When I mention to people that I live in Kensington, people typically think it’s in England, no matter how long they have been in NYC. The small neighborhood stretching roughly from the Prospect Park Parade Grounds to Green-Wood Cemetery may not be the best-known Brooklyn enclave, but what Kensington may lack in Brownstoner buzz it more than makes up for in amazing ethnic food. Within a few blocks you can find authentic Indian, Middle Eastern, Polish, Mexican, Thai, Russian, Greek, and Serbian eats at Brokelyn-worthy prices. Here are some of my local favorites, all within walking distance of the F or G train to Church / McDonald. Sorry there’s no fish and chips.
Gyro King, 473 McDonald Ave. at Beverley
Open 24 hours, Gyro King offers $4 chicken gyros around the clock. If you’re not into Greek food or you find the leg of lamb on the spit behind the counter unsettling, stop by for a 50¢ bagel or muffin. Looking for a late night snack? Skip the diner; instead, ask for the $1 order of French fries, watch as the cook fills a large Styrofoam takeout container to the brim, and enjoy.
Hot Bagel, 127 Church Ave. between Beverley & E. 2nd St.
While every neighborhood has a deli with some variation of “Hot” and “Bagel” in the name, this one deserves a special mention. The service is impeccable, and you can get coffee and a bagel for less than two bucks. The best part? The bagels here truly are hot; bakery items are rotated so frequently that they’re fresh out of the oven more often than not, even at midnight.
Basmati, 221 Church Ave. at E. 3rd St.
This family-owned Bangladeshi restaurant is one of the fancier spots in the area to grab dinner, but the prices are no indication. Features include 85¢ vegetable or meat samosas and a lunch special with $4.50 kebab wraps or three (yes, three) hot food menu items for $5.99. The naan is baked fresh to your order and is to die for.
To B Thai, 126 Beverley Rd. at E. 2nd St.
While the $6.95 lunch special price isn’t remarkable, you can’t beat the five to ten minute preparation time or the consistently delicious and fresh food, always served with a smile. Try any dish with duck; you won’t be disappointed.
Old Brick Café, 507 Church Ave., between E. 5th and Ocean Parkway
Baklava and burek fans rejoice; Old Brick Café offers real Balkan food served by the owners for about $10 an entrée in this charming spot nestled on Church Avenue.
Golden Farm, 329 Church Ave. at E. 3rd St.
The Golden Farm grocery store is a perfect summation of the neighborhood of Kensington with 20+ varieties of couscous, a large selection of halal meat, loaves of handmade rye bread from Latvia, and a never ending supply of chocolate rugalech, a Jewish confection somewhere between a cookie and a pastry. Most produce is priced at less than a dollar per pound.
STD Liquors, 89 Church Ave. (between Dahill and McDonald)
The only liquor store in the heart of Kensington features discounted spirits and an unforgettable name. Bottles of wine start at $3.99, most bottom shelf liquors ring in at under $7, and the store never ceases to be well-stocked. One incredible find is the Kindzmarauli wine grown in the Republic of Georgia and sold in exquisite red clay bottles carved into the shape of a bunch of grapes or a tree trunk.
Denny’s Steak Pub, 106 Beverley Rd. at McDonald
There’s no mistaking it—this is a dive bar to rival all New York dive bars. Fun fact: no steaks (or any food, for that matter) are served here, but the pool table, the $1.75 mugs of Budweiser, and 2-for-1 happy fill the void.
Shenanigan’s, 802 Caton Ave. at E. 8th St.
While slightly less dive-y than Denny’s, Shennanigan’s is still a dive bar in true form. The crowd is motley, and while the happy hour with $2.50 well drinks only last until 7 PM, they go up to just $4 afterwards. With no other businesses in the immediate vicinity, Shenanigan’s stays under the radar, so roll here with a crowd and commandeer the whole back patio.