In Defense of Brooklyn — As If It Needed Defending

Categories: My Rant, Sietsema

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Brooklyn has - and has always had - a treasure trove of undeniable culinary delights, ever since the first Canarsie Indian sat cracking oyster shells on the lip of Jamaica Bay. It's where Italian-American cuisine was invented, with its glorious meatballs, Sunday gravy, and hero sandwiches, and where German-American Jews perfected the art of curing and smoking corned beef and pastrami. Where a bucolic Chinatown with tree-shaded streets outstrips Manhattan's in the excellence of its restaurants and small cafes. The best dim sum in the city? In Brooklyn.

Where Norwegians and Trinidadians and Syrians and even Australians have left their culinary mark, where the tacos are more voluptuously stuffed than in the streets of Puebla, and the mound of starch in Yemen aseed towers higher than in its own native land. Where Ecuadorian ceviches sparkle in their citrus freshness, and Nigerian mashes are accompanied by huge bowls of meat and fish drowning in lakes of vivid orange palm oil. Where even the bowling alleys have food far superior to that of any lanes in Manhattan.

Brooklyn is where the modern supper-club was invented, where mixology was perfected, where small shops turn out sea-salt caramels as good as anything in Brittany or Normandy. Since the mid-19th Century, it's where great beer has been brewed, and who dares say that about Manhattan? As chefs have streamed into Brooklyn from other parts of the city and, indeed, from all over the world, the borough has been a crucible for gastronomic invention and perfection. It has produced the city's finest charcuterie at the Vanderbilt, finest pizza at Totonno's and Di Fara, the undisputable best steaks in the world at Peter Luger, and best cheesecake at Junior's. The best wine bars and wine shops are there, too.

Now several effete food writers (among them a self-hating former Brooklynite and an Italian-American, too, shame on you!) have decided that, like characters in Saturday Night Fever, Brooklyn was never good enough for them -- just as every script writer, rock band, and bon vivant in the country has rushed to establish a beachhead there. I suspect Brooklyn's detractors are simply too lazy to find a subway and board it, their tongues so accustomed to the familiar and prosaic that they don't want to taste anything else. Their wits so dimmed by self-esteem that they're unwilling to admit that the culinary world as they know it - a world of French cuisine, heavy silverware, pinkies in the air, and $500 tabs - hardly exists anymore as far as most of us are concerned.

I'm talking to you, Jeffrey Steingarten ("I find it a very dangerous thing to be a Brooklyn booster"), Steve Cuozzo ("Williamsburg. Please. Its restaurants wouldn't receive one-sixteenth the attention they get if so many food writers and bloggers didn't live there or nearby"), and Mimi Sheraton ("I would go to Brooklyn if it were exceptional.")! Brooklyn doesn't need your approbation. He who tires of Brooklyn tires of life.


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26 comments
Ajay Rokmani
Ajay Rokmani

Rob, don't sob! Your Mapquest tirade is all beside the point. I was born on Grand Avenue, in Crown Heights, another area where the 'tude doesn't bother to go. And my aunts and uncles who live in some of the places you listed - they told me that they NEVER see you there. I understand. It's just not cool enough for you. Nana don't want none anyway. And all that key tapping you wasted on "Renaissance." Re-read my post, dear. It's not long. I didn't say Manhattan was going through a Renaissance. Who would? I said when I leave those little town blues of Brooklyn it "feels like a sensory Renaissance racing throughout MY mind and body!" You silly goose.

Rmis32200
Rmis32200

4 out of 5 members of our group agree w/ Mimi

Sincerely,The Blue Haired Ladies of Manhattan

Ajay Rokmani
Ajay Rokmani

Brooklyn, as if it needed defending. It does, unless you like living in San Francisco without the hills and the bay and the Pacific Ocean and the California weather. Brooklyn is a sleepy bedroom community with a cold blanket of predictable hipster 'tude wrapped around it; upon the rare event that I have to attend, whenever I get back to the city it feels like a sensory Renaissance racing throughout my mind and body! But, hey, enjoy!

