Little Black Book

Get a Taste: 6 Great Mom and Pop Picks in Cobble Hill

by Herb Lester
Long Pull up a barstool. Photo courtesy of Long Island Bar.

Our favorite map makers over at Herb Lester Associates unveiled a new pocket guidebook, Brooklyn Mom & Pop, that features the borough's oldest and most prized neighborhood joints — for eating, drinking, hanging out, and shopping. Get a taste of the offerings with highlights from the Cobble Hill neighborhood section of the book.

Damascus Bakery
195 Atlantic Ave.; +1-718-625-7070
Damascus has been baking pita bread in downtown Brooklyn since 1930. The physical plant is now in Dumbo, but their retail store on Atlantic Avenue remains the place for Syrian pastries and other Middle Eastern baked goods: breads with sesame seeds or zatar, honeyed baklava, date cookies, strudels, and great cylinders of halvah. Setting aside dessert for a moment, you will also discover imported canned and frozen delicacies, dried fruits, and some prepared dishes such as stuffed grape leaves and bean salads.

Long Island Bar
110 Atlantic Ave.; +1-718-625-8908
Opened in the 1950s as a restaurant serving hungry longshoremen off the docks at the end of the avenue, the Long Island stood shuttered for years awaiting its rebirth as a fashionable cocktail bar and restaurant. Thankfully no major changes were made to the interior and everything has just been buffed up to a gloss. The booths, the Formica walls, even the myriad cigarette burns in the woodwork have been preserved, and the result is a handsome time capsule. As the clientele — and their tastes — have changed, so of course will the menu. Expect a polished cocktail and some sophisticated bar food.

Montero Bar & Grill
73 Atlantic Ave.; +1-646-729-4129
The chaotic jumble of nautical curiosities covering the interior testify to Montero's early days as the choice for workers off the nearby piers and sailors finding themselves beached on Atlantic Avenue. This has been a neighborhood stalwart since 1947. The grill is long gone, and the bar is best for shot-and-a-beer basics, although you can get a standard cocktail without complaint. It is still a family business, as welcoming and without pretension as a visit to a favorite uncle, and with as many stories to tell.

Oriental Pastry and Grocery
170 Atlantic Ave.; +1-718-875-7687
Looking for dried lemons or limes? Need to choose from three types of golden raisins and welcome an opinion on the Yemeni ones? You're in the right place. This spice and grocery store has been the Moustapha family business since 1967. Don't let the intimacy of this shop scare you off: They're helpful and friendly. This is the place you want to go to have a conversation instead of fighting a crowd of foodies for a spot at the olive bar at the organic superstore. The cupboards and cases and bins and jars are chockablock with dried fruits, loose herbal teas, olives galore, pickled vegetables, baklava, packaged cookies and other sweets, all at encouraging prices. This is classic Atlantic Avenue.

187 Atlantic Ave.; +1-718-624-4550
A cornerstone of the Syrian and Lebanese communities in Brooklyn, Sahadi's opened on Atlantic Avenue in 1948 selling Middle Eastern imports. They have expanded over the years, and today you'll find more European products than before, and local NY state specialty items in addition to the plethora of dried fruits, nuts, coffee, candy, cheeses, meats. A massive Trader Joe's gourmet supermarket has opened up the street, but Sahadi's business didn't seem to be suffering on a recent Saturday, a testament to the loyalty of their long-time customers.

Damascus Bakery, Brooklyn
Famous pita bread at Damascus. Photo courtesy of Damascus Bakery.

Sam's Restaurant
238 Court St.; +1-718-596-3458
Despite the sign out front, no one goes here for steaks and chops. The pizza is the draw, though the kitchen renders quite good examples of the classic red sauce pasta dishes, too. Sam's has been here since 1930, and your waiter, Louis, about half of that. They own the building, so no one worries about the lack of a crowd, or how quick they get around to taking your order, either. More time for you to soak up the aging allure of the red vinyl booths, checked tablecloth, wood paneled dining room. From the menu: "If your wife can't cook, don't divorce her, keep her and eat at Sam's … you’ll both be happy." Well, even if you both cook, an evening here is always tops.

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Buy Brooklyn Mom & Pop at (£12.00)

(The publishers like to point out that the book has a plastic cover that can be wiped clean if there's a run in with the likes of relish or root beer from Coney Island.)

Reprinted with permission from Brooklyn Mom & Pop: A Guide to Neighborhood Eating, Drinking and Shopping, from Herb Lester Associates.

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