residential building on quiet Grand Street in Clinton Hill is the unlikely home to one of Brooklyn’s tastiest, and most under-the-radar new eateries. Set back from the street and down a short flight of stairs, Mekelburg’s is about as unsuspecting as it gets–if you do happen to notice it from the street, it doesn’t come off as much more than a fancy bodega.

“Some days we have people who live across the street coming in and saying, ‘I never realized you were here,'” says Alicia Mekelburg, who opened the new spot with her husband Daniel this summer. “Then we also have people from Manhattan coming out here and asking ‘Is this the place with the potato?'”

We’ll get to the potato shortly. (more…)

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11/02/15 10:03am

The fearsome patacon sandwich. Photo: Venezuela’s Finest Eatery

UPDATE: Venezuela’s Finest Eatery has closed.

The world of sandwiches is so overstuffed these days that it takes a LOT to turn my head. Every corner sandwich shop and bodega has some kind of bacon-topped, Sriracha-glazed, bahn mi-inspired, pork-bomb extravagance. I honestly can’t even get excited about them anymore. But then there are the exceptions, and a big one can be found in Sunset Park.

The patacon sandwich is Venezuela’s answer to the KFC Double Down–a fully genius concoction that bypasses bread altogether, and instead layers its meat and sauces inside two crispy, extra-thin but super-durable slices of double-fried green plantains. Folks, we’re done. (more…)

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10/05/15 10:35am
Jin Som Mok: griled fermented ground pork with pork skin, pig's ear, garlic & chili in banana leaves. (Photos: Chiang Mai)

Jin Som Mok: fermented ground pork with pork skin, pig’s ear, garlic and chili in banana leaves. Photo: Chiang Mai

When we last did dinner in Red Hook, we were very happy to introduce Brooklyn Based readers to Kao Soy, an uber-authentic Northern Thai place that opened on Van Brunt Street late last year. Kao Soy has blown up since then, with glowing reviews in The New York Times and elsewhere. In amidst the flood of eager foodies there’s been a bit of a shakeup to report, too. Just as the restaurant was taking off, co-chefs Kanlaya Supachana and Sirichai Sreparplarn abruptly left, along with most of the kitchen staff. Chef Supachana ran the restaurant with her boyfriend; the couple split and the business along with it.

We have a mango salad, but it’s not the typical one you see on the menu at every Thai place in New York City.

It didn’t take long though, for the two talented co-chefs to find a new spot–and they didn’t have to go far, either. Just down Van Brunt Street from Kao Soy, the owners of home/made cafe had free space on their hands, as they’d recently branched out to focus more on their Atelier Roquette event space, so they offered Supachana and Sreparplarn home/made for a six-month pop-up. Supachana brought along her secret family recipe for Kao Soy’s namesake dish–the crispy-fried noodles and chicken dish we described as pad thai on steroids–as well as an expanded menu of Northern Thai specialities.

“The type of dishes we’re serving here are really rare to see in New York City,” says Sreparplarn. (more…)

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