Dumbo, the waterfront area between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, has always been a lovely place for a stroll, especially since Brooklyn Bridge Park was redone. But it's never exactly been a dining destination, previously home primarily to two warring pizza shops (we are definitely Team Juliana's) and very few restaurants that took advantage of the landscape.
"Dumbo has always had this amazing waterfront real estate, but until recently, there were so few restaurants where you could enjoy it," Julian Brizzi, partner at new restaurant Celestine, says.
Celestine, along with several other new cafés and restaurants, have recently set up shop in said prime locations, suddenly making this artsy neighborhood a serious food destination.
On the ground floor of 1 John Street, a new waterfront residential building within Brooklyn Bridge Park, Celestine opened with an all-star team: Brizzi (Rucola, Grand Army Bar); partner Noah Bernamoff (Mile End Deli, Black Seed Bagels, Grand Army Bar); Joe Campanale (Fausto), who curated the wine list; and executive chef Garett McMahan (Perilla, The Harrison, Bouley). "We knew that first and foremost we wanted to create a Dumbo neighborhood restaurant with delicious food that you can eat at multiple times a week. This neighborhood restaurant just so happens to have one of the best views of Manhattan from its dining room," Brizzi says.
The space—with wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows—is designed by the James Beard-nominated team of Matthew Maddy and Nico Arze, who also designed Lilia, Grand Army Bar and Russ & Daughters Cafe. The food is mostly Mediterranean with a large meze selection and dishes like short rib Turkish manti and slow-cooked cod with cockles, but there's also room for an inventive braised rabbit kugel and a rich mushroom tart. The restaurant starts serving brunch this weekend, with dishes like shakshuka, Moroccan-spiced doughnuts and a kebab menu.
Another newcomer is The Osprey, the ground-floor, plant-strewn restaurant at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, a nature-inspired getaway on the edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park with stunning river and skyline views. After some delays, the restaurant opened with a former chef from Vinegar Hill House at the helm. "We're all very excited to be in Dumbo and to watch a historic Brooklyn neighborhood grow," partner and culinary director Michael Oliver says.
As you take in the views, order a craft cocktail (the namesake Osprey is a winner) and enjoy dishes that might sound simple (Little Gem salad, rotisserie chicken) but are deceptively complex and delightfully tasty. The sleeper hit? Ends Meat sausage, a juicy, homemade meat with fennel.
55 Water Street, a recently refurbished, long-empty warehouse set right on the water, is now its own mini food haven, which houses three restaurants and the first retail location and café of FEED, a nonprofit focused on hunger. Cecconi's, from Nick Jones of Soho House & Co., is a sleek Italian concept that has turned into a mini international chain, with other locations in Venice, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Berlin, Barcelona and Istanbul. Also in the building is VHH Foods, a casual, vegetable-filled spot from the owners of Vinegar Hill House, and Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill, a club-like space with locations in Miami and Las Vegas that serves splashy cocktails and bites, like bacon-wrapped dates and goat cheese croquettes, with live music from Hudson Horns during weekend brunch.
Devorah Lev-Tov is a contributing writer for Tasting Table who travels the globe—and traverses NYC block by block—in search of her next amazing meal. See her latest adventures on her Instagram at @devoltv.
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