This is what happens when writers go food-hunting while learning about a Brooklyn neighborhood
As a cohort of six Open City fellows, we’re an impressively diverse bunch: Together, our roots span at least 16 countries. But if there’s one thing that brings us together (aside from our writing talents, of course), it’s our love of food.
In the last weeks of our fellowship, we pooled our collective knowledge and research to plan a celebratory food crawl of Bay Ridge, the Brooklyn neighborhood that some of us call home, along with our editor, Noel Pangilinan. On a blazing hot June day, we set out, bellies empty, on our tour to explore the varied delights of Bay Ridge until we reached food-coma capacity. Below is our route and our recommendations. None of us were able to eat dinner that night.
We mapped our route on Google Maps here: https://goo.gl/maps/i4XanECmVVfNkK4M9
- Golden Steamer
Location: 5224 8th Avenue
To try: steamed custard buns
Our tour began at Golden Steamer, the fourth installment of a small Chinese bakery chain in New York. On 8th Avenue, Brooklyn, the corner bakery serves a bargain, with steamed custard buns at six for $4.75 and roast pork buns at three for $1.50. The delicately wrapped buns, filled with sweet egg custard, are so soft they’ll instantly melt in your mouth. If you’re thirsty, ask for some milky pearl tea, the perfect antidote to a hot summer’s day. If you’re after more lunch and breakfast options, Golden Steamer also has sesame buns, rice and noodles. The aroma of freshly baked buns and the line of eager customers is enough to pull you inside, but be warned: there’s limited seating and it’s cash-only. Just grab a box and fill it with treats!
- Rico’s Tacos
Location: 505 51st Sreet
To try: Tostada de camarones, anything you can put homemade salsa on, Jamaica
After steamed buns, we walked west to Rico’s, located just off the always bumping 5th avenue. At Rico’s, we had tostadas, tacos, and fresh juices while a musician serenaded us with classic corridos. Some of us went a little too far with the salsa options (including grilled onions and peppers!) but it was worth it.
- Nablus Sweets:
Location: 6812 5th Avenue
To try: Mango Kunafe
Nablus Sweets is a Palestinian sweets store named after a historic city in the northern West Bank, that is known for its kunafe — hot cheese topped with shredded wheat and soaked in a sugary-sweet syrup. Naturally, Bay Ridge’s Nablus Sweets is known for its kunafe and many other Middle Eastern treats, such as baklava, harissa, katayef and ma’amoul. Although we were already up-to-our-throats full, we were transformed literally into little children in a candy store as soon as we stepped into the shop. We ordered almost everything they have on the display counter, ate most of them while there, and still some us ordered more goodies to go.
- Balady Halal:
Location: 7128 5th Avenue
To try: French Feta, Sumac, Za’atar
This halal and Middle Eastern goods shop is packed with foods and products from all over the Arab world, from hand-painted dishes and colorful rugs to olives, dates and goat meat. Fruit and dried goods are set out like they might be at an open-air market, except it is an everyday grocery store that also carries the typical necessities. It’s a family-run business that has also expanded to an interior decor shop next door.
- Hazar Turkish Kebab:
Location: 7224 5th Ave
To try: Kebabs, tea
This is one of the best local spots for authentic Turkish cuisine. Hazar does a great gyro but the kabab is even better. Unfortunately, we were way too full to eat any of that at this point, so we just had some black tea instead. Nonetheless, the staff was super welcoming and answered all our endless questions about Turkish food!
- Tanoreen To Go:
Location: 7523 3rd Avenue
To try: Chicken Musakhan
Tucked at the back of Tanoreen, a lively Palestinian-owned restaurant, is their to-go, walk-in store. Here, you can buy an array of appetizers. Go with the Musakhan, a grilled chicken, sumac-infused flatbread topped with caramelized onions and sliced, toasted almonds—the ingredients coming together to form a delicious burst of flavor. Make sure you heat it up before eating!
Location: 486 85th Street
To try: Chicken Shawarma
A few steps from 5th Avenue and into 85th Street is Ruzana, one of the only restaurants in New York to serve Palestinian-Jordanian shwarma. Spartan restraint characterizes the Arab shwarma: chicken and garlic and pickles drenched in white sauce and wrapped with Lavash bread and served with a side of French fries and coleslaw.
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