Best Brooklyn Restaurants: A Day of Pizza and Roast Beef

Best Brooklyn Restaurants

Brooklyn, New York, is rediscovering its hey-day, today. Its first period of renaissance took place before the start of the Cold War, when a Brooklyn Dodgers team played on Ebbets Field, when the Parachute Jump operated, when the consequences of ingesting a Nathan’s hot dog was still unknown, when Soviets were not yet the enemy (and not yet the majority population in places like Brighton Beach). Ah, the good old days. But you can still get a taste of that borough by eating at the best Brooklyn restaurants that came onto the scene in the 1920s and ’30s. For this food tour, we’ll focus on South Brooklyn.

 

The Best Brooklyn Restaurants for Pizza and Roast Beef

 

Best Brooklyn Restaurants

 

We begin at L&B Spumoni Gardens. Though this 1939 Brooklyn institution gets its name from founder Ludovico Barbati and his phenomenal homemade spumoni–a delicious blend of vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio ices that is served in a Dixie cup for $3.50–the real treat here is the Sicilian pizza. It’s dished up with assembly-work speed, but tastes as if each slice were given the attention paid to a sumptuous wedding cake. Unlike the typical Sicilian slice, an L&B square has the mozzarella beneath the sauce and is topped with a sprinkling of parmesan. I devoured four slices, all of which, whether centers or ends, had the perfect ratio between crispness and doughiness.

 

I enjoy Brooklyn’s atmosphere, so I avoided their indoor dining room and ate on the patio with my wife and our friend Andrea, Sheepshead Bay’s finest. Dozens of red picnic tables were set up outside and a soundtrack from the ’80s and ’90s played a setlist that included A Whole New World, The Wind Beneath My Wings, a Dirty Dancing ditty, and a song that the girls guessed belonged to 98 Degrees.

 

Best Brooklyn Restaurants

 

A few things to remember on your visit to L&B on 86th Street, near the Avenue V intersection:

 

Order at least half a pie, or twelve slices, which costs $19. Do not be a fool and order a triangle slice. I repeat, do not be a slimeball (or whatever the kids are saying these days in Brooklyn) and order a triangular-shaped slice. And lastly, don’t be tricked into going into N&D pizza, two blocks and two letters away from L&B. This pizza pop-up has been built to confuse the dyslexic.

 

N&D pizza

 

N&D Pizza

 

Speaking of N&D Pizza, another one of Brooklyn’s best restaurants from the 1930s sits across the street from a second one of these imposter pizza joint. It’s called Brennan and Carr, the home of Brooklyn’s tastiest roast beef sandwich. B&C (to keep things easy and thematic), on the corner of Nostrond Avenue and Avenue U, opened their door in 1938 and looks today like a displaced, wooden pub. The manager sits at an ancient cash register up front, where waiters in shirts, ties, and butcher smocks announce orders to the kitchen via microphone. You can take out, but it’s best to eat in the dining room, which has a fireplace and Civil War art. The only thing worth ordering at B&C is the R&B.

 

Best Brooklyn Restaurants

 

Soggy bread is most often a turn off, but at B&C it’s an innovation. The best way to order your roast beef sandwich is to ask for a single dip, which is when the cook dips one bun in the beef broth. It’s also the default way that your sandwich will be served if you do not specify. If you want a sandwich so soggy you’ll need to rely on knife and fork, say double dip. And if wet bread ruins your appetite, at least have them dip the meat. I ordered my sandwich with cheese and the melted American and tender roast could have been the best $5.50 I’d ever spent in Brooklyn. (I’m typing this while drinking a latte in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which goes for about the same price. The milk is curdling in my stomach knowing that the opportunity cost of this hipster latte and some gasoline to take me south would be that sandwich.) For $11.00, you and some friends can wash down your roast beef with pitchers of beer.

 

Brennan and Carr

 

While I’m mentioning Brooklyn institutions named after the founders’ initials, I thought I would mention that my grandfather, Leon, owned a butcher shop in Brooklyn, partnering up with his friend Archie. While A&L Butchers is no longer, it’s a moment to tell my favorite A&L butcher shop story. A man walked into Poppy’s store with a knife and demanded the money from the register. “You should have come in with a gun,” Poppy told him and chased him down the street with a meat cleaver. But I’ve digressed.

 

For the last of the best Brooklyn restaurants on the South side of town, let me take you to another pizza joint, entirely different from the Sicilian slices of L&B. Totonno’s Pizza on Neptune Avenue in Coney Island is Brooklyn’s best thin slice pizza, hands down. The no frills, hole-in-the-wall, coal-oven operation is usually staffed by one cook, who makes the pies with painstaking care. While service is slow, enjoyment is long-lasting. For about $16.00, you and a friend will understand why Brooklyn, New York equals pizza. (You cannot order a slice. Full pies only.)

 

Which of the best Brooklyn restaurants is your favorite eatery?

 

Posted on by Noah Lederman in New York, Or Bust

5 Responses to Best Brooklyn Restaurants: A Day of Pizza and Roast Beef

  1. Jai

    Hi Noah,
    It’s been a tradition in my wife’s family for years. They are Brooklyn residents and I was introduced to it a few years ago. Now whenever we go back to Brooklyn each year, we always spend one evening at L&B Spumoni Gardens. It’s so old skool and typical Brooklyn. Love it. Thanks for sharing.
    Jai (San Francisco)
    Jai recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

    • Noah Lederman

      Keep that tradition alive. It sounds awesome. One of my buddies also has a tradition of splitting one half L&B pie with his brother and they don’t leave until they eat the entire thing. He’s a little guy and 6 thick Sicilian slices each is a big undertaking.

  2. Sam

    Great visit back to the “old” country…..Brooklyn!

  3. elyse

    I still say RnR (aka Roll n Roaster) on Emmons Avenue is better than Brennan and Carr’s any day of the week.

    • Noah Lederman

      I went there once when I was a kid, when my taste buds considered Burger King the true King of Whoppers. Because of that former deficiency, I’ve decided not to write any reviews that require surveying my younger self. But on your say-so, that’s on my itinerary for next time.

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