A new crop of great restaurants and bars have been transforming this former BQE speedway into a place to hit even before the siren call of evening cocktails and karaoke.
For an early-morning pick-me-up, start at Espresso Me, a sweet little café between Henry and Hicks. Toby’s Estate is the coffee purveyor here, and prices are comparable to other places in the neighborhood ($2–5). If I were you, I’d go for the Nutella latte because I’m a sugar-lush, but they also have a whole line of teas from T2. I’m not sure if it’s just because it’s served over crushed ice, but the ginger-lemongrass iced tea is very refreshing. For a breakfast snack, Espresso Me also has plenty of pastries, plus doughnuts (not house-made but from Dough, so still pretty great). And though it’s slightly random, it also offers Thai rolled ice cream, so if you need something sweet to start your day, you’re all set.
If you’re looking for more of a sit-down situation, head to brunch at Boutros between Clinton and Court. Here, you’ll find an assortment of Mediterranean-inspired brunch options. Instead of chocolate-chip pancakes or eggs Benedict, there’s soujouk (Lebanese sausage) topped shakshuka, granola drizzled with rosewater honey and kale tabbouleh. If you order the challah French toast, you’ll wonder where pistachio butter has been your whole life.
After an afternoon of strolling through Brooklyn Bridge Park, continue on your tour to Beasts & Bottles. At most restaurants, I don’t usually go for the chicken. It can be dry and boring compared to the rest of the menu. But this is not the case here, where they have a Rotisol rotisserie (that you can see from the open kitchen). These organic, antibiotic-free and vegetable-fed chickens are sourced from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and are brined in rosemary, sage, thyme, bay leaf, coriander, black pepper, salt and sugar before hitting the fire. After they’re roasted, they’re served in a beautiful pan with crisp potatoes, preserved lemons and cherry-tomato confit. (It’s how chicken is supposed to be.) Aside from the food, you may note the incredible plant wall at Beasts & Bottles, a familiar sight if you ever went to the team’s first restaurant, Atrium Dumbo. Rolling up the wall and onto the ceiling, the foliage is almost more remarkable than the food.
Should you want to continue your evening, head to Elsa. It was once an East Village mainstay that couldn’t make the rent, so the owners moved to Brooklyn, and I couldn’t be happier. The space is endlessly chic—can Home Studios, the restaurant’s designers, please help me with my apartment?—and the backyard patio is a lovely spot for when the night cools down. Not generally a focal point for most bars, the bathroom is fantastically cool, with an arching tunnel of mirrors and a Mrs. Meyers geranium candle burning strong. After a preliminary trip to said bathroom, tuck in to the bar or a cushy banquette for a vast assortment of cocktails, from a slightly peppery frozen Moscow Mule to the Queen of Swords, a colorful concoction of lemongrass hibiscus whiskey, matcha horchata, Bilaro amaro and pimento bitters—served over, to my delight, a mountain of crushed ice.
And should you drink just enough for some karaoke, Montero’s is across the street.