How to spot the best ethnic restaurants (and what’s your pick?)

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Another rule: if the sign is not in the English alphabet, it must be good! Flickr photo courtesy of Alexander Synaptic.

In the Wall Street Journal over the weekend was an interesting piece on how to find an authentically good restaurant, and it’s none of the conventional Brooklyn wisdom that it must have a rooftop garden and a Spanish sheep in the dining room to make table side Manchego. In his new book “An Economist Gets Lunch,” wonky Marginal Revolution blogger Tyler Cowen applies the laws of the market to restaurants, and here, reviewer Graeme Wood synopsizes a few of his tricks:

“[Cowen] advises, for example, looking for Thai restaurants attached to motels (more likely to be family-run and not desperate to make rent). For authenticity, he awards points to Pakistani restaurants that feature pictures of Mecca, since they’re more likely to cater to Pakistani clientele. (“The more aggressively religious the décor, the better it will be for the food.”) Find restaurants where diners are “screaming at each other” or “pursuing blood feuds,” he says—indications that people feel comfortable there and return frequently with their familiars.”

Other tips: eat BBQ in towns of less than 50,000 people (Brooklyn is clearly out); avoid restaurants with scenic views, beautiful women or overly stocked bars; and buy produce at Chinese markets because “Chinese customers stand for no flaws in their greens, and it isn’t unusual to see a shopper examining individual peas with a level of scrutiny normally reserved for uncut diamonds in Antwerp.”

In an ethnics vs. locavores jello match, Cowen’s money is on the Uzbeks. And where would Brokesters be without them? You can’t make a meal of a greenmarket scallion, but you can take that buck and a quarter and feast on dumplings or Trinidadian doubles. So today for lunch, let’s take a little break from the locavore lovefest and give Brooklyn’s authentic eats their due. What’s your favorite Sunset Park pork or Mexican market? Come all ye, and praise the hole-in-the-walls, the sceneless storefronts, the halal joints where they’re always loading a goat carcass off a truck. We’ll be on Coney Island Avenue looking for a kebab and a brawl.

Read Graeme Wood’s review of “An Economist Gets Lunch” in the Wall Street Journal.

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  1. Punjab on Coney Island Ave b/w Courtelyou and Ave C fits neatly into the religious criteria and is amazing! Best Garlic Naan of all time.

  2. that little Fast & Fresh burrito deli on Hoyt St. So tiny yet so delicious (even my California friends swear by it). You pull cervezas out of an ice chest and the back has a tiny seating area under an awning with a TV playing some sort of futbol match all the time. They’re business model, however, is terrible, as it’s unclear why they don’t stay open later.

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