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Dining Out: Sampling the Slope

Chances are, if you want to eat it, you can find it in Park Slope.

The neighborhood, characterized by mom-and-pop restaurants and shops that have emerged to cater to the residents of the tony brownstones, limestones and vintage apartment buildings that line its tree-shaded streets, boasts more than its fair share of independent eateries, keeping those that live there, as well as those that visit, very well-fed indeed.

Over the years, we have sampled the fare from numerous restaurants in the area, though, admittedly, given the plethora of culinary establishments in the neighborhood, we have many more to try.

Here are some of our favorites.

For Italian food, we would willingly indulge at Bella Gioia (209 Fourth Avenue, 347-223-4176), a new restaurant which specializes in Sicilian food with a twist. Chef/owner Nico Daniele has developed Bella Gioia as a cozy yet elegant restaurant that celebrates “old world Sicily,” while “pushing the boundaries,” and the dishes are as appealing to the eye as they are to the palate. We still dream of the Pappardelle cu Saissa di Agneddu, fresh broad ribbons of pasta enrobed in a succulent lamb ragu

If our palate is craving a little just North-of-the-Border flavor, we head for Park Slope standby Santa Fe Grill (62 Seventh Avenue, 718-636-0279), where the guacamole is creamy and exquisitely fresh, and the classic combo plates are as filling as they are tasty, combining spice and savor with gusto.

For Mediterranean food, one of our go-to spots is the delightful Miriam (79 Fifth Avenue, 718-622-2250), which revisits the sunny cuisine of countries from Israel to Morocco, adding its unique touch to all. The hummus is a top seller and for good reason – it’s nutty and creamy and utterly addictive, as are the Spanakopita, filo-pastry-wrapped spinach and feta triangles that are served, unusually, with harissa, a North African spice paste.

There are lots of seafood options in the nabe. The classic Grand Central Oyster Bar (254 Fifth Avenue, 347-294-0596) woos fish lovers with its signature Manhattan and New England Clam Chowders and Gulf Shrimp Cocktail as well as its array of raw oysters and other seafood preparations – some traditional, some updated — that have kept people coming back to its original location for more than 100 years.

Luke’s Lobster (237 Fifth Avenue, 347-457-6855) is one of the latest outposts in a growing restaurant empire that has staked its reputation on sweet, fresh lobster meat and other seafood served in traditional New England style. There’s nothing fancy here, just the honest taste of seafood caught off the Maine coast.

Vegetarians and even vegans have a broad choice of options in the neighborhood as well. For vegans, there’s the delightful V Spot (156 Fifth Avenue, 718-928-8778), whose Colombian-inspired menu of empanadas, burritos and tostadas boasts offerings that even devout meat-eaters will devour.

You’ll certainly never miss the meat at the piquant Pickle Shack (256 Fourth Avenue, 347-763-2127), where the pickles are varied, the vegetarian burger is amazingly good, and the beers and ales are a perfect complement to fare that’s hearty and delicious but never heavy. Our mouths still long for the Fried Hop Pickles, which take the fairground standard to a whole new level.

The beer is also fabulous at German-inspired Die Koelner Bierhalle (84 Saint Marks Place, 347-227-7238), where the imported brews complement the hearty fare. When we wrote our review, the restaurant boasted over 75 varieties of beer – 30 on tap – all imported from Germany and brewed in accordance with the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516, to wash down such traditional favorites as kielbasa and bratwurst, as well as spaetzle and pretzels. With this sort of food, there’s one basic commandment: Go hungry!

Then, there are the eateries that defy characterization, such as Backyard (388 Fifth Avenue, 347-227-8018), which puts its own spin on traditional American foodstuffs, marrying New England and Southern culinary traditions for a cuisine that is homey but surprising. Its Back to Tennessee, a brunch favorite, is a perfect example, combining succulent, fork-tender pulled pork with sweet and savory house-made baked beans in a bowl topped with perfectly runny fried eggs and house-made cracklings.

By now, you should be pretty hungry. I know I am.

Time to eat!

 

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