In 2018, four restaurants in Williamsburg earned five Michelin stars among them. Aside from their exceptional quality, however, these restaurants have little in common. They encompass a legendary steakhouse that is one of the city’s oldest eateries, a former pop-up with a Nordic-inspired tasting menu, a restaurant dedicated to the underappreciated flavors of the country’s Mid-Atlantic region, and a restaurant that gives New American cuisine a hint of Mediterranean sunshine.
47 South Fifth Street (between Wythe and Kent Avenues)
Pork shoulder, bacon, apple, and beets at Aska. Image: T. Tseng/Flickr
Aska began as a pop-up eatery, first called Frej, in Kinfolk Studios in 2012; Swedish chef Fredrik Berselius moved the restaurant to its current location, a former warehouse dating to the 1880s, in 2016. Now, as then, Aska offers only tasting menus—you can choose between the 10-course and the 19-course dinners when making your reservation, along with optional wine pairings. The seasonal dishes that earned Aska its two Michelin stars highlight Scandinavian ingredients and cooking techniques. You might be served acorn-size potatoes with onion and mackerel in a sour-milk foam, a savory pancake made with pig’s blood, a langoustine cooked in lavender, or fermented and pickled strawberries atop raw-milk sorbet. Dark and moody, the 10-table restaurant is more reflective of the Arctic Circle in winter than of the fjords in summer, but there is also a cellar bar—no reservation required—with a garden that is open during the warmer months.
135 North Fifth Street (between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street)
Like Aska, Delaware and Hudson specializes in regional food. Here, the region is the Mid-Atlantic states. Ingredients are sourced from those states: strawberries, heirloom potatoes, and fiddleheads from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm in Roscoe, NY; asparagus, squash, and tomatoes from Cherry Lane Farms in Bridgewater, NJ; poultry and meat from Arcadian Pastures in Sloansville, NY, to name just a few. The prix-fixe dinner menu is seasonal as well as regional. Recent dishes included a house-made bluefish pâté and lamb meatballs among the starters and cauliflower schnitzel and pot roast as main courses. Delaware and Hudson is open for lunch and weekend brunch as well as for dinner. The Eggs Ben Franklin—poached eggs with Taylor pork roll, pretzel muffins, and mustard hollandaise sauce—will delight those who grew up in New Jersey, just as the Amish-style chicken pot pie, which replaces crust with noodles, will be a taste of home for anyone who grew up within driving distance to Lancaster, PA. In addition to the 38-seat restaurant, Delaware and Hudson features a 35-seat tavern that serves burgers, schnitzel, and other comfort food alongside wines, liquors, and an especially impressive range of beers and ciders.
149 Broadway (between Driggs and Bedford Avenues)
The Mediterranean influence is apparent as soon as you walk into Meadowsweet, from the mosaic-tile floors to the window boxes of herbs to the wood-beamed ceiling. The menu, which changes daily, certainly reflects that influence too. Appetizers, for instance, might include crispy baby artichokes with shaved Parmesan, burrata served with squash, squid-ink fettuccine, or Brussels sprouts and a sage-pecan pesto. But other influences extend far beyond the Mediterranean. Recently the available entrees included Icelandic cod with smoked fingerling potatoes and black trumpet mushrooms, Wagyu steak, and Black Sea bass with roasted fennel, blood orange, and winter chicories. In addition to the à la carte dinner menu, a five-course tasting menu is available Sunday through Thursday evenings. Meadowsweet is perhaps best known for its weekend brunch, however. Start with a bowl of five round doughnuts served with caramel sauce, follow that with duck pastrami hash and poached eggs—and do not forget the Brunch Punch.
178 Broadway (at Driggs Avenue)
Inside the venerable Peter Luger Steak House. Image: Ludovic Bertron/Wikimedia
When Carl Luger’s Café, Billiards and Bowling Alley—the original incarnation of Peter Luger—open in 1887, Michelin stars had yet to be created. (The first stars were awarded in 1926.) There is no longer a bowling alley in the staid restaurant, of course, nor even a billiard table, though one would not look out of place among the dark-paneled walls and bentwood chairs. In addition to its Michelin star, the restaurant has been awarded the title of best New York steakhouse by Zagat for decades, no doubt the result of its almost single-minded focus on beef. For your dinner entrée you can order steak, rib steak, lamb chops, grilled Atlantic salmon, and filet of sole—and that is pretty much it. The selections of appetizers, sides, and desserts are not much longer. Then again, there really is no reason to visit Peter Luger if you are not planning to order one of its buttery, succulent steaks, which are personally selected at the wholesale markets and dry-aged on-site.