Don't think you have to rush back to Manhattan for a trendy lunch or dinner. As Manhattan has pushed the creative and middle classes across the river, especially to Brooklyn, the once-maligned borough has blossomed into an epicurean center in its own right.
Flatbush Farm ($$)
76 St. Marks Avenue (at Flatbush Avenue)
Bergen Street station (2 or 3 train)
A changing seasonal menu uses local and fresh natural ingredients to craft deliciously different (but not crazy) offerings such as braised lamb shoulder with bubble and squeak and duck confit with lentils and frisee. They also turn out delicious grits, roasted chicken, burgers and fries, and eggs your way. Dinner and weekend brunch.
Grimaldi's Pizzeria ($)
19 Old Fulton Street (under the Brooklyn Bridge)
Clark Street station (2 or 3 train); High Street-Brooklyn Bridge station (A or C train)
A cozy pizzeria nestled under the Brooklyn Bridge, Grimaldi's is renowned for scrumptious pies baked in its coal-burning brick oven. Kids will enjoy watching the pizzas go from lumps of dough to oven-baked pies in the open kitchen. This perennial favorite is always crowded, and it isn't uncommon to wait outside for an hour before sitting down. Avoid the line by phoning ahead to order takeout. Eat your pizza in a nearby park overlooking the river. Cash only.
386 Flatbush Avenue Extension (at DeKalb Avenue)
DeKalb Avenue station (B, M, Q, or R train)
This iconic deli is a classic that Brooklynites have flocked to for generations. Many a celebration has been held within these orange walls and seats. The burgers are excellent (not what you'd expect in a deli), the blintzes are definitely worth traveling for, and the pastrami is classic. But save room for Junior's
You can enjoy a piece of Brooklyn at home thanks to the Internet. Junior's sells its famous cheesecake online, and you can also get its terrific cookbook, which gives the story of this family-owned and operated business. Peter Luger also sells its steaks and steak sauce, along with a set of steak knives on the Web.
There is a nice children's menu for an exceptionally modest price. Put this restaurant on the menu for a day alongside the Brooklyn Museum or the Botanic Garden. There are Junior's restaurants in Grand Central Terminal and on West Forty-fifth Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.
Peter Luger's Steakhouse ($$$)
178 Broadway (between Bedford and Driggs avenues)
Marcy Avenue station (J, M, or Z train)
Peter Luger's is the Taj Mahal of steakhouses — the best! The regulars will tell you not to look at the menu — just order a porterhouse, onion and tomato salad, creamed spinach, and fried potatoes. You can gild the lily by starting with the shrimp cocktail; Peter Luger's reputedly uses the biggest crustaceans in the city.
The restaurant is surprisingly kid-friendly, right down to the gold-covered chocolate coins that come with the bill. Be sure to make reservations, and bring a pocketful of cash; credit cards are not accepted. They do have their own Peter Luger card, which can be applied for over the Internet.
Pete's Downtown ($$)
2 Water Street (Cadmen Plaza West, under the Brooklyn Bridge)
High Street station (A or C train)
This landmark establishment has been satisfying patrons since 1894 with excellent Italian food and a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge.
River Café ($$$)
1 Water Street (under the Brooklyn Bridge)
High Street station (A or C train)
Add great food to a spectacular view and you find perfection. The River Café turns out a menu of spectacular American food that draws crowds. This restaurant is not overly family-friendly, but don't let that stop you from treating your kids to a spectacular New York experience.
A three-course prix fixe meal is $95; lunch is considerably cheaper. River Café also serves brunch. There's usually a pianist on the premises. Don't forget to make reservations.