The Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant is perhaps best known for being the birthplace of famous rappers like Jay-Z, The Notorious BIG, and Mos Def (now known as Yasiin Bey). But, Bed-Stuy’s contributions to African American and pop culture go even deeper than simply giving birth to hip-hop giants.
The historic neighborhood is home to the first free African American community, is the birthplace of many prolific African American poets, serves as the backdrop to many of Spike Lee’s movies, and was the breeding ground for Civil Rights victories in the late 1960’s. Bed-Stuy’s little known history is often obscured by its tough reputation for which the phrase coined in the 90’s “Bed-Stuy, Do or Die” speaks to its rugged way of life. While the hype has kept many would-be tourists at bay it hasn’t diminished the cultural and artistic significance of the neighborhood.
As the neighborhood tastes continue to shift under the influence and interests of its new residents, Bed-Stuy will soon be able to claim another important cultural achievement: home to an amazing culinary scene. Sadly, Bed-Stuy doesn’t ever make the list for neighborhoods to visit for neighborhood to go to get your foodie fix; and that’s where we come in! Here we shed light to a few artisan purveyors, ethnic eats, and date spots located in Bed-Stuy that deserve recognition:
1069 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
SCRATCHbread Bakery moved into Bed-Stuy in the summer of 2010 and has been filling the streets with the most incredible sweet bread smells since day one. The Bed-Stuy bakery is both the production site for all of SCRATCHS’ breads, muffins, cookies, and sticky-buns and is fully equipped with a walk-up window to serve all of SCRATCHS’ creations. A few highlights include the Focaccia Pizza, which is bursting with garlic or the Hot Sticky Mess Sticky Buns, which are thoroughly soaked in a sweet and spicy chili, orange and cardamom syrup. The walk-up window is open during the week on Wednesdays from 4-8pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-3pm. The smell will lead you right to it!
Bed Stuy Farm Share
1121 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
Ok, so a CSA isn’t exactly a traditional food establishment, but it’s a great example of local and seasonal food—central to the values of BK’s food movement. Residents sign up in the spring to receive 22 weeks of fresh fruits and vegetables harvested from farms in the New York area. Beginning in June, Bed Stuy Farm Share offers a craft beer share. The beer is a collection of home-brews made locally and consists of unique mash-ups such as Chocolate Pink Peppercorn Ale and Oolong-and-orange Summer Ale. For more information, check out their website here.
435 Halsey Street, Brooklyn, NY 11233
Saraghina is an unassuming pizza spot located on the corner of Halsey Street and Lewis Avenue is Bed-Stuy’s historic district. Saraghina focuses on using fresh, high quality, seasonal ingredients for its pizza and anti-pasti. The owners set out to recreate the food they loved as children and they have poured the same amount of love into their menu as their mother did when preparing home-cooked meals.
Melanie’s: West Indian Food
1285 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11216
If you are looking for West Indian food look no further than Melanie’s on the corner of Fulton and Nostrand Avenues. Melanie’s is a juice bar, bakery, and restaurant specializing in Trinidadian dishes. One of my favorite dishes is “Doubles” a common street food in Trinidad and Tobago, made with two flat fried breads called “bara” and filled with “chana” or spiced chickpeas. Top it with a variety of chutney and you’re in business. If you are looking for something more substantial try the oxtails with rice and peas. Likewise, the curry chicken and stew chicken is fall off the bone tender and pairs well with pumpkin or plantains. Be sure to finish your meal with a fresh natural juice, to make the experience even more Caribbean.
African Cuisine: Senegalese and West African
1139 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11238
On Fulton Street at Franklin Avenue there is a restaurant whose green awning simply reads, “American and African Food.” Inside its humble exterior there is a buffet of deliciousness awaiting. Every day this restaurant provides Senegalese and West African dishes. There are no labels on the buffet, because most of the people who eat here know the dishes by sight. My suggestion is to eat with your eyes. Start with a generous serving of rice or couscous and build your plate from there. You can find classic Senegalese dishes such as thiebu dienne (rice and fish with vegetables in sauce) and soupakanja (okra stew), as well as Guinean specialties. Be sure to try the bissap (sorrel) to wash down your meal.
American and Latin Cuisine: Latin Food
522 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
And, the theme continues. On Nostrand Avenue at Macon Street there is a red awning that simply reads, “American and Latin Cuisine.” Inside you will find a tantalizing buffet of Dominican dishes like yellow rice, beans, carne asada, and plantains. The food is simple yet full of flavor. The rotisserie chicken is the special here. It is marinated in a blend of spices and then left to roast for hours until the skin has only a slight crisp and the meat is tender and moist. You can smell the rotisserie from down the street. Let the savory scent of whole roasted chicken be your guide!
Do or Dine
1108 Bedford Avenue Brooklyn, NY
If you are looking for a date spot to get dressed up for, look no further. Though Do or Dine is a casual restaurant the food is properly dressed and adorned—so why not follow suit? For a sharing-focused date try a combination of small plates paired with signature cocktails. The lamb with cumin and lime is perfectly crusted and fatty. “Et Tu Brute,” Do or Dine’s take on the Cesar salad (get it?), is deconstructed with mackerel stacked atop several leaves of grilled romaine and stabbed with a knife. Do or Dine’s fun menu and laid-back vibe makes it a perfect spot to let flirtation run its course.
1102 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
Enter this dimly-lit Italian eatery and you will be instantly relaxed. The exposed brick walls and candlelight creates an incredibly inviting space. A warm interior seems fitting for indulging in comfortingly simplistic Southern Italian fare.
At Sud you’ll find classic Italian dishes, a well-curated list of Southern Italian wines, and a small and friendly staff. The menu reflects the best of the season with new creations added monthly as the seasons change.
305 Franklin Ave Brooklyn, NY
Dough is not your typical date spot, but this hole-in-the-wall doughnut shop is a go-to for a first date. Maybe it’s more of a go-to for a date that went so well it lasted until the next morning kind of date or for a just grabbing something sweet after a delicious meal kind of date. Actually, Dough is just a daily go-to; date or not. Taking someone to Dough conveys good taste and an appreciation for simple pleasures in life.
The only foreseeable problem with a date at Dough is that you won’t have any place to sit, but no worries, just take a stroll to nearby Ft. Greene Park. Dough features the most wonderfully light and fluffy doughnuts I have ever had! The uncommon glazes and fillings like hibiscus, passion fruit, blood orange, and lemon meringues are a reflection of sheer pastry genius. All are made fresh right on the premises—daily. At Dough a doughnut and French press coffee will run you about $5. Your date won’t even mind that you didn’t spend a lot of money. Trust me, it’s that good!