Brooklyn Restaurant & Book Pairings

by Cara Nicoletti on November 18, 2014

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Recently, I took a series of photographs pairing my favorite neighborhood restaurants with books for Opening Ceremony. I wanted to share those photos with you all here!

Okonomi, with a side of Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami writes about food a lot in his novels and short stories, but the food scenes in Norwegian Wood are my favorite because of their clean simplicity. At one point the narrator eats a breakfast of “rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables, and fried eggs,” and at another point “eggs, mackerel, fresh greens, eggplant, mushrooms, radishes, and sesame seeds, all done in the delicate Kyoto style.” I had never had a traditional Japanese breakfast until Okonomi opened up down the street a few months ago. Every morning there is a prefix menu, the only choice you get is what fish you want, and all the fish comes in fresh every morning. Along with the fish, there are steamed greens with sesame seeds and tofu, pickled vegetables, a small square of egg custard, rice with bonito flakes, and a poached egg, barley tea, and the best miso soup I’ve ever had. I always leave Okonomi feeling somehow cleansed—not my usual feeling after going out to breakfast.

150 Ainslie Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
MAP

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Saltie, with a side of The Babysitters Club: Dawn on the Coast by Ann M. Martin
I had never even heard of sprouts or hummus until I read The Babysitters Club books in third grade. I don’t have much to thank them for besides that. Baby-sitter Dawn is a California hippie and totally disgusted by the eating habits of her friends in Stoneybrook, PA. The Clean Slate sandwich from Saltie is the California flower child sandwich of Dawn Schafer’s dreams. It has hummus and bulgur wheat, loads of pickled vegetables and fresh herbs, sesame seeds, and yogurt—all on house-made naan. I could eat it every day of the week (but don’t tell Meat Hook Sandwich).

378 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211
MAP

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Meat Hook Sandwich, with a side of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
There’s a scene in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath where a group of hungry children are standing around watching a tractor driver eat a spam and cheese and pickle and mustard sandwich. Generally this wouldn’t sound very appetizing, but because the kids are so hungry, it looks like the best meal in the world to them. Steinbeck’s language is so rich that you can taste and smell the sandwich just reading about it, and it makes you want one too. Meat Hook Sandwich doesn’t offer Spam (yet), but it does make a fried bologna sandwich with mustard and pickles and cheese, which is pretty darn close—and insanely delicious. We make the bologna in house at The Meat Hook and send it over to the sandwich shop, but I swear I’m not being biased about how good it is.

495 Lorimer Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
MAP

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King Noodle with a side of The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

The Middlesteins is a novel about a family dealing with eating disorders in all of its myriad forms. In one particularly poignant scene, Edie, a middle-aged woman who is literally eating herself to death, drives her daughter far outside of town to a neon-lit Chinese food restaurant called The Golden Unicorn. The restaurant looks unremarkable, but the food is incredible—“steaming, plush pork buns, and bright green broccoli in thick lobster sauce, sticky brown noodles paired with sweet shrimp and glazed chicken, briny, chewy clams swimming in a subtle black-bean gravy.” The restaurant reminds me of King Noodle, which from the looks of it, you might not think makes food as seriously good as it does (there is a disco ball and mirrored walls and a lot of neon). The wavy noodles with shrimp and pork and the Chinese broccoli are consistently perfect, and it always has really thoughtful specials. Plus, its cocktails are dangerously good and sometimes come in a frozen pineapple.

1045 Flushing Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237
MAP

5

The Second Chance Saloon, with a side of $$$$$$ by Bukowski

I hate Bukowski, but the love that I have for The Second Chance Saloon is real, and somehow the two just work together. There is plenty of beer drinking at dark bars in his collection of poems, “Love is a Dog from Hell,” but one poem in particular, called “$$$$$$” makes me think about The Second Chance. In the poem, Bukowski talks about being terrible at managing his money, and how in the days before payday he always had to eat chips and hot dogs because they were all he could afford. It seems like everyone who goes to The Second Chance is a regular and a great storyteller, and most of the patrons are bartenders or restaurant workers or bike messengers. It’s a place that I think Bukowski would have liked to hang out; it’s got a lot of heart. And it also happens to serve potato chips and hot dogs.

659 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
MAP

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Peter Pan Donuts, with a side of Homer Price by Robert McCloskey

After reading the story “The Donuts” in Robert McCloskey’s Homer Price as a kid, it has always been a secret dream of mine to own a donut shop. Peter Pan Donuts looks like it was plucked right from one of McCloskey’s pencil-sketch drawings, down to the stools at the counter. Donuts have definitely been having a moment the past few years, but in my opinion, nobody can touch Peter Pan—I live and die by its sour-cream old fashioned. (side note: there will be a recipe for old fashioned sour cream donuts in my book that get as close to Peter Pan’s as I could get them).

727 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11222
MAP

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Bakeri with a side of Heidi by Johanna Spyri

I read Heidi as a little kid and I think I can blame it for the bread addiction I still struggle with as a 28-year-old. Bread is mentioned something like 52 times in the book, which is about a little girl who lives with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps. The book is full of beautiful, simple meals, but they mostly eat bread with butter or goat’s milk cheese and a cup of coffee, which to me is a perfect meal. Nobody in the neighborhood makes bread as good as Bakeri. Its bread and pastries are baked in house every morning—the sourdough rye is my favorite. I have eaten a whole loaf in one sitting. Plus the space is beautiful and it makes really good coffee.

150 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211
MAP

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Greenpoint Fish & Lobster co., with a side of The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

When it comes to Hemingway, I’m more of a fan of his short stories than his novels, but I have a soft spot for The Old Man and the Sea. Growing up in Massachusetts so close to the ocean, I have an affinity for stories about fishermen and ship captains. At Greenpoint Fish, the fish is sustainably caught and comes in fresh every morning—the guys at the counter can tell you everything about where it was caught and even by whom. Besides having a great selection of seafood to take home and cook yourself, it also has an amazing raw bar and kitchen. Its lobster roll is the closest to a Massachusetts lobster roll I’ve had, and the fish tacos and chowder are amazing too.

114 Nassau Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11222
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If there’s a literary food scene you want to see come to life be sure to leave me a comment and let me know! Or take a peek in the Recipe Index.

Leave a Comment

Elizabeth Aquino November 18, 2014 at 4:56 pm

You always have me at your first word, your photos, your sensibility, but you REALLY had me with “I hate Bukowski.” xoxoxo

Reply

Cara Nicoletti November 18, 2014 at 9:58 pm

There really is no one worse. xo!

Reply

marcy November 18, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Cara, I have one criticism about this: it ended. I wanted to read it forever! It’s brilliant! And so are you.

Reply

Susan Corson November 18, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Makes me wish I lived in Brooklyn! Can’t wait for your book. And thanks for the great post!

Reply

Maggie November 18, 2014 at 9:25 pm

What a great idea!! Everything looks delicious.

Reply

danielle @ this picture book life November 19, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Just fabulous!!

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kristie @ birchandwild.com December 5, 2014 at 8:14 pm

I want that hippie sandwich!

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