Here, we’re assessing the Bushwick eatingscape. Even today, many of the neighborhood’s best restaurants inhabit warehouses or garages, reminders of the B.R.E. (before-Roberta’s era). In terms of dining, Bushwick is in its Goldilocks moment: not too polished nor too rough.
2. Le Garage
159B Central Ave., entrance at Suydam St.; 347-295-1700
Charmant, très charmant. What else is there to say about this mother-and-daughter bistro on a quiet side street except that every single element of it warms the heart? The pop of yellow paint in the industrial space; a heavenly skylight; the photographs of Catherine Allswang, the owner of numerous restaurants in Paris and San Francisco, who helped her daughter, Rachel Allswang, open Le Garage earlier this year. Rachel herself, an interior designer, flits about the tables, all motion blur and graciousness. And Catherine, too, in the kitchen, cooking potatoes in duck fat till they’re as crisp as autumn leaves, or dressing the pink magret du canard with a piquant kumquat chutney with sesame-braised cabbage and honey.
261 Moore St., nr. Bogart St.; 718-417-1118
Roberta’s could have easily become the Kodak Eastman of Bushwick — got the ball rolling, got run over by the ball — if not for chef Carlo Mirarchi’s entrepreneurial drive. What started out in 2007 as a good pizza place with grand ambitions has turned into a small universe of increasingly profound experiences. The menu at Roberta’s, largely unchanged, still satisfies. Classics like the Beastmaster and Cheesus Christ are now accompanied by sweet-and-sour smoked ribs with togarashi. There’s also Blanca, his good-natured tasting-menu-only restaurant tucked into the backyard of Roberta’s. Plus, of course, a radio station housed in a shipping container, and a farm.
4. Hi Hello
247 Starr St., at Wyckoff; 718-381-7200
Each sandwich at the small, determinedly casual spot has a story attached to it, drawn from the life of Kansas-raised globe-trotting co-owner Phillip Gilmour. But you can, and should, ignore all of them. One needn’t be a New Historicist to appreciate the small slate of treasures to be found in Hi Hello. What makes these sandwiches delicious — like the sesame-seed-studded fried-chicken sandwich with red pepper and cilantro pimento cheese or another loaded with roast beef and truffle Cheez Whiz — is readily apparent to all those with taste buds.
5. Arepera Guacuco
44 Irving Ave., at Troutman St.; 347-305-3300
Like Le Garage, Arepera Guacuco is an intergenerational affair. This time it was the son, Leonard Molina, who convinced his mother, Carmen, to move from Margarita Island, off the coast of Venezuela, to New York and to bring her traditional recipes along. Among them is the arepa pabellón, an old chestnut of Venezuelan cooking; here the pabellón has reached ideal form, the crust crunchy, the beef inside soft, the plantains sweet, and the beans touched by vinegar. The arepas are served fast and fresh at the crowded and slightly chaotic restaurant, but the rest of the menu – including B-sides like pabellón oriental, in which fish stands for beef, and a grilled garlicky king fish — is worth exploration too.