Canarsie for Chowhounds

CitySpoonful ventured out to little-discussed Canarsie not knowing quite what to expect. For her trek into deepest Brooklyn, she was rewarded with kicking jerk chicken and an island welcome at Dougie's Jamaican Cuisine.

The jerk, though a bit dry, was spiked with house-made sauce that perfectly balanced sweetness and spice. Other smart orders are pleasingly fishy ackee and salt fish in a turmeric-tinged yellow sauce, and addictively scrumptious peas and rice cooked in coconut milk. (The runaway crowd-pleaser here, ordered by most of the clientele but not by CitySpoonful, appears to be fried chicken with spicy tomato-based sauce.) Don't leave Dougie's empty-handed. The house-made spicy pickle mix—Scotch bonnet chiles, carrots, onions, and more—is a keeper, "like Matouk's West Indian Hot Sauce deconstructed. Really tasty and incredibly hot!" But for CitySpoonful, the warmth didn't come just from the chow. The friendly staff, from the counter workers to the cook to Dougie himself, did its best to make her feel at home. "A total pleasure," she says.

Dougie's was just one stop on a Canarsie crawl that also featured vegetable patties and coco buns at Tastee Pattee. The patties hit the spot: rich, flaky pastry enclosing a sparse but tasty filling of greens and onions with Scotch bonnet heat. (Tastee also makes beef and chicken patties.) The coco buns were soft and moist, if disappointingly short on coconut flavor. But they were satisfying anyway with a patty tucked inside—"carb on carb goodness," as CitySpoonful puts it. Tastee also lays out a steam-table spread and offers intriguing-looking breads (spice loaf, sweet loaf, Barbados bread, duck bread), and puddings of bread, cassava, or potato.

There's chowish bounty in this neighborhood for home cooks, too. Smally West Indian Food Market is a mom-and-pop store with a full line of Guyanese ingredients and a generous, shopper-friendly attitude. The owner and his son patiently showed CitySpoonful around the place and hooked her up with some provisions, including dried cowpeas, incendiary wiri wiri peppers, and all the ingredients—and even a recipe—for jerk seasoning.

Before the arrival of the folks who brought these flavors of the West Indies, Canarsie was home to earlier waves of immigrants and their descendants, notably Italians and European Jews. You'll catch glimpses of the old neighborhood in places like Sonny's Heros, which makes first-rate deli sandwiches. "It's a very good vestige of the old 'hood," says SpiceJunkies, "but with nowhere to sit or eat nearby it's not the best in the winter months." And razeup says you mustn't miss the bialys from Bagels by Bell, "$5 by the dozen, fresh out of the oven!"

Dougie's Jamaican Cuisine [Canarsie]
9604 Avenue L (near E. 96th Street), Brooklyn
718-251-5444

Tastee Pattee [Canarsie]
1431 Rockaway Parkway (near Glenwood Road), Brooklyn
718-257-5400

Smally West Indian Food Market [Canarsie]
9419 Avenue L (between E. 94th and 95th streets), Brooklyn
718-345-8427

Sonny's Heros [Canarsie]
1031 E. 92nd Street (between Farragut and Glenwood roads), Brooklyn
718-485-9810

Bagels by Bell [Canarsie]
10013 Foster Avenue (at E. 101st Street), Brooklyn
718-272-2780

Discuss: Canarsie recs?