I travel for the Food

Little Black Book: Whole Foods Forager Digs Brooklyn

by Elly Truesdell

Photo: Elly Truesdell

Elly Truesdell, the local forager for Whole Foods Market's Northeast region, is constantly on the hunt for new and interesting finds. The store's first Brooklyn outpost is slated to open in six months, so she's looking for potential partnerships and tasting a good deal of food along the way. Here are a few of her favorite local dining spots.

The Islands
803 Washington Ave., Crown Heights; +1-718-398-3575
This restaurant runs on island time, and with that in mind, it's one of the best dining experiences in Brooklyn. The five-table restaurant offers a limited Caribbean menu and is BYO. Their heaping homemade dishes include a hearty vegetarian curry with limas, chickpeas, red beans, and golden raisins and sides of stewed cabbage and rice (delicious staples that come with every order). The service is sassy — or, as I see it — as fresh as the plates being served.

Grady’s 
Smorgasburg, 27 N. 6th St., Williamsburg; no phone
The Brooklyn Flea’s Saturday food stall frenzy is teeming with so many options you could go into a panic. I advise starting with a refreshing and calming sip: Make your way through smells of pork and doughnuts dropping in the fryer, and beeline for Grady’s Cold Brew, New Orleans-style iced coffee steeped overnight for a smooth, non-bitter result. With Grady’s in hand you can navigate the dozens of sandwich, dessert, and prepared options with caffeinated clarity.

Reynards

Photo: Courtesy of Wythe Hotel

Reynards 
80 Wythe Ave., Williamsburg; +1-718-460-8004
I love a hotel bar. Add impressive food and service, and I’m swooning. Reynards at the Wythe Hotel offers it all: beautiful setting, market-driven menu, servers that give just enough detail. Each plate is nicely sized and bright with herbs and infused oils. The aesthetic and atmosphere is so inviting it can trick you into thinking you’re a guest at the hotel, even if you live in Brooklyn.

Blue Apron Foods
814 Union St., Park Slope; +1-718-230-3180
This is a carefully curated specialty food store that's been a Park Slope staple for ten years. The owner, who is often behind the counter, is friendly and brimming with knowledge, has selected an assortment of cheeses, charcuterie, baked goods, coffees, and other provisions that range from rare to classic. The jams, jellies, spreads, and condiments are especially impressive as the store is not driven by or overrun with new Brooklyn artisanal standards seen in most rookie shops. Instead, older and lesser-known producers, many from Manhattan, are represented on the shelves with chutneys, pâtés, biscuits, and pastries. Blue Apron is a fantastic picnic resource for those who find themselves in the neighborhood en route to Prospect Park.

Chuka

Photo: Courtesy of Chuko

Chuko 
552 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights; +1-718-576-6701 
While stripped down and simple in décor, Chuko offers extreme depth and flavor surprises. There's a small menu and daily chalkboard specials to accompany four staple ramen choices. The pork and soy are delectable but the vegetarian miso with seasonal vegetables truly wins as far as flavor. You'll leave very full, having overdone it on snacks like salt-and-pepper chicken wings, spicy pickles, and a crispy kale salad. And by drinking every last drop of ramen broth.

Culture Yogurt
138 Wiloughby St., Downtown Brooklyn; +1-718-499-0207
Find Dekalb Market amid not-so-charming downtown Brooklyn. Its perimeter is broad and made up of stacked shipping containers, providing a nicely fortressed outdoor market with food vendors, gardens, boutiques, and studios, often with light, breezy music overhead. The market is vast and better suited for window-shopping and menu-gazing than for making any major commitments. There is one stall that shouldn’t be missed: Culture Yogurt. Stroll leisurely through the stalls, happily spooning tart, super fresh yogurt as you go.

Maison Premiere

Photo: Courtesy of Maison Premiere

Maison Premiere
298 Bedford Ave., Williamsburg; +1-347-335-0446
I had the chance to first visit this fantastic little spot for an oyster eating contest with hundreds of emptied shells, cheering fans, and live bands to add to the atmosphere. On normal afternoons or nights you’ll find a passionate and extremely knowledgeable staff ready to offer suggestions in a charming, old-timey oyster bar setting. The mood is convivial, the menu is spot-on, and wines are appropriate for oyster towers of any size.

No. 7
7 Greene Ave., Fort Greene; +1-718-522-6370
Because it's hidden beneath scaffolding directly above a C train stop, this Fort Greene restaurant doesn't look like much from the outside. But walk through and it opens up into a broad, warmly lit galley space, with a bar lining the front and banquettes circling the back. Food is playful and dictated by season. Starters like double-decker broccoli tacos and soft-boiled-then-fried eggs are fun and representative of the chef’s inventive style. The drinks, packed with fruit from the market, are colorful and bright. A tasty, approachable experience all around.

Solber Pupusa

Photo: Courtesy of Solber Pupusa

Solber Pupusa
Various locations, Fort Greene & Red Hook; +1-516-395-0061
Find the Solber Pupusa truck at the Brooklyn Flea or Red Hook ball fields, serving up El Salvador's staple dish on styrofoam plates. Pupusas are corn cakes seared on the grill and used as a carrier for protein (pork, fish, or lorococ flower and beans), pickled cabbage, jalapenos, tomato sauce, cheese, jalapeno, and a dollop of crema. Use a fork and knife or pick it up like a giant taco and devour.

Roberta’s
261 Moore St.; +1-718-417-1118
The pizza joint is almost entirely made of reclaimed wood and other found items. Just beyond the French doors is a patio overlooking a shipping container studio, where the team from Heritage Radio Network broadcasts terrific live programming on topics of food and culture. The founder of the network, Patrick Martins, supplies other content to the restaurant in the form of pork, poultry, and beef which is used generously by Roberta’s chefs on pizzas, salads, and innovative specials. The main event – brick oven pizza – will never disappoint, but it’s the daily features and small plates that are particularly impressive. The back bar and garden are equally charming and as homegrown as the rest of the place, so that any seat in the house (if you can get one) has appeal.

MAP IT

See the locations in this story. (Google Maps)

READ MORE ON FATHOM

How Locals Spend a Sunday: The Flea, the Food, the Kid, Brooklyn
Smorgasburg Saturdays
Local Obsessions: NYC Pizza by the Slice

Elly Truesdell

Elly Truesdell is the Northeast regional local forager for Whole Foods Market. She travels for the food.

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