| Gotta have Hope: Fried fish at Red Hook's Hope & Anchor.
Ever wonder how the ingredients that go into a typical banh mi -- crunchy veggies plus all those mysterious pork products -- would work piled on something besides French bread? Between two slices of Wonder bread, say? Not so well, we imagine, texture being half the appeal of this great French-Vietnamese fusion sandwich. That's why we're so enamored of this Sunset Park snack shop's $2.50 "special" banh mi, which has all that wonderfully weird lunch meat plus homemade pâté, pickled carrots, cukes, cilantro, jalapeño, and gobs of thick mayo, all carefully wedged into a superior crusty baguette. Plus, the owner's daughter pours a mean Vietnamese iced coffee, and on weekends, Mom turns out an admirable duck soup.
5424 Eighth Avenue, at 55th Street, Sunset Park, Brooklyn; 718-972-2269
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
Brick Oven Gallery
If there's a certain nostalgic quality to this off-the-beaten-track Williamsburg pizzeria, it comes from the 119-year-old brick oven. So do the crisp, flavorful thin-crusted pies ($7–$12), the wood-fired chicken panini with roast tomatoes and goat cheese ($8), even the extra-thin, herb-crusted flatbread used to scoop up "Brooklyn caviar" (a smoky melange of eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes, $6). A sidewalk table on the preternaturally quiet block is an unpretentious oasis in the midst of hipsterville.
33 Havemeyer St., near North 7th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 718-963-0200
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
Locanda Vini & Olii
Despite the sign outside reading lewis drug store, the burnished-wood apothecary drawers, and the rolling ladders, the only prescription this onetime pharmacy fills now is for satisfying, sometimes unfamiliar Italian food in an artfully preserved setting. Nibble on herb-seasoned olives and cheese, share a platter of cured-meat or seafood charcuterie ($10.95 and $12), dip saltless Tuscan-style bread into romaine-lettuce pesto, and sample the pasta tasting of the day ($8.75). The monthly wine-tasting dinners and the relaxing, highly civilized jazz brunch are worth a special trip.
129 Gates Avenue, at Cambridge Place, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, 718-622-9202
Park Slope has wholeheartedly embraced this poor man's Le Bernardin, and with good reason: Chef-owner Aaron Bashy and his wife, Vicki, deliver high-quality, inventively prepared seafood at neighborhood-friendly prices (most entrées run $16–$17). The cozy vibe and diverse wine selection are as much of a draw as the meaty fish cakes with toasted-paprika aïoli and the couscous-crusted scallops with chickpea fries. And between his periodic kids' cooking classes and his all-you-can-eat blue-crab fests, Bashy seems determined to turn his modest neighborhood restaurant into a full-fledged community center.
442 9th Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn, 718-832-5500
Wine and light Mediterranean fare for Smith Street's bar-hoppers and boutique shoppers.
275 Smith Street, Brooklyn; 718-237-2728
Park Slope panini shop.
195 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-857-1950