Now is the time to check out Bushwick’s burgeoning restaurant scene. Never been to Roberta's? Get ready for exceptional pizza, plus baked goods and inspired vegetable medleys. Roberta's sprawling, bohemian complex includes Michelin-starred Blanca, a tiny annex with an extravagant tasting menu. Okiway serves killer Japanese street food, and tiki bar El Cortez serves hearty portions of Mexican-American–style nachos and burritos. Faro generates a lot of buzz for its amazing pastas and porridge. Read on to get schooled on some of Bushwick's other cool, creative eateries.
276 Knickerbocker Ave., 347-460-5110
Consider BK Jani an indoor Pakistani picnic. Halal meats are grilled and served on paper plates, the pace is leisurely and guests tote their own booze. Naturally, there's a hamburger, though it's refreshingly topped with mint chutney and yogurt sauce instead of ketchup. The narrow storefront displays local art and love notes from happy customers who rave about the creamy, spicy chicken tikka, steak sliders and lamb chops. All meats are pasture raised and hormone-free, which means the prices are somewhat higher than the other ethnic joints that line Knickerbocker Avenue.
1084 Flushing Ave., 347-295-2227
The warm, inviting vibe at this Ethiopian café makes patrons feel at home—particularly during the coffee ceremony, when the restaurant's staff roasts, grinds and brews coffee beans on an altar-like platform. They then serve it for free with a meal. Ethiopians normally use the ritual to welcome guests to their private homes, but co-founders Liyuw Ayalew, Kedega Srage and Sam Saverance decided to share it with the public. The hourlong ceremony is held four days a week (check the website for details). The best way to experience the vegan menu is springing for the “feast” ($17 for one person; $37 for two), which includes a platter of yellow split peas with ginger and garlic, red lentils stewed with spicy berbere sauce, portobello mushrooms scented with rosemary, plus several other colorful, well-seasoned vegetable mixtures, all to be scooped up with sourdough injera bread. There's also a full bar and frequent live music with no cover charge.
157 Suydam St., 347-295-1700
A mother-daughter team has joined forces in Bushwick, opening a contemporary French bistro in a former garage. The mother, Catherine Allswang, has owned and cooked in several Paris and San Francisco restaurants. Her daughter, Rachel, spent a fair amount of her youth in kitchens, but made her professional name as an interior designer. At Le Garage, the decor is clean and minimalist, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a long bar fashioned from bowling alley wood. The staff puts care into its presentation of the seasonal, French-influenced cuisine—which might have dishes like herb-stuffed chicken for two with parsnip puree and persimmon and braised veal with roasted fennel and gremolata. They've named light aperitifs for French heroines; the Madame Bovary, for instance, combines gin, vermouth, lavender bitters and a rinse of pastis.
40 Bogart St., 718-386-3399
Fans of movies, good food and drinks (and who's not?) will find that combo at Syndicated, a modern, cavernous restaurant and bar with a 50-seat cinema screening classics that are a riot to see with a group. Think: The Big Lebowski, The Walking Dead and Groundhog Day. Diners can also eat and drink in a separate restaurant space, where movies and old TV shows silently play on giant screens. That’s a good place to consume noisier items, like duck confit nachos and crunchy kale salad with goat cheese and walnuts. For those who choose to eat during the screening (à la Williamsburg’s Nitehawk Cinema), the hearty American menu offers quieter munchies like beer-battered mushrooms, tater tots loaded with pulled pork and cheddar cheese and a burger with caramelized onions on brioche. The theater menu features popcorn with eight seasoning options.