In contrast to Manhattan's effete Fifth Avenue, the same-named thoroughfare in Bay Ridge is a colorful working-class shopping strip, with some of the borough's best and most reasonably priced restaurants. Over the last two decades, Middle Easterners have come to dominate the stretch between 67th and 86th streets, where you can find food from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Turkey, and Palestine. But that is not nearly the limit of the avenue's culinary delights. Read on, as we enumerate a few of our favorite places, running from north to south.Read More
Sietsema's Favorite Dining Spots on Bay Ridge's Fifth Ave
This 20-year-old Palestinian bakery, which originated in Paterson, New Jersey, makes plenty of fascinating pastries you've probably never heard of. Its specialty is kanefa, a bright orange, pizza-shaped platform of gooey white cheese and shredded semolina topped with pistachios. It's only slightly sweet. Another pastry well worth trying is warbat, a rectangle of puff pastry filled with thick custard and sprinkled with powdered sugar. A surfeit of seating allows you to relax with pastries and an espresso.
5th Ave Kings
Go beyond the neat and narrow shelves of Middle Eastern groceries to find a butcher shop and steam-table carryout featuring the food of Yemen. You can be very happy with one of their spice-rubbed rotisserie chickens — very popular in the neighborhood — but why not try the stew called ghallaba, served with rice pilaf and a side salad.
Bahary Fish Restaurant
This long-running Alexandrian seafood market allows you to eat your selection just after purchase by cooking it for you by one of two Egyptian methods — spice-rubbing and blackening, or deep-frying. Fine-textured fish are better fried. Whole striped bass, mullet, sea trout, porgy, and red snapper are the highlights, and don't miss the baba ganoush.
While 5 Ave Kings offers a smattering of Yemeni food in the context of a pan-Middle Eastern menu, and the place is only for carryout, Yemen Café offers a comfortable-but-spare dining room. Yemen Cafe has a full-blown menu, featuring many tribal specialties such as salta (a bubbling pot of fenugreek-laced goo with giant homemade pitas for dipping), fatah (a porridge of lamb and torn strips of the same bread), and haneez (giant hunks of spice-rubbed roast lamb).
Three years ago when it opened with much fanfare, this Lebanese bakery was the new kid on the block, and its mastic-thickened ice creams were the envy of the neighborhood, in flavors such as rosewater and pistachio. A co-specialty is baklava, offered in many variations at this brightly lit but comfortable place with seating.
Al Salam Restaurant and Meat Market
This small grocery long ago evolved into one of the best Beirut-style fast food spots in the city, offering an engaging assortment of kebabs and other grilled meats in addition to salads ranging from eggplant to poached lamb brains. Best of all is the chicken shawarma sandwich rolled into a pita cylinder and garnished with pickle spears and garlic aioli, with enough garlic to make your mouth burn. Counter stools only.
The yumurtali pide, a bread canoe filled with cheese and eggs, justifies a trip to this Turkish kebab house from anywhere in the city. But once you've made the trek, also try the whole grilled fish, the generous mixed grill done over charcoal, the bread dips like cacik and "spicy salad" offered with homemade pitas, and, for dessert, the brown-topped pudding thickened with rice starch. And the sesame-seeded falafels are some of the best in town, flattened and fried to a licorice hue.
At Schnitzel Haus, you'll find German lagers and pilsners on tap, a $7 cut-price lunch, perfectly fried schnitzels of veal and pork in myriad configurations, and lots of crumbled bacon seemingly in everything, including the slightly-sweet sauerkraut and a leek soup that might bring tears to a Frenchman's eyes. Yes, the cosmopolitan cooking of this newish German stube verges on the excellent, but did we also mention the interior is handsome, too, fit for a leisurely meal with plenty of beer?
This century-old bakery, in perpetual danger of closing down, is evidence of Bay Ridge's Scandinavian past, and the Danish pastries, nut-studded and white-frosted, are some of the best and most old-fashioned available anywhere. But the place is also famous for its black-and-white cookies and, come St. Patty's Day, its soda bread.
David's Brisket House
The original Bed-Stuy version of this place spawned a second branch in Bay Ridge just over a year ago: a kosher-style Muslim halal deli that proves peace in the world is possible. It also proves that there is such a thing as a $7 hot-meat sandwich, whether you choose pastrami, corned beef, or (most recommended) the oven-roasted brisket with gravy. New York is a crazy place!
I once declared Al Safa's baba ganoush the best in Brooklyn, and this very inexpensive Levantine establishment also does great fried cauliflower, pickle platters, and whole rotisserie chickens. Only the lamb dishes disappointed, only serving to emphasize that this is a great place for vegetarians, especially if you ask for extra garlic sauce with everything.