Jose R. Mejia
Jose R. Mejia

Italian-American cuisine was no more invented in Brooklyn than it was up in the Bronx and Brooklyn's Chinatown pales in comparison to Queens'. Bullshit hyperbole like that is part of why people like me, native New Yorkers, can't stand the mindless blabbering about the borough and all the wonderful things middle-class white kids and the people eager to make money off of them have brought the BK.

Great food and culture, yes. There always was. But please stop gassing yourselves up. It's unbecoming and half of you haven't been around here enough to be so vocal about this stuff anyway.

Carolina Salguero
Carolina Salguero

The best cheesecake in Bklyn is NOT at Junior's; it is the Italian cheesecake at Monte's Venetian Room.

Oldgreywalls
Oldgreywalls

Oh Mimi. How you bore me. Sad from such a stellar career. Must you dismiss an entire borough simply because you wont go there. Wouldnt it be more interesting of you to highlight and applaud the fact that boroughs such as Brooklyn have a rich culinary history thats being rediscovered and added to by a wealth of young entrepeneurs and residents. That local restaurants of quality are opening up in these boroughs weekly and are supported by those who live in these neighborhoods. That the lower costs associated with opening a restaurant in a borough fosters a creativity in the kitchen and dining room and allows for a eager, younger generation of restaurantiers and chefs to invent and hone their arts. That diversity in culinary options from fine white linen dining to awesome deli sanwhich helps make for a culturally rich environment in which to live. That its terrific that younger palettes are demanding and supporting enterprises that engage our culinary heritage, support our local and regional producers, insist on higher quality and more diverse raw ingredients, concerned with not just whats on the dinner plate but where whats ingested comes from and how that affects our larger regional culture and economy and environment, that start up companies such as so-called artisanal makers are providing us home-grown options, reducing our dependance on imported goods while helping create a food culuture thats less about replication of a foreign cuisine and more about respecting - dare I say it 'terroir'...In the end isnt this what we should take-away from the French - the inspiration that a reverence for food - from farm to table - the production of it, the shopping for it, the joy in its prepartion and consumption - is a noble thing that enriches us socially, culturally, environmentally, economically....

Godotnut
Godotnut

Amen. Sunset Park and Bay Ridge alone have enough great restaurants to keep you plenty busy.

DF
DF

Hear Hear!

Cathy
Cathy

At last! The king has spoken.

Lauren
Lauren

And if people REALLY cared about food, they'd be all about Queens--but there's a lack of aholes in buffalo plaid shirts there.

Lauren
Lauren

Brooklyn is over. Face it. Sure, it has good restaurants, but so does every borough, especially Manhattan and Queens--and even Manhattan is less pretentious these days.

Deeva8
Deeva8

Shhh!! Let's keep Brooklyn's awesomeness our little secret. Let the assholes have Manhattan.

Rob West
Rob West

S&S Cheesecake in the Bronx is better!!! Juniors got too big for it's britches...

Kirsten Alana
Kirsten Alana

Well said!! Here here!! (And I used to be a Brooklyn detractor, I'm ashamed to now admit.) Until I stayed for a week, and have never looked back. It's a gem. The whole borough.

konamango
konamango

that is rant worthy and beautifully stated -- does it take gentrification to make something good?? quite the contrary, many things already were -- mimi imfurst.

Ajay Rokmani
Ajay Rokmani

Rob, don't sob! Your Mapquest tirade is all beside the point. I was born on Grand Avenue, in Crown Heights, another area where the 'tude doesn't bother to go. And my aunts and uncles who live in some of the places you listed - they told me that they NEVER see you there. I understand. It's just not cool enough for you. Nana don't want none anyway. And all that key tapping you wasted on "Renaissance." Re-read my post, dear. It's not long. I didn't say Manhattan was going through a Renaissance. Who would? I said when I leave those little town blues of Brooklyn it "feels like a sensory Renaissance racing throughout MY mind and body!" You silly goose.

