After 4 years of living in Brooklyn, I was excited for a new chapter in New Orleans, but also knew it’d be bittersweet. Having grown up in New York (on Long Island, I’m honest), with most of my adult years in good ol’ BK, missing friends and family was going to be inevitable. I knew that I’d long for the convenience of public transportation and bodegas on every corner. Admittedly, I had preemptive FOMO regarding friends’ parties, the perennial run of free NYC shows and the yet-to-open spots that seemingly appear daily.
One thing I didn’t appropriately account for was food. Lame “I’m gonna miss pizza!” jokes were about as far as I took it, shortly before and after I moved out of Brooklyn. New Orleans, where I now reside, has an awesome culinary scene. It could be a lot worse, but from time-to-time I get the gastronomic blues. No offense to the people I left behind, but you can’t FaceTime with a bagel. Snapchat allows me to hear your voice, but there’s no scratch and and sniff feature when you send over a picture of that legit pastrami sandwich.
Brooklyn ex-pats all could probably give you their own list, but here are the foods that keep me up at night wishing I could have them, and the ones I go out of my way to get when I visit.
EVERYTHING BAGEL WITH VEGETABLE CREAM CHEESE FROM BAGELSMITH
566 Lorimer St. & 189 Bedford Ave., Williamsburg
Bagelsmith makes a quality New York bagel, plain and simple. Their lunch sandwiches, as well as their bacon egg and cheese, are on point. Yet, I pine most for a classic: an everything bagel with vegetable cream cheese. I prefer untoasted, but go with whatever feels right.
Now take a moment and do yourself a favor. Read this out loud, right now: “I will not take bagels for granted.” Make it your morning mantra. Tattoo it across your chest. Include it in your wedding vows. Just do whatever you can to honor the doughy aureoles. Ya never know; you may soon find your carry-on from JFK being a dozen bagels every single time you fly out of here (true story).
GRANDMA SLICE FROM WILLIAMSBURG PIZZA
265 Union Ave., Williamsburg
Williamsburg Pizza has a nice selection of specialty slices (try the Calabrese or the Paesano) and they do a great plain, as well – the fulcrum of any good pizza joint. However, the grandma slice has always been my favorite, which WP handles deftly – their sauce/cheese/basil ratio is on point.
Real pizza is like passionate love: hard to come by, easy to obsess over and likely to confound when it’s suddenly absent. Every time I visit home, I load up on pizza (sorry, love).
HOT PORK SANDWICH FROM EMILY’S PORK STORE
426 Graham Ave., Williamsburg
I don’t like to speak in superlatives, but Emily’s Pork Store is the best spot in Brooklyn. A long-standing Williamsburg staple, it boasts a wonderful selection of imported Italian goods (pastas, pastries, etc.) – fennel taralli being the most essential. Their butcher, cured meat and cheese options are quite respectable. They can make a mean Italian hero. Yet, I’d obviously be remiss not to mention Emily’s namesake; the pork sandwich is life changing. It’s simple, affordable and straight-up delectable – perfectly roasted pork, fresh mozz, hot or sweet peppers and balsamic drizzle on a hero for seven bucks. Deal.
PASTRAMI ON RYE WITH MUSTARD FROM DAVID’S BRISKET HOUSE
533 Nostrand Ave., Bed-Stuy
David’s Brisket House is legendary. Not only because it’s a Hebrew deli run by a Muslim family, which is unique, but also because it is that good. They handle breakfast well and obviously the brisket sandwiches rock. Thee corned beef is quality and there’s an extensive Dr. Brown’s selection, but lets stay on track. This is about pastrami; David’s knows pastrami. They cut it on the thicker side, which helps highlight the spicing, juiciness and lean/fat ratio, all of which David’s nails perfectly. Throw it on rye with some mustard, put a pickle on the side and that’s all you need.
Speaking of perfect, pastrami has to be the consummate cured meat, right? At the very least, it’s the most sensual.
NEW ENGLAND LOBSTER ROLL (AND LOBSTER CLAW BLOODY MARY) FROM LOBSTER JOINT
1073 Manhattan Ave., Greenpoint
The best time to head to Lobster Joint is during happy hour (4pm-7pm, weekdays). Get your value on via $1 oysters, $4 sliders (lobster, crab cake and fried oyster: all great) and drink specials. They do a good brunch too, as everything on the menu is tasty. Yet, sometimes ya gotta ball; Lobster Joint’s New England lobster roll is divine, comprised mostly of fresh claw meat, as it should be. It’s lightly seasoned and not over-mayo’ed. A great lobster roll isn’t overdone; Lobster Joint gets it.
By the way, I’m aware that lobster rolls aren’t a traditional New York delicacy, but damn are they missable. Yea, sucking the heads is fun, but Louisiana crawfish honestly can’t compete.
Oh, and did I mention that Lobster Joint has a lobster claw Bloody Mary? Lobster. Claw. Bloody. Mary.
PLAIN CHEESECAKE FROM JUNIOR’S MOST FABULOUS CHEESECAKE AND DESSERTS
386 Flatbush Ave., Downtown
Junior’s, a Brooklyn mainstay, has received much love from both locals and tourists over the years. It’s the real deal. The diner food makes for a home-style meal that leaves you full and happy. The entire bakery selection is great, but it’s mostly about their dank cheesecakes. Cherry Crumb, Chocolate Swirl and Strawberry won’t disappoint, but keep it OG with the Plain. It’s creamy and light. Fluffy and flavorful, Junior’s plain cheesecake pairs perfectly with a glass of milk. However, most importantly, it’s good enough to demote the milk to “optional” status.
I didn’t expect to yearn for New York cheesecake, but both Junior’s and my grandma, who also makes a dank one, reminded me what I was missing out on. Alas, cookies are easier for her to send in the mail, so I remain cheesecake-less in the bayou.
TWO HOT DOGS FROM NATHAN’S FAMOUS
1310 Surf Ave., Coney Island
Granted, dogs provide next-to-no nutritional value, and who knows what’s in ‘em, but they’re more about the experience, which is why I’ll always be down with two Nathan’s franks – one with mustard and kraut, the other more modest: drizzled with mustard and its bastard cousin, ketchup.
Eat up, catch the Cyclones and go on the Cyclone. Make an idyllic summer afternoon out of it. Get those nostalgia feels.
So, Brooklynites, eat these while you can, and hold them close as you do it. Because you never know when you’ll be separated from your favorite food with nothing but your memories and a possible return trip to tide you over.
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