In the last few years, Downtown Brooklyn has exploded in growth with sky-high condo buildings, national hotel chains and modernized malls. But in between the clothing and grocery chains, which make it a major new shopping destination, there are still places to find truly original food and things to do that are authentic to DoBro, giving the neighborhood a vibe of its own. In between shopping, you’ll find an Asian restaurant explosion and a sprinkling of very legit and comfortable bars. The three-Michelin starred Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare may have moved to Midtown, but Chelsea Piers will be moving in and opening a 52,000-square-foot Brooklyn outpost at 33 Bond St. With every new opening, the neighborhood keeps metamorphosing into more of a place to be. Here are the best ways to experience it:
Good Eats: From Asian Inspired to Jewish Deli Classics
The latest addition to the Downtown Brooklyn food and beverage scene is Circa Brewing Co, a new pizza spot and fully functioning brewery in a 6,000-square-foot space. There are 11 beers on tap, with enough to dazzle any small batch brewery bro, but there’s also wine and cocktails. Although everyone in Brooklyn is probably sick of pizza, Circa really jazzes theirs up. The Lox pizza with smoked salmon and everything bagel spice or the Benedict pizza with eggs and ham are both delicious spins on weekend brunch classics. Any other time, the clam pie is like a tasty garlic cloud. The space is gorgeous and roomy, perfect for big groups or an intimate night eating at the bar. Circa, 141 Lawrence St., Brooklyn.
On an unassuming street, sandwiched in next to a hair salon, is Yaso Tangbao, where a line of patient customers line up out the door for literally the best soup dumplings in Brooklyn. Specializing in Shanghai street food, this small space offers up creations like Blue Crab & Pork, Spicy Pork Chicken & Activated Charcoal or Yaso Pork. One bite squirts a flavorful broth into your mouth, making these essential for cold winter days. If you can get beyond the dumplings, they have wonderful pulled noodle dishes, savory spare ribs and sweet pork buns. Wait for your tray of food, and then cop a squat at the communal tables, where you can eyeball what everyone else is eating and choose your menu for next time. Yaso Tangbao, 148 Lawrence St. Brooklyn
Although it seems like there is a new Food Hall opening up every week, you’ll want to try the food at nearly every stall in the gigantic Dekalb Market Hall. It’s all about the brisket at Fletcher’s Barbecue, fried chicken at Wilma Jean, and an incredible list of subs at Lioni Brooklyn Italian Heroes. Vegetarians will find something here too at the Arepa Lady, Pierogi Boys or Eight Turn Crepe. No longer will you have to visit Manhattan to get you Pastrami fix; Katz’s Delicatessen has an outpost here called A Taste of Katz’s with the same menu and a shorter wait time. One of the issues here is overcrowding and lack of seating. But there are two sit-down restaurants, including Han Dynasty, a spot for fresh Chinese, and family-style portions. Dekalb Market Hall, Inside the City Point Development, 445 Albee Square W, Brooklyn
Ramen is trend that we are happy to see roll right through the winter. Ganso, a comfortable soup nook in the heart of downtown delivers soothing hot noodle broths to Brooklyn’s ramen snobs. A clean wooden decor engulfs couples on a first date, early family suppers and singles sitting at the chef’s table bar. The house ramen is the thing to get, but teriyaki salmon bento boxes, buns and Japanese sodas can complete a decadent meal. It’s the kind of food you’ll be addicted to, coming back again and again for more. Ganso, 25 Bond St., Brooklyn
Creative Cocktails In Original Spaces:
Downtown Brooklyn’s Livingston Manor takes its inspiration from the Catskills, as well as a play on its address, near Livingston Street. This former bodega, on an unassuming block, is hands down the best bar in the neighborhood. You’re bound to run into someone you know, have too many drinks, and find yourself dancing to the solid music playlist. The classic cocktials, craft beers and wine choices aim to please, and if your stomach needs to take a break from the drinks, there’s a nice nibble menu to hold you over. Livingston Manor, 42 Hoyt St., Brooklyn
Tucked away on the first floor of Alamo Drafthouse at City Point is House of Wax, a theme bar that rivals the long-standing Jekyll & Hydes in Manhattan. According to the website: “Based on the panoptica touring attractions of the late 1800s, House of Wax exhibits a rare selection of waxwork sculptures featuring life-size, realistic displays of anatomy, pathology, anthropology and even death masks of famous (and infamous) celebrities.” But, more than just a joke bar, House of Wax delivers on interesting cocktails, good DJs and an unusual vibe. It’s the perfect hang before or after your movie, or even as a stop on your bar crawl. House of Wax, (in City Point Development) 445 Albee Square West, 4th floor across from Alamo Drafthouse.
Grand Army is the epitome of a favorite neighborhood spot. It’s on State Street, so it might technically be Boerum Hill, but with downtown pushing on the boundaries, anything North of Atlantic will eventually be part of DoBro. It’s got the charm of a bistro with the elegance of a raw bar. Sip on seasonal cocktails, which are currently inspired by the Brothers Grimm, and linger in front of a roaring fireplace. It’s the quintessential date spot, with aphrodisiacs like oysters, mezcal, and good lighting. Grand Army, 336 State St., Brooklyn
Other Things To Do:
At the heart of Downtown Brooklyn is retail. The Fulton Mall has long provided shoppers with athletic wear, gold grills and soul mix CDs. Over the last few years, all of your favorite chains have moved right in, including H & M, Target and Century 21. Unlike most of Brooklyn’s boutique shopping areas, these stores offer up a different kind of commodity: convenience. After chowing down at Dekalb Market Hall, step inside Trader Joes for your pantry essentials or walk across Flatbush for 365 Whole Foods, the lower priced health food chain, which is opening January 31st. And finally, if it’s technology, you are in the market for, Apple has opened a megastore with all the typical hype and crowds, but the location is incredibly useful if your computer freezes.
Alamo Drafthouse is the best place to see a movie in Brooklyn. With large luxe assigned seating, a great movie selection, and delicious food offerings, there’s nothing not to like here. Beyond the meal options like Brisket Burger or the Asian Salmon Salad, there’s upgraded standard movie fare, if that’s more your speed. Popcorn with Truffle Parmesan Butter or Baked Pretzels fulfills a savory palate, while Odd Fellows Ice Cream or Sour Patch Kids can cure a sugar fix. Also, there’s cocktails, which make everything better. Alamo Drafthouse, 445 Albee Square West
A hidden gem in DoBro is the very unpublicized TKTS Booth, where it’s possible to get same day evening discount tickets or next day matinee tickets for many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. From our limited investigation, this booth hardly ever has a line, and seems to have the same wide selection as the other more densely crowded booths. As of writing, one could buy half price tix for Kinky Boots, Sponge Bob Square Pants, the Musical or John Leguizamo, Latin History For Morons. Or you could get tickets for Meteor Shower, written by Steve Martin and starring Amy Schumer and Keegan Michael-Key. It seems that Broadway is no longer just for tourists, and although you might not find discounted Hamilton tickets here, there are many other interesting choices. TKTS Booth, 1 Metro Tech Center, Brooklyn