No matter where you stand on the currently contentious notion of Brooklyn as a gourmet destination, there’s no denying that Williamsburg is about to add even more courses to its menu. Flourishing Manhattan operations like Crif Dogs, ’inoteca, and the Meatball Shop have signed leases, and Porchetta and Xi’an Famous Foods are nosing around. But amid the interborough brand expansion, the corner of Metropolitan Avenue and Havemeyer Street has somewhat improbably evolved into a hub of great, highly individualistic grub, where a cluster of restaurants and bars represents Brooklyn’s, if not the city’s, culinary Zeitgeist. Concentrated within two short blocks just off the BQE, the gastropilgrim will find all the tokens of the 21st-century urban appetite: first-rate fried chicken, nose-to-tail barbecue, idiosyncratic locavore French, craft-beer nirvana, and some of the city’s most original sandwiches. The icing on the cake? Momofuku Milk Bar’s brand-new, gazillion-square-foot production kitchen, with a secret retail counter concealed behind double doors. And here, nearly everyone’s family. In 2003, back when the bar Black Betty was the corner’s only sign of hipster life, Joe Carroll and his now-wife Kim converted a ground-floor apartment into beer bar Spuyten Duyvil. Three years later, Tony & Sons’ garage across the street went up for rent; the Carrolls pegged it as the perfect locale for their BBQ joint, Fette Sau. And then the space next to Spuyten Duyvil became available, allowing the couple not only to expand the bar’s cramped garden but to open an haute snack bar of sorts: St. Anselm, which carved out unique regional-Americana territory with deep-fried hot dogs and White Manna–style sliders. (After operating six months without a liquor license, Carroll has temporarily shuttered the space until the paperwork comes through.) The Momofuku DNA extends beyond Milk Bar, too: Former Noodle Bar chef Joaquin Baca opened the Brooklyn Star a few blocks up Havemeyer Street and plans to soon relocate it a short jaunt up Metropolitan. (Meanwhile, Baca and partners have converted the original location into Best Pizza, a terrific new slice joint.) On the south side of Metropolitan, three unaffiliated businesses represent the Diner Diaspora: Saltie’s trio of chef-owners worked at that seminal Billyburg spot, as did the Commodore’s fried-chicken savant, Stephen Tanner. Tanner also opened Roebling Tea Room and hired its current chef, Dennis Spina, who buys most of his grass-fed, locally raised meat from Diner alum Tom Mylan at the Meat Hook nearby. They might have all wound up neighbors by accident, but the chefs have become a close-knit community, sharing inspiration as well as ingredients. There’s the pimentón-spiked “Saltie potato salad” Tanner served at the Commodore, for instance—not to mention the slices imported from Best Pizza for Sunday’s “hangover brunch”—and the Saltie focaccia Spina employed in a fried-pumpkin-and-ricotta sandwich. “It was like a calzone,” says Saltie co-chef Caroline Fidanza, with great admiration and a tinge of envy. “I wanted to steal it back.”
1. Roebling Tea Room
143 Roebling St., at Metropolitan Ave.; 718-963-0760
What do you get from a self-trained chef with an experimental nature and a French fetish? Squid skewered on juniper sticks, steak tartare with Kewpie mayo, and duck breast with veal sweetbreads and almond butter.
2. St. Anselm
355 Metropolitan Ave., nr. Havemeyer St.; 718-384-5054
Cross your fingers for the return of the deep-fried tube- steak monstrosity known as a Newark Double and other American regional treasures when the space reopens with a liquor license.
3. Spuyten Duyvil
359 Metropolitan Ave., nr. Havemeyer St.; 718-963-4140
A true beer drinker’s nirvana, where the Belgian brews are helpfully categorized under Flemish, Wallonian, and lambics.
4. The Commodore
366 Metropolitan Ave., at Havemeyer St.; 718-218-7632
You have to wrestle a gaggle of hipsters just to get to the bar to place your food order, but the crackling fried chicken thighs, the pimento-and-poblano grilled cheese sandwich, and the green-chile posole are the best bar food in town.
5. Best Pizza
33 Havemeyer St., nr. N. 7th St.; 718-599-2210
Brilliant thin-crust pizza baked in a 100-year-old wood-fired oven and reminiscent of New York’s slice-joint greats, Joe’s and the East Harlem Patsy’s among them.
7. The Brooklyn Star
593 Lorimer St., at Conselyea St.; 718-599-9899
After a fire shuttered his original location, chef-owner Joaquin Baca has found a new home for his southern-inflected comfort-food joint across the BQE, with nearly quadruple the space and a full bar.
8. Momofuku Milk Bar
382 Metropolitan Ave., nr. Havemeyer St.; no phone
This Wonkaesque production kitchen also operates a retail counter for impulse Crack Pie purchases (credit cards only).
378 Metropolitan Ave., nr. Havemeyer St.; 718-387-4777
A sandwich shop like no other trafficking in wonderfully weird combinations like the Clean Slate—lentil hummus and bulgur on house-baked naan, with yogurt, fresh herbs, and pickled beets and watermelon radishes.
10. Fette Sau
354 Metropolitan Ave, nr. Havemeyer St.; 718-963-3404
Even expat Texans and North Carolinians we know have come around to admitting that New York is a world-class barbecue town thanks to Fette Sau’s spectacularly smoky offerings and inimitable setting adjacent to Tony & Sons auto-body shop.