Brooklyn earns distinction as dining destination

NEW YORK Tue Oct 4, 2011 9:25am EDT

A sign is seen covered in snow on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York February 10, 2010. REUTERS/Natalie Behring

A sign is seen covered in snow on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York February 10, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Natalie Behring

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Forget Manhattan. Brooklyn is vying to become New York City's hip and cutting-edge dining destination.

"We got everything here in Brooklyn. They can keep Manhattan," said John Coppola, co-owner of the grilled sandwich truck, Foodfreaks.

The 31-year-old native of Brooklyn, one of New York's City's five boroughs, and brothers David and Stephen Cusato are among a new breed of ambitious cooks who think they can succeed outside of Manhattan.

Cheaper rents in growing neighborhoods have allowed chefs of diverse backgrounds to elevate hot dogs and other comfort food or popularize foreign dishes like jerk chicken.

Food critics seem to agree that Brooklyn has arrived as a foodie haven.

Last year, the Michelin restaurant guide gave two stars to Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare -- the first such distinction for a Brooklyn eatery.

Brooklyn still lags behind Manhattan, which has nine two-star Michelin restaurants and five eateries with three stars, the highest rating. But earning culinary prestige does not seem to be a priority for Brooklyn chefs.

Joshua Sharkey abandoned working at high-end Manhattan restaurants more than two years ago and partnered with another chef, Brandon Gillis, to open Bark Hot Dogs.

"We had the underdog mentality. We were the 'other borough.' We now have some of the best food in the city," Sharkey said during the recent New York City Wine & Food Festival.

Less financial pressure has fueled more risk-taking among Brooklyn chefs and allowed restaurant owners to focus on cultivating a regular clientele.

"I think Brooklyn chefs are not afraid to make an impact. There is a lot of freedom because the rent is lower," Elise Rosenberg, a co-owner of the restaurant Colonie said.

Colonie's head chef Brad McDonald has worked in the kitchens of acclaimed chefs, including Alain Ducasse, Thomas Keller and Rene Redzepi.

Brooklyn's burgeoning dining scene has even developed a following among Manhattan food lovers.

"I have a lot of Manhattan customers who drive in," said Emily Elsen, who co-owns the Four & Twenty Blackbirds with her younger sister Melissa.

The 30-year-old former sculptor student makes pies using seasonal ingredients in recipes inspired by her grandmother in South Dakota.

Despite Brooklyn's growing reputation as a food destination, its chefs are not worried about pleasing tourists.

"We see ourselves as a neighborhood restaurant. We are just serving a neighborhood with food," said Jean Adamson, chef and co-owner of Vinegar Hill House.

(Reporting by Richard Leong; editing by Patricia Reaney)

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