Mardi Gras is over, so the faithful are about to give up something for the 40 days of Lent.
But we’re devotees of another religion — food — so rather than give up something we cherish, we set out to compile the definitive list of the Brooklyn dishes, drinks and treats that no Brooklyn foodie can give up — not for God, not for health reasons, not for nobody.
Naturally, it’s difficult to choose just one dish.
“I couldn’t live without the cumin beef from Grand Sichuan House, the pho from Pho Hoai, or the potato and egg sandwich from Defonte’s,” said Allison Robicelli, one-half behind the team that makes those equally desirable cupcakes.
And we wouldn’t want to, either. So here’s our list of the things that you’d better not give up for Lent:
Warning: This mouth-watering Montreal pile of French fries, cheese curds and mushroom gravy at the Boerum Hill palace of smoked meat is habit-forming.
“I’m addicted!” said Laura O’Neill, co-owner of Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, which, conveniently enough, recently opened up a new shop in Cobble Hill nearby. “I don’t eat meat so it’s a dream come true for me.”
If you aren’t a vegetarian, you can add smoked meat for only $3.
Mile End [97 Hoyt St. at Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, (718) 852-7510]; Van Leeuwen [81 Bergen St. at Smith Street in Boerum Hill, (718) 701-1630].
After the snow, this food cart disappeared for a few weeks, and faithful followers were distraught. Luckily, it returned ready to feed the masses delicious home-cooked empanadas and burritos.
“She makes some of the best homemade hot sauces I have ever had,” said Robicelli. “I like everything she does, but my favorite is just a plain cheese empanada which I literally slather with her hot sauces. I wish she would bottle them.”
Chef Sean Rembold changes his menu daily at this Williamsburg restaurant, so when you see it listed, be sure to order the fried chicken sandwich served on homemade foccacia for lunch — one of the best offerings in an area loaded with fried food.
“There are few things in life that I adore more than fried chicken,” said Nick Suarez, one half of the team behind the Brooklyn Food Experiments. “I wish every fried chicken sandwich was as reliable as theirs. ”
Diner [85 Broadway at Berry Street in Williamsburg, (718) 486-3077].
This Chinatown institution may draw crowds for its seafood platter, “Pride of Lucky Eight,” but the crispy garlic fried chicken will have you coming back for more.
“The idea of losing Lucky Eight’s garlic fried chicken even for a week let alone Lent would be a nightmare,” said Theo Peck, Suarez’s partner in crime in the Brooklyn Food Experiments, of the Sunset Park spot’s dish. “Thank God, I am Jewish. I can also eat it on Christmas.”
Lucky Eight [5204 Eighth Ave at 52nd Street in Sunset Park, (718) 851-8862].
If you like eggs on a roll, there are only two perfect sandwiches for you. At the DUMBO General Store, the eggs are surrounded by thick-cut, crispy, smokey bacon and gooey cheddar, all piled into a crusty loaf. At Five Leaves in Greenpoint, the eggs are first scrambled with a healthy dose of sage, then pocked with big chunks of white cheddar before the drippy mess is hoisted into a brioche roll.
DUMBO General Store [111 Front St. between Washington and Adams streets in DUMBO, (718) 855-5288]; Five Leaves [18 Bedford Ave. at Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint, (718) 383-5345].
DiFara and Grimaldis may be the big names in pizza around these parts, but neither does the grandma pie — essentially a thin-crust Sicilian. And Bay Ridge’s Bella Luna does — to perfection.
“It’s just cooked perfectly,” said Carlo Scissura, chief of staff to Borough President Markowitz, who may rival his boss as the ultimate Brooklyn foodie. “Not heavy, not greasy, it’s just light, delicious, and really good.”
Bella Luna [719 86th St. at Battery Avenue in Bay Ridge, (718) 836-9444]
Sometimes, you just want a big, juicy, buttery steak. And Peter Luger delivers (there’s a reason it’s so famous, after all).
“I would never give up the T-bone steak at Peter Luger, it’s still the best,” said Chef Guillaume Thivet of Cadaques Tapas Bar and Restaurant in Williamsburg. “I think the way they cook it in those old ovens makes the difference — the steak is most, tender, extremely juicy and the finishing with the butter makes it so nutty. And the flavor of meat and butter is unbeatable.”
Peter Luger [178 Broadway at Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 387-7400]; Cadaques Tapas Bar and Restaurant [188 Grand St. between Bedford and Driggs avenues in Williamsburg, (718) 218-7776].
Once you’ve had the caipirinha at this Williamsburg Brazilian bar, you may never go back.
“It’s made with a cachaça that smells like ripe banana and it’s minty and sugary with a lots of lime,” said chef Mathieu Palombino, who works nearby at Motorino. “You have to have three — it’s unstoppable.
Beco [45 Richardson St. near Lorimer Street in Williamsburg, (718) 599-1645]; Motorino [319 Graham Ave. at Devoe Street in Williamsburg, (718) 599-8899].
In Brooklyn, Stumptown is ubiquitous for coffee, earning fans, including Mile End’s Noah Bernamoff, for its light, sweet taste.
“He loves the light roasting which allows the natural sweetness and acidity to come through, and the accessibility of having their local roastery supply super fresh beans,” said his wife, Rae Cohen.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters (219 Van Brunt St. at Commerce Street in Red Hook, no phone).
For a drink with some kick to it, head to Prime Meats for the Carroll Gardens restaurant’s expertly crafted cocktails — specifically, the Old Fashioned, made with Rittenhouse rye and housemade pear bitters.
“It’s the perfect cocktail — the block ice slowly dilutes the rye whisky and the housemade bitters round it out,” said Cohen. “It’s never too sweet, and there’s nary a cherry in sight.”
Prime Meats [465 Court St. at Luquer Street in Carroll Gardens, (718) 254-0327].
As far as dessert crazes go, donuts are slated to be the next big thing. So head to this already popular old-school Greenpoint bakery while the lines are still tolerable. And make sure to get a red velvet donut, which is as deliciously decadent as it sounds. At only a dollar a pop, better make that two.
Peter Pan Bakery [727 Manhattan Ave. between Meserole and Norman avenues in Greenpoint, (718) 389-3676].
The chocolate chip cookie, she is an evil temptress — always flirting, but so rarely delivering. But at Jacques Torres’s DUMBO factory, warm cookies are always on the griddle, enticing with their rivers of molten dark chocolate and vague aroma of caramel. To call this a cookie is an insult — Torres uses only enough dough to make sure that the chocolate holds together in a single patty. A life without this cookie is a life not worth living.
Jacques Torres [66 Water St. between Main and Dock streets in DUMBO, (718) 875-9772].