Eating the Brooklyn Horseshoe: A Food Tour Along the Borough’s Most Immigrant-Dense Neighborhoods

Brooklyn Horsehoe-Brooklyn-NYC-Samantha Lee-Alyssa Pagano-Untapped Cities

Jamaican jerk chicken, Chinese stewed beef pulled noodles, Ukrainian borscht – a trip along the BQ and N subway lines in Brooklyn is an international culinary adventure. Nicknamed the “Brooklyn Horseshoe,” the subway lines traverse a chain of neighborhoods with extremely high immigrant concentration and diversity.

About half the borough’s foreign-born population lives in the neighborhoods along the Horseshoe, according to the most recent immigration report from the NYC Department of City Planning. They also form almost half of the population of these neighborhoods. The term “Brooklyn Horseshoe,” comes from The Newest New Yorkers, an immigration report from the Department of City Planning, describing “a diverse chain of high immigrant neighborhoods, forming a horseshoe pattern along the B-Q and N subway lines.”

Starting at the northwest tip of the Horseshoe, the neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Bensonhurst and Gravesend comprise a large Chinese population. Moving south, towards Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay, Russian and Ukrainian immigrants dominate. U-turning up back north, the Horseshoe traverses Flatbush and Prospect Lefferts Gardens, where the majority of the foreign-born are Haitian and Jamaican, respectively.

Image by Zach Berman. The full interactive map can be found on thinglink

As of 2013, Queens remained the borough with the highest number of foreign-born at 1.09 million immigrants. But Brooklyn trails closely behind with almost 950,000 immigrants, according to the report.

The diverse populations engender culinary offerings that are just as varied – and make a great summer day’s worth of eating.

Shanghai Dumpling House, Sunset Park

shanghai dumpling house owner-brooklyn-nyc-samantha lee-untapped citiesShanghai Dumpling House owner Kenny Yie

In Sunset Park, with the Chinese making up 43 percent of immigrants, pulled noodles, roast duck and dumplings are common. Shanghai Dumpling House is tucked in a corner of the unassuming Fei Long Market. Its specialty, Shanghainese pork soup dumplings, is served six apiece in a bamboo basket, and is best eaten piping hot and dipped in vinegar. Kenny Yie, the owner of Shanghai Dumpling House, has lived in the U.S. for 30 years. He worked as a cook in various restaurants prior to setting up his own business in 2011.

shanghai soup dumplings-brooklyn-nyc-samantha lee-untapped citiesShanghainese soup dumplings

Address: 6301 8th Avenue

Hand Pull Noodle and Dumpling House, Bensonhurst

hand pulled noodles-bensonhurt brooklyn-nyc-untapped cities-001Hand pulled noodles

The Chinese also comprise 40 percent of the foreign-born population of Bensonhurst, numbering almost 32,000. Those in the know head to Hand Pull Noodle and Dumpling House, a no-frills establishment that serves up steaming bowls of chewy hand-pulled noodles with slow-stewed beef in flavorful broth. Each bowl comes dressed up in pickled cabbage and bok choy. Owner Jenny Zheng from Fujian moved into the neighborhood 8 years ago. “We like Bensonhurst because there are good schools for my daughter, and good business,” she says.

shop owner-hand pulled noodles-bensonhurst brooklyn-nyc-untapped citiesShop owner Jenny Zheng

Address: 7201 18th Avenue

Café Skovorodka, Brighton Beach

skovorodka cherry varenikis-brooklyn-nyc-samantha lee-untapped citiesSkovorodka cherry varenikis

Almost 30 percent of Brighton Beach’s immigrant population is Ukrainian, while Sheepshead Bay is about 18 percent Russian. Here, along with signboards in Cyrillic and the sibilance of overheard Russian, restaurants serve Soviet staples like borscht, varenikis (a type of Russian dumpling) and stuffed cabbage.

At Café Skovorodka, cherry varenikis  come with dollops of fresh cream. Owner Boris Bogomolny, from Odessa, came to the U.S. in 1979. Though he lives in Staten Island, he enjoys working in Brighton Beach. “Though there are still many Russians and Ukrainians here, I see more tourists on the weekends,” he says.

skovorodka owner-brooklyn-nyc-samantha lee-untapped citiesSkovorodka owner Boris Bogomolny

Address: 615 Brighton Beach Avenue

Slavyanskiy Bazar, Sheepshead Bay

borscht-slavyanskiy bazar-sheepshead bay-brooklyn-nyc-alyssa pagano-untapped citiesBorscht

Diana Bortnikova, who moved to the U.S. from Ukraine, owns Slavyanskiy Bazar, which has been open for seven years. She says the menu draws from many different cuisines, including Ukranian, Russian and Moldovan. Her Ukrainian borscht, a warm beet soup, is served with savory fried donuts called pompushkins.

Slavyanskiy Bazar owner-sheepshead bay-brooklyn-nyc-alyssa pagano-untapped citiesSlavyanskiy Bazar owner Diana Bortnikova

Address: 2013 Coney Island Avenue

Fisherman’s Cove, Flatbush

fishermans cove-brooklyn-jerk chicken-nyc-untapped citiesJerk chicken and stewed oxtail

Further north in East Flatbush, 24 percent of its immigrant population hails from Jamaica. Here, jerk chicken rules the roost. Veronica Callow, who is from Jamaica, works at Fisherman’s Cove in Newkirk Plaza. She started working at the Church Avenue location when the restaurant first opened 14 years ago. A popular dish here is the very filling platter of jerk chicken and stewed oxtail with fried plantains, rice and beans.

fisherman's cove-veronica callow-brooklyn-nyc-untapped citiesVeronica Callow preparing an order

Address: 4 Newkirk Plaza

Venus Restaurant, Prospect Lefferts Gardens

lambi and fried plantains-venus restuarant-brooklyn-nyc-alyssa pagano-untapped citiesLambi and fried plantains

Prospect Lefferts Gardens, which is predominantly Jamaican and Haitian, marks the end of the Horseshoe. Its Haitian population makes up 17 percent of the neighborhood’s immigrants, and enjoys traditional food like lambi (stewed conch meat from a conch shell) and griot (fried pork). At Venus Restaurant, Oldine Saint-Hilaire carries on her father’s business, which opened 14 years ago. She serves customers with headphones on and a smile on her face while doling out lambi with fried plantains, pasta and salad.

venus restaurant owner-brooklyn-nyc-alyssa pagano-untapped citiesVenus Restaurant owner Oldine Saint-Hilaire

Address: 670 Rogers Avenue

Next, check out one of NYC’s Micro Neighborhoods: Little Poland in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This piece was written by both Samantha Lee and Alyssa Pagano, both contributors for Untapped Cities. 

 Bensonhurst, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, chinese food, Flatbush, food, Prospect Lefferts Garden, Sheepshead Bay, sunset park

2 Responses
  1. What, exactly, is the “Brooklyn Horseshoe?” I am a lifelong resident of Gravesend and have NEVER heard this term. Please explain.

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