If you're craving a hearty but healthy burger, head down to Bareburger on the corner of 1st Street and 7th Avenue in Park Slope. Take your pick from any of the 14 burgers on the menu: options include beef, turkey, veggie, lamb, wild boar, elk, bison, and ostrich. (If you can't decide on a single protein, order a variety of the mini sliders.) My all-time favorite menu item is the California (I like it with beef), with sharp Cheddar, Hass avocado, romaine lettuce, tomato, raw red onion, and cilantro-lime dressing. And don't miss the wide array of sides, including onion rings and fresh-cut French fries served with eight different house-made ketchups and mayos.
The moment you walk in the door of Frankies 457 in Carroll Gardens, you know you're somewhere special. The low-key farmhouse decor is inviting, and the garlic and tomato aromas coming from the open kitchen are intoxicating. Some of our favorite dishes include the crimini mushroom and truffle oil crostini, the house-made cavatelli with Faicco's hot sausage and browned sage butter, and the house-made linguine with spring fava beans, garlic, tomato, and toasted bread crumbs. Enjoy your meal on the garden patio and indulge in the restaurant's culinary delights under the stars.
Joya, located in Boerum Hill, is my go-to Thai restaurant for favorites like chicken pad thai and Kang Masaman curry (chicken or beef with potatoes and peanuts in a rich coconut curry sauce). The menu stars more than 10 varieties of curries and 4 noodle dishes, plus a wide selection of hot and cold appetizers, including my kids' favorite: fried spring rolls with plum sauce. Joya is a perfect spot for date night or a family night out, and while the flavors may be rich, the prices are definitely affordable.
There is no better place to satisfy my comfort food cravings than Junior's, which has one location in downtown Brooklyn, plus two in Manhattan (and a fourth at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut). My go-to meal is their gooey grilled cheese sandwich served on thick slices of buttery, toasted challah bread, second best only to my grandmother's. You can't go to Junior's without sampling a slice of their legendary cheesecake. For $6, you get a slice as big as a house, so bring your friends and share the confectionary wealth!
You don't forget a name like Lomzynianka, even if it takes you a few tries to pronounce it. The Greenpoint favorite serves fine Polish home cooking in a setting that reminds me of a grandmother's house. For a traditional sampling of tastes, order the Polish Platter, featuring three pierogies, a link of crisp kielbasa, boiled cabbage stuffed with ground pork and rice, mashed potatoes, and bigos (a savory stew of cabbage and meat)—all for less than $10. Like the cabbage or the stag's head on the wall, I'm always left stuffed. Remember to BYOB and leave the credit cards at home, as Lomzynianka's is cash only.
The Meatball Shop has found a way to take a food as ordinary as a meatball and transform it into a serious party for your mouth. The restaurant, which has three locations in New York including its Brooklyn shop in Williamsburg, showcases classic and creative takes on meatballs, including beef, pork, chicken, and vegetable varieties doused in any of five homemade sauces (tomato sauce, spicy meat sauce, mushroom gravy, Parmesan cream, and pesto). My personal favorite is the Smash, which features two meatballs smashed on a toasted brioche bun with your choice of sauce and mozzarella or provolone cheese.
Don't miss a trip to National in Russian Brighton Beach, where you will feast like a czar or czarina (or someone who is trying to break all eating records). The menu spotlights traditional Russian dishes, such as pancakes with red caviar and herring, beef, pork, chicken, and lamb shish kebabs, and potato and meat dumplings. The festive nightclub ambience makes National the perfect spot for a night outand true to Russian form, the vodka is always flowing.
When I venture outside the confines of Manhattan, I do so for a good reason: a big, juicy steak from Peter Luger's, one of the most acclaimed and historic steak houses in the state (and quite possibly the country). There are no frills and no fancy decor here—Luger's takes a sort of "skip the sweet talk" approach to fine dining. You can't go wrong with the USDA prime dry-aged beef for two (or for four, depending on the size of your party and your appetite). Even though the steak is the main draw, don't bypass the appetizers, especially Luger's bacon, which is cut extra thick and served sizzling to your table.
Stone Park Cafe in the heart of Park Slope is the type of restaurant where you walk in and feel like you're settling into a friend's dining room. The owners, Josh Foster and Josh Grinker, grew up in the neighborhood, and have created a warm restaurant that serves seasonal, flavorful American food. My favorites are the fish dishes, which rotate depending on what's available and in season; the short rib sliders topped with quail eggs; and the hanger steak served with black pepper Spaetzle, red chard, and balsamic veal reduction. Even with so many great restaurants in the neighborhood, my husband and I often find ourselves returning to Stone Park time and time again.
After a recent renovation, Aimee Follette's Sun in Bloom in Park Slope is cuter than ever with a clean, earthy, urban vibe, and food to match. All of Follette's dishes keep optimal health in mind while whirling your taste buds around traditional flavors like house-made kimchee and sauerkraut, fresh miso, and hummus. Her juices and "mylks" (all vegan-friendly) are equally fabulous and pair perfectly with the vegan, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. The Western Burrito with raw sunflower pâtß and sunflower-dill dressing is a can't-miss. Each time I leave there I feel cleaner, lighter, and more energized, even if I'm often too full from over-indulging!