GiorgioNYC
GiorgioNYC

Nice -- reduce a borough that's bigger than many US cities, and more diverse and interesting than most, to a tired hipster stereotype. Do us a favor -- stay in Manhattan.

Ajay Rokmani
Ajay Rokmani

"Oh Mimi. How you bore me(?)" And then you blather on superciliously like that. Brevity is the soul of wit.

stoop_pooper
stoop_pooper

You're right no plaid shirts... only racists who claim dibs on their shoveled out parking spots. Sunnyside rocks though

Rob West
Rob West

Thanks, actually I was born in Flatbush and am in Crown Heights and Bed Stuy all the time you snob. And while I actually did read your misuse of the word Renaissance, I was trying to say that I think it sux you can't smell your own shit. If you think Brooklyn has an attitude and don't realize that it pales in comparison to New York County's you must be drunk. That's not a Renaissance, that's hypnotism, flat out denial of the world around you. By supporting the concept that Brooklyn can and even should be avoided (which by criticizing this article you seem to be agreeing with Jeffrey Steingarten and Mimi Sheraton in that regard) you only point point out the disgusting self importance that Manhattan is rife with. Little Town Blues? Fuck You! Brooklyn was it's own city for God's sake. We're bigger than you and we'll be here when you want to move back. Your new borough is full of tourists overpaying for closet space. Forgive Brooklyn for trying to maintain a little elbow room at the table, a little civility even. Nana should be ashamed. You should come visit more, she misses you.

P.S. Crown Heights has a Cafe Grumpy with a $12 cup of coffee, sorry but if you came by more often you'd realize the Hipsters are there, tude included.P.P.S. No one uses MapQuest anymore. Google just bought a building in Chelsea, ya might want to try their maps out now that their your neighbors too.

Ajay Rokmani
Ajay Rokmani

Giorgino, you speak of Queens, my boy, the real deal borough that Brooklyn stopped being a long time ago. And, yes, you can cut the stereotypical hipster 'tude with a knife over there - nothing much else in the air to absorb it, that's why.

Collapse Inward
Collapse Inward

It's funny because Brooklyn's "Hipster Tude" is quite absent from the majority of the borough. There's no wet blanket of hipsters inbed stuy (though it's coming soon)brownsvilleditmas parkbay ridgekensingtonbensonhurstflatbushProspect Park SouthMill BasinMidwoodand other places you've never heard of. and as to that "real deal" borough you pretend to speak about above Newton Creek. LIC has plenty of tude and they love to overpay for their views as much as those folks in DUMBO do. And have you been to northeast Queens? That is not a borough, that is a little offshoot of Nassau county with lower property taxes... Douglaston? Auburndale? Where is that?But sensory Renaissance? Where do you come from? Have you decided which suburb you're going to raise your children in? That's absurd. Neon lights and big TVs? You still get a kick out of Times Square don't you. Manhattan is where Brooklyn learned to hone their tude. The upper east side has it's own fucking accent (speaking without moving your lower jaw) for chrissakes. Stop pretending that Manhattan is the entire city. Stop pretending Manhattan doesn't have it's own issues with attitude and self importance. Without the other four boroughs Manhattan would be nothing but a bunch of millionaires living without laundry in their own apartments. Renaissance... my god. Andy Warhol died over 20 years ago. Whatever you need to convince yourself that your rent price is justifiable. I mean not much else in the air? Have you seen those 10 million dollar condos on Avenue D? Talk about nothing there. Don't bother coming back to Brooklyn we wouldn't want to be to condescending and sleepy for you. I mean the whole of the east side above 14th st is just so rocking and welcoming after 6PM. We just wouldn't want to bore you. I guess we just don't understand that the private clubs and overpriced food and drinks and absolutely crazy cost of living is actually a symptom of not having a self important attitude that makes you think your better than others. I mean that's why you moved there right?

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