In Brooklyn, the phrase “holiday lights” is synonymous with the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights, a decades-long tradition that gets bigger and brighter every year. Located between 11th and 13th Avenues, from 83rd to 86th Streets, the extreme light displays are a fair trek on foot from the subway, so it’s worth it to stop for a bite to eat before or after. Fortunately, the neighborhood is as full of flavor as it is of holiday cheer.
For a pre-walk dinner, look no further than Colandrea New Corner Restaurant at 72nd Street and Eighth Avenue, a fourth-generation, landmark local favorite for classic red-sauce Italian cuisine among locals and famous directors alike. Hollywood legend Martin Scorsese even selected it to film scenes for his upcoming Netflix film The Irishman, starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci.
The extensive and affordable menu covers everything from fried ravioli and calamari to linguine with clam sauce, seafood fra diavolo, chicken cacciatore, veal chops and filet mignon bolognese—ideal to fill you up before you walk it off. Open until 10 p.m. on weeknights and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, New Corner is also a great place to unwind with a glass of wine, some shrimp cocktail and a plate of salmon alla vodka after seeing the sights.
For something more low-key, My Three Sons Coffee Shop, on Fort Hamilton Parkway between 71st and 72nd Streets, is a diner-like spot with breakfast sandwiches, dinner specials, burgers and loads of hot and cold sandwiches. The signature dishes include the 3 Sons Greek Combo, with chicken kebab, gyro, fries, a pita and tzatziki sauce, while the Brooklyn Burger is a pile of pastrami, cheddar, grilled onions and mustard on a bun.
Most neighborhood eateries, however, can be found closer to the action, along Dyker Heights’ main street, 13th Avenue, which is home to mom-and-pop shops like Grandma’s Bakery, between 72nd and 73rd Streets.
Grandma’s is the place to go if you plan to stock up on treats to eat while doing your lights tour. The cannolis are a must and an easy crowd-pleaser—imagine chomping on the creamy, crunchy, nutty snacks while listening to Christmas music and watching dancing reindeer—as are the Italian sandwich cookies that come in almost as many colors of sprinkles as the holiday lights outside. Like most Italian bakeries, Grandma’s also stocks cheesecakes, tarts, carrot and fruit cakes, and more, but what keeps customers coming back is the sense of community, as well as quality and affordability.
For something more savory to take on the road, La Bella Marketplace, at 79th Street, carries everything you’ll need for a portable picnic: imported Italian cheese, stuffed roasted tomatoes and peppers, containers of caprese salad, bags of cider donuts, broccoli pie, homemade sausages, rice balls and more.
The Dyker Heights Christmas Lights are on display from the week after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve. It gets crowded, but where there’s a full belly, there’s holiday cheer.