Everyone seems to have something to say about Brooklyn these days. "Brooklyn? I'm not going to Brooklyn," or "That is so Brooklyn." Love it or hate it, Brooklyn has earned a certain notoriety in our national consciousness. The darling of the New York Times in 2010, as Brian Williams aptly articulated, Brooklyn outlived its 15 minutes of fame and continues to dominate a national -- and international -- conversation about youth and culture today. However you may feel about this ever-evolving borough, it has undeniably endowed the world with some of the great creative minds and movements of our time. An unparalleled incubator for the arts, literature and music, Brooklyn has raised the likes of Woody Allen, Jonathan Lethem, Larry David, Jay-Z, Rita Hayworth, Spike Lee, Arthur Miller and Lou Reed.
Most recently, it has become the "it" locale of the culinary world. With its rich, cultural diversity, Brooklyn has always been a great dining destination, but it seems to be coming of age alongside the recent wave of food-mania, perfectly timing its ascent as the epitome of cool with the ascent of a national obsession with all things food. Of course, one identity feeds the other, and Brooklyn's star presence on the national stage -- with the "Brooklyn hipster" playing the leading role -- is both a product of and reason for its culinary renaissance. If food is the new rock 'n' roll, Brooklyn might be something like the Beatles.
Like Brooklynites themselves, the food scene today is a mix of native and transplant. Long-time staples like Nathan's Famous Frankfurters in Coney Island; the original Juniors in downtown Brooklyn, open since 1929; and classic steakhouse, Peter Luger, are still bringing Manhattanites to Brooklyn after all these years. Add the influx of newcomers who have moved to Brooklyn after opening elsewhere -- like Portland-transplant Pok Pok; Morimoto chefs' ramen hot-spot, Chuko; and Spotted Pig alum Nate Smith's Allswell -- and Brooklyn's magnetism becomes clear. Then, of course, there is the long list of chefs and food distributors who went directly to Brooklyn, like Top Chef's Dale Talde, who opened his first restaurant in Park Slope in January of this year.
Somehow, amidst the old and new, and amidst the diversity of cuisines, there is a certain flavor that is decidedly Brooklyn. It's homegrown, casual, maybe a little proud, effortless in appearance but
The latest accolade for this Brooklyn flavor came from a New York Times article a few weeks ago. It seems the Times is still trying to capitalize on this elusive but indisputable Brooklyn identity with the catchphrase, "très Brooklyn." As an article on food trucks in Paris explains, "Among young Parisians, there is currently no greater praise for cuisine than 'très Brooklyn,' a term that signifies a particularly cool combination of informality, creativity and quality." While the New York Times may have gotten it wrong with the latest application of "très Brooklyn" in a review of the New York Public Library's new exhibit, Lunch Hour NYC ("très Brooklyn" is now, and indistinguishable from the culture of today, not yesterday!), if young Parisians think Brooklyn is the pinnacle of taste -- for food, that is -- then Brooklyn's star is definitely still on the rise.
There is undoubtedly plenty to poke fun at and roll your eyes over when it comes to the food scene in Brooklyn (summed up to perfection on Brokeland's "Brokelandia - Did You Eat It?" -- an ingenious riff on a sketch from Portlandia). I, however, wouldn't want to live anywhere else.