| Blue Light Special: The bar at Park Slope's Bistro St. Mark's.
The pressed hanger-steak slider on a bialy and the flaky pork empanada with cilantro-and-collard-green relish are just two of the reasons this multicultural snack shop remains our favorite place to eat on Clinton Street, despite the proliferating competition. There's also the eclectic wine list, the refreshing house cocktails, the relaxed, hospitable vibe, and the fact that only two dishes (the $13 "bigger hot plates") cost more than $8.
49 Clinton St., 212-979-6096
The Bar @ Etats-Unis shares a kitchen, a wine list, and a pastry chef with the fancy flagship. And the sautéed tiger shrimp with mango and cherry tomatoes sells for $15.
247 East 81st Street; 212-396-9928
Easily the most stylish panini bar in town -- and, happily, bearing no stigma from last month's visit by a gun-wielding madman.
175 Second Avenue; 212-260-3200
Bistro St. Mark's
Every Monday night, chef Johannes Sanzin composes a four-course tasting menu for $25, a spectacular bargain when you see what tasting portions look like in Brooklyn. (Skip lunch.) Sanzin, an alumnus of Bouley, inherited that kitchen's way with fish and the perverse knack of its ultrarich potato purée, which came one night alongside seared black bass with littleneck clams. He revels in unexpected touches, like toasted walnuts and Asian pear in a woody mushroom salad, and a summer succotash of limas, tomato, and corn with the rack of lamb. The high-ceilinged space is an echo chamber, and the staff gets stretched thin, but nothing seems to faze the multicultural clientele of brownstone renovators, bam-goers, and the upstairs neighbor making a solitary dinner of oysters and beer at the bar.
76 St. Mark's Avenue, near Flatbush Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn, 718-857-8600
Floyd Cardoz channels the home-style Indian food of his childhood in dishes like tandoori leg of lamb marinated in black pepper, cardamom, and ginger ($17).
11 Madison Avenue, at 25th Street; 212-889-0667
Craftbar's menacingly crisp panino of duck ham, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, and Taleggio costs $1 less than a side dish of said mushrooms next door. Get two.
47 East 19th Street; 212-780-0880
Judging by the ancient tiled floor and the weathered tin ceiling and walls, you'd never guess DuMont is a relative newcomer to the Williamsburg scene. But it's already become a popular destination for brunch, for takeout, or to while away a solo dinner with a book at the bar. Settle in to friendly service, Sancerre by the glass, and tasty renditions of glorified diner food like lardon-studded "DuMac and cheese" ($9), hearty vegetarian entrées, and blackboard specials like crispy roast chicken slathered with garlicky salsa verde over a salad of fennel, radish, and watercress ($13.50).
432 Union Avenue, at Devoe Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 718-486-7717
Hope & Anchor
Red Hook is a culinary backwater ripe for gentrification -- especially with the prospect of a Fairway satellite on the waterfront, a French brasserie under construction nearby, and the recent opening of this friendly diner, a beacon in the Brooklyn wilderness. Stop in for all-day breakfast, a BLT ($5), or inventive, gently priced dinner entrées ($9–$12) like cauliflower ravioli with raisins and capers. Anything deep-fried is (predictably) delicious, even if the clam cakes have a batter-to-crustacean ratio of about ten to one. Plus a decent wine list, service without attitude, and a superb ice-cream sandwich.
347 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn, 718-237-0276
Il Posto Accanto
An ambitious little enoteca from the owners of Il Bagatto.
190 East 2nd Street; 212-228-3562
Sara Jenkins cooks with the seasons and shops at the Greenmarket, which makes her small daily menu (entrées range from $12 to $22) fresh, unpredictable, and Chez Panissean in spirit -- think Jonathan Waxman's Washington Park on an East Village budget. Earthy, comforting soups; rich, veggie-strewn pastas; boutique free-range pork and veal; and fresh, expertly cooked fish sound simple but are elevated by first-rate ingredients -- even the house olive oil makes a bold, aromatic statement. The décor is thrift-shop funky and the kitchen is tiny, but what emerges from it is often creative, always satisfying, and a refreshing break from the pervasive cook-by-numbers approach.
31 Second Avenue, 212-460-9171