Chuko – stripped down, ramen-chic from Morimoto veterans on Vanderbilt. Pork cutlet banh mi (Vietnamese for ‘darling little piggy bun’) followed by pork broth with fatty pork, garnished with soft-boiled egg and pork, all served with enthusiasm by an impish dryad with glittering notes of chipmunk. Chopsticks make fine backscratchers.
James – overlook the air of food-snoot and burrow like a star-nosed mole into confit of pork belly and cauliflower soup with smoked trout; not to mention pressed young chicken, three words which cause hives of longing to break out simultaneously across all planes of one’s physiognomy. James was unbeatable when it had the waitress with the Renaissance face and the body of a line-caught herring. But it’s still really good.
Tillie’s – old retainer on DeKalb, from the days when Pratt was a step down from SUNY Oneonta. Normal pre-Eritrean vintage coffee with normal milk and normal pain au chocolat, pronounced (normally) crussantz. Dodgy student art and Brooklyn t-shirts with silhouettes of AK47’s from the days before the borough’s biggest danger was its duck rillettes. Boasts weekly ‘Open Mic’ nights involving people with nappy hair declaiming awful poetry they’ll soon join the remainder of the population in wishing they’d never written. Gone is the surly, half-girl-half-jockey with the aching silhouette of sawn-off 2×4 and the simian visage of Charlotte Gainsbourg. Gone too is the luminous Teutonic aryan nematode with eyes the colour of the Aegean who Geoffrey claimed looked like our friend’s 12 year old son; one of life’s true White Tigers. Inspired an entire photo shoot. Her, not him. What do you think we are, perverts?
Choice Market – worth staggering the extra five blocks with Marge’s searing walnuts behind the eyes, for solid coffee and even the chance that that adorable, beanied punk-pixie girl will be behind the counter, rendering one’s tongue an unmanageable vole and one’s life worth living again. Comfort classic sandwiches, with a Brooklyn twist: BLT with rosemary mayonnaise, rotisserie salmon, beef brisket and chips.
Roman’s – Mark Firth and Andrew Tarlow’s Italian outpost on DeKalb, shoulder-to-shoulder and twinkly. Go for something rabbity or marrowy, along with the sour and the bitter cocktail pairings (‘But I do say it’s hard to lose either / When you have both’). I once had a Risotto Milanese with a veal shank in it the size of a toddler’s femur.
The French House – all right, not strictly a neighbour, inasmuch as it’s three-and-a-half thousand miles away from Bell End. But in spirit, and in the fact that it frequently blinded the likes of Francis Bacon, Brendan Behan and Lucian Freud. And that Dylan Thomas accidentally left the manuscript of Under Milk Wood there, under his chair. But this is no White Horse Tavern. The French’s heart still beats; it’s still a first-rate place to get ruined, under the indifferent gaze of its hardy perennial barmaids.
The Greene Grape – birthed the 1L bottle of Grüner Veltliner in about 2004 and never looked back. All the stalwarts, Ex Libris, Wyatt Cabernet, Abbot’s Table and the fixin’s of the infamous Bell End Marge, which’ll have you leaving the premises with all the faculties of Helen Keller.
Provisions – Greene Grape’s foodish sibling, where we get our loaves and fishes, not to mention Tuscan cracked pepper and reggiano communion wafers. If you get off the subway and don’t have a cured sausage for our delectation, pop in here and they’ll sort you out.