December 7, 2023
December 7, 2023

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A Culinary Tour of Crown Heights: Bring Your Appetite and Wear Comfy Shoes

Having written about the Rosebud Food tour, led by Fern Penn (“Tour and Taste the Crown Heights Kosher Food Scene With Rosebud Food Tours,” July 25, 2019), I was excited to join as a participant last month. Penn lives in Greenwich Village and discovered that Crown Heights was a great place to do her Shabbat shopping. A veteran of taking women to Israel for fashion tours, she decided a food tour of Crown Heights would be attractive to city and suburban dwellers, like me, who weren’t aware of the growing number of unusually good and interesting places in Crown Heights.

If you’re looking for outings over Sukkot, there is a tour on Wednesday, October 16. Penn said that most places have sukkahs and it’s also fun to see the wide variety of sukkahs set up throughout Crown Heights.

Here’s what you can expect: Our group met at Bakerie, where we began with coffee and delicious oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies. Razi, the Paris-trained chef, told me molasses was the secret ingredient. The pastry case was filled with edible works of art. Penn said this is where she buys her breads, all pareve.

A stop at Benz’s grocery store brought us back to old-time Brooklyn. The owners set up a table with assorted herring, olives and pickles. But the real treat was discovering peppadew peppers, a sweet, savory mini pepper unlike any I have tried before.

Basil is a casual dairy restaurant with tables on the sidewalk, the kind of place that would be at home in any of the city’s gentrified sections, where we nibbled on pizza and fries. But these were on a higher plane than most. The fresh signature basil elevated the pizza, while the fries were seasoned and crisped to perfection. Next was a delicious carb fest, as we stopped for rugelach at Gombo’s—which has two locations in the Catskills that I know of—and then onto the Brooklyn Artisan Bakehouse for a bite of Danish with cream cheese frosting.

One of the more unusual stops was next: The Boozery, home of liquor-infused sorbet. We tasted strawberry, pina colada, pomegranate, mango and chocolate brownie flavors, a refreshing interlude between the pastry and our next stop, Koshertown, where the real food portion of the tour began. Koshertown is a large supermarket that has one section filled with prepared take-out food on Friday mornings. We had flaky, hot mushroom and potato bourekas, tahina dip and crackers and a sweet, salty eggplant salad.

We regretted that our capacity to eat was diminishing, as the most substantive items were ahead. Izzy’s has a reputation as the best kosher barbecue and has won competitions against non-kosher barbecue joints. We each had a small pulled brisket sandwich, though some of us admitted defeat and had it wrapped up to take home. It was delicious. Next door, the owner opened Izzy’s Taqueria, for tacos. I took mine home where it made a great lunch the next day. I make Mexican-inspired wraps, but I realized when biting into this sandwich that the corn tortilla makes it more authentic. Even the next day, the flavors were singing with juicy chicken and spicy guacamole.

Our finale was dessert at Alenbi, a restaurant with a celebrated Israeli chef about whom I have been reading since it opened. Malabi was a rosewater-scented custard that was just right for ending our tour. We sipped white wine and a little arrack before heading home.

If you’re interested in participating, here’s the schedule of upcoming tours: Wednesday, October 16 (Sukkkot); Sunday, November 3; Wednesday, November 6; Sunday, November 10; Wednesday, November 13; Sunday, November 17 (sold out); Wednesday, November 20; and Sunday, November 24 (sold out).

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By Bracha Schwartz

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