Law clerks, business people, cops, and hospital workers all earn their paychecks here, and downtown's wealth of food options matches their diversity: comfy cafés, old-school pubs, stylish hot spots, and more share this micro-micro-neighborhood centered around the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard.
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• Jolie Despite its hip atmosphere, sharp enough for suits, this bistro won't completely drain your expense account. The food is solid and well-prepared: steak tartare, warm goat-cheese salad, escargots, and festive mini-burger sliders all make good orders. They also offer eclectic, fruity cocktails, named after jolie women, of course. 320 Atlantic Ave., nr. Smith St.; 718-488-0777.
•Luncheonette Don't let the lack of menus or waiters deter you; this Yemeni kitchen prepares giant plates of seriously tasty lamb. Seat your co-workers at a big, round table, then head to the counter and act like you know. The tender grilled chops and slow-roasted leg are tops, nicely complemented by rich consommé, charred flatbread, and complimentary honey-steeped tea. 145 Court St., nr. Pacific St.; 718-624-9325.
• Brawta The place to find refined Jamaican served in a bright, familial setting. Seafood reigns supreme here. All the fish is cooked to order; the escovitched snapper (whole-fried and topped with a spicy pickle sauce) may be the best. Vegetarian? Replenish body and spirit with their creamy, comforting, rundun (slow-cooked) Ital Stew, and a glass of sweet-tart Sorrel. 347 Atlantic Ave., at Hoyt St.; 718-855-5515.
• The Atlantic ChipShop It's more a question of what they don't fry. Standout cod (served with thick English chips) and Mars Bars get the same fluffy, golden batter; the fish is moist, the candy bar gooey. The casual pub environment also lends itself to conversation, especially over a creamy twenty-ounce pint of Speckled Hen Ale. 129 Atlantic Ave., nr. Henry St.; 718-855-7775.
• Nicky's The bánh mì — a delicious Vietnamese sandwich stuffed with savory meat and crisp veggies — is all the rage, and Nicky's offers the best in Downtown Brooklyn. Try their pork-chop sandwich, or a heaping plate of pho topped with grilled meat. Portobellos are available for the pork-free. 311 Atlantic Ave., between Smith and Hoyt Sts.; 718-855-8838.
• Waterfront Ale House Pull up a bar stool at Sam Barbieri's homey, exceptionally welcoming pub that time forgot. Numerous trophies attest to the quality of his 'cue, and the moist, tangy pulled pork and hickory-smoked ribs are both great. They also have an ample selection of generous salads, creative combos like the Southwestern (topped with grilled chicken and chipotle dressing). It all goes well with a crisp, hoppy pint of Red Hook's own Sixpoint Righteous Ale. 155 Atlantic Ave., nr. Clinton St.; 718-522-3794.
The small coffee spot with big heart and great bread, which they use in almost twenty types of sandwiches. Try the bresaola-chèvre-arugula, turkey-cranberry-fennel-raisin, and strawberry-mascarpone. Bring your laptop, and settle in with a big latte or a glass of Sancerre. And you have a little while yet to take advantage of their outdoor seating. 311 Henry St., nr. Smith St.; 718-855-8838.
• Fast & Fresh Deli This inconspicuous bodega is home to a wonderfully bustling Mexican kitchen. Victor and Norina Lopez serve tasty tacos, tamales, and sopes, but ask for their daily specials. Memorable recent offerings include pork ribs, zucchini and tomatillo, and tender steak with peppers. (Delivery only.) 84 Hoyt St., nr. Atlantic Ave.; 718-802-1661.
• The Soul Spot Soul food with a twist. Yaya Ceesay hails from Africa, and his fresh perspective and top-notch preparation make old classics sing anew. Try the chicken (crisp fried or moist jerked), tomato-glazed meat loaf, creamy macaroni and cheese, and vinegary collards. 302 Atlantic Ave., nr. Smith St.; 718-596-9933.
• Damascus Bread and Pastry Shop The family that introduced pita to NYC in 1930 is still going strong, serving savory spinach-and-Feta pies, honeyed cashew baklava, and fresh-baked zatar bread. Their wonderful salads (made in the basement) include a smoky baba ghannouj, and bright m'hmmara (puréed red pepper, walnut, and pomegranate). The kaak (aromatic round breadsticks) make for a great healthy afternoon snack.195 Atlantic Ave., nr. Court St.; 718-625-7070.
• The Victory Cheers without the beer, this friendly neighborhood lunch counter keeps a selective menu: Western-omelette empanadas, homemade soups, and sandwiches stuffed with local charcuterie. Top on the rotating list? Esposito's prized soppressata, with fontina and homemade olive tapenade. This is also the only place near Atlantic to carry Walker's English chips, which come in Willy Wonka–ish flavors like BBQ rib or roasted chicken with thyme.71 Hoyt St., at State St.; 718-596-9035.