Where to Eat on Both Sides of the Brooklyn Bridge

Julie Besonen

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The majestic Brooklyn Bridge is one of NYC’s most iconic sights. The best way to take in its breathtaking views is by walking across, a 30-to-60-minute journey depending on your pace and how many times you stop to take selfies. Near the entrances on either end, there are great places to eat; read on for picks of where to fuel up before or after your stroll.

Manhattan

Cowgirl Sea-Horse 
Cowgirl Sea-Horse holds down a corner almost directly under the Brooklyn Bridge, with netting on its windows that signals a dual focus on fish and kitsch. The dark hangout serves as a hideaway for dates and a fun place for a party, particularly on Wednesday trivia nights when oysters are $1 each. Shareable plates of reliable bar food include blackened fish tacos, racks of baby back ribs and nachos piled high with black beans, guacamole and sour cream. 

Cowgirl Sea-Horse. Photo: Phil Kline

Il Brigante
This friendly trattoria on a sweet little Belgian block–paved lane at the South Street Seaport is a well-olive-oiled machine. Diners pack Il Brigante’s plain wood tables—especially on weekends—but the staff is ace at keeping things moving, so the wait is rarely long. They deliver fresh sliced peasant bread with a pool of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping, staving off hunger until the eggplant parm, arugula salad with pears and gorgonzola, fettuccine Bolognese and brick-oven pizza arrive. The mostly Italian wine list offers a few bottles for under $40.

MarkJoseph Steakhouse
MarkJoseph Steakhouse is a calm harbor amid the swirl of sports bars at the South Street Seaport. It’s a place for a quiet martini, thick-cut Canadian bacon and dry-aged porterhouse charred to a crisp on the outside, pink within and sizzling in its own juices. This polished yet unstuffy restaurant with white linen tablecloths attracts repeat, business-casual customers who extol the attentive service, shrimp cocktail, broiled lamb chops and toffee brownie sundae. The lunch menu includes an excellent burger.

Nelson Blue 
New Zealand sauvignon blanc, green-lipped mussels and free-range lamb have an international reputation for quality and deliciousness—and they’re exactly what to look for at Nelson Blue at the South Street Seaport. The sleek, hip bistro sports touches of blue light and offers views of the Brooklyn Bridge out its big picture windows. Open all day and late into the night, this lively spot also serves hearty lamb dip sandwiches and savory pies filled with curried vegetables. On Sundays there’s live jazz during brunch.

The Paris Cafe
The breeze from the East River is just out the front door of the Paris Cafe, a lovable pub that’s more Irish American than French. One of the oldest haunts downtown, circa 1873, it claims to have obliged patrons (when it was Meyer’s Hotel) like Teddy Roosevelt and Buffalo Bill Cody. These days it’s best for watching sports and digging into fish and chips, juicy burgers and buttermilk fried chicken. Keep it in mind for happy hour or post-midnight hunger—the kitchen stays open until 2am.

The Paris Cafe. Courtesy, NYCRestaurant.com

Brooklyn

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory 
After pizza at Grimaldi’s, it’s a tradition to head to the waterside Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and get in line for a cone. The flavors—basic, not outlandish—offer old-fashioned comfort; the chocolate chocolate chunk and butter pecan are satisfying to the last lick. The views of Manhattan from the Fulton Landing Pier are stunning, and Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park is nearby. Just remember: it’s cash only for ice cream.

Gran Eléctrica 
At this stellar Mexican cantina there’s rarely a wait for a seat at the bar, in the stylish dining room or out on the enchanting back patio. The staff serves tart margaritas shaken with fresh ingredients, and the kitchen does a bang-up job at dressing up street food. Their tacos, quesadillas, ceviche and chile rellenos are top-notch, the meat fillings tender, the sauces deeply flavored. Also try the esquites, the corn stripped from the cob and melded with chipotle mayonnaise, cotija cheese, epazote (a pungent Mexican herb) and cilantro.

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Gran Eléctrica. Photo: Katie Burton

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria 
One of NYC’s best-known pizzerias, this place is known for coal-oven pies (no slices) and great views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline. Don’t be intimidated by the line—the staff here makes sure it moves relatively quickly, and regulars will tell you it’s well worth the wait.

Grimaldi's Pizzeria. Photo: Joe Buglewicz

Noodle Pudding 
Antonio Migliaccio is a former longshoreman who grew up cooking alongside his mother and aunts on the Italian island of Ischia, in the Gulf of Naples, and gradually realized he had the chops to show New Yorkers real Italian cooking. He founded Noodle Pudding in Brooklyn Heights in 1995, and its infectious energy, pleasurable food and Zagat ratings remain undiminished. Old-school items like fried calamari, lasagna Bolognese and osso buco feel right at home in the mahogany-detailed dining room. Pay attention to the nightly specials, especially the fresh fish. And bring cash—they don’t take credit cards.

The River Café 
Nearly everyone is celebrating something at the River Café, be it a birthday or anniversary—so good cheer abounds at this beautiful barge on the East River. It’s not uncommon to witness a marriage proposal. Not everyone gets a table by the window—a front row seat for the Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn Bridge—but the restaurant’s other charms include a bewitching garden and gorgeous flower arrangements, a soothing pianist and first-class New American cuisine. A special-occasion dinner calls for oysters, lobster and rack of lamb. The place serves breakfast and weekend brunch, but it’s not open for weekday lunch. Proprietor Michael O’Keeffe has upheld high standards since 1977, requiring jackets for gentlemen and appropriate footwear for all.


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