We thought we were well-versed in the world of New York City’s hidden restaurants (after all, we wrote a whole book about it). But nothing quite prepared us for the awesomeness of this hole in the wall in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, near the Untapped Cities office. And when we write hole in the wall, we mean it literally. There’s no name, no sign, no hours, no menu, no door to walk through. Just a rectangular cutout from a storefront grate, just by the intersection of Kingston Avenue and St. John’s Place, behind which a man from Jamaica is serving up delicious Caribbean food.
The owner, known as Papa, opens up when the food is ready – which on a Wednesday this week was not until just before 1 pm and closes when the food runs out. Next door is a hangout of sorts in a former newsstand and shop which Papa’s food operation is connected to. Cautiously approaching, we asked one of the guys out front if the place was open. He thought we were looking for the diner at the corner, and when we clarified that we wanted the food coming out of the hole, he joked, “Ah, you want the good food!”
The Hole in the Wall joint was covered last fall on Edible Brooklyn (with whom we share an office at Nowhere Studios) and Gothamist, who reports “Papa moved to Brooklyn from Jamaica eight years ago, and before he and his brother started this chicken operation, the corner shop used to be a newsstand and meeting place for tired-out cab drivers.” Papa also prefers to call this place just “The Whole in the Wall.”
Like many of these stands (think of the freight entrance restaurants in the Garment District), the menu options are what’s available that given day. We had a choice of oxtail, curry goat or chicken stew, in small or large size. It was simply, delicious. Crown Heights is full of Caribbean and West Indies food, and compared to the ever popular Gloria’s, as seen in Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, Papa’s has that cozy, home made simplicity where everything is cooked to a secret recipe of perfection.
Curry Goat, large
Next, check out our Top 10 Hidden Restaurant recommendations in New York City for 2015, and for 2014. Get in touch with the author @untappedmich, who also lives in Crown Heights.