6. The restaurant that launched Brooklyn’s farm-to-table movement is in a pullman train car under the Williamsburg Bridge
Now Williamsburg is a destination for drinking and dining, but when Andrew Tarlow opened Diner in 1999, the neighborhood was a culinary wasteland. At the time, he and his business partner Mark Firth were living in a 6,000-square-foot loft in Williamsburg and working at the Odeon in Tribeca. They convinced their landlord to buy the 1927 dining car under the Williamsburg bridge and rent it to them. They then renovated the space themselves and opened on New Year’s Eve 1998 with a cassoulet by the restaurant’s first chef Caroline Fidanza, who has been called “one of the most quietly influential figures in the history of Brooklyn restaurants” by T Magazine.
That first dinner set the tone for what the restaurant would serve: elevated home-style cooking prepared with fanatically sourced local ingredients. It also became a blueprint that restaurants in Williamsburg and beyond would copy to the point of becoming cliché.