BROOKLYN — Brooklyn's best neighborhood institutions are back to battle it out — this time with half as many contenders.
Voting from last Monday's sweet sixteen of neighborhood institutions saw some expected results, like stalwart Junior's beating Bed-Stuy neighborhood favorite Saraghina with nearly six times as many votes.
But the round also saw some upsets.
Fans of Raskin's, a kosher fish market in Crown Heights, came out in droves in favor of the spot, with more than 1,700 votes for it against longtime Williamsburg Italian deli Lorimer Market.
Vote now in our elite eight roundup of neighborhood institutions.
And check back the rest of week for the elite eight in other categories of our version of March Madness, including showdowns of the best artisanal product, best burgers, best neighborhood bars and best desserts.
JUNIOR'S — Downtown Brooklyn, 386 Flatbush Ave. Junior's has been a fixture in Downtown Brooklyn since 1950 and is known for its famous cheesecake and cozy diner-like setting that draws locals and tourists alike. A developer recently offered Junior's owner Alan Rosen $45 million to buy the restaurant and was rejected. "This is more than a restaurant: it's our roots, tradition and heritage and it is just not sellable," Rosen said.
GLORIA'S CARIBBEAN CUISINE — Crown Heights, 764 Nostrand Ave. If you have a hankering for roti, oxtail or callaloo, Gloria’s in Crown Heights is your best bet. The Caribbean favorite has been serving up classic island dishes at two locations on Nostrand Avenue for years, said manager BJ, grandson of Gloria herself, who opened the original restaurant at East New York and Schenectady avenues 41 years ago.
TOM'S RESTAURANT — Prospect Heights, 782 Washington Ave. Flavored butters, raspberry lime rickies and killer pancakes keep loyal fans of Tom’s Restaurant coming back for brunch at the neighborhood staple, run by the Vlahavas family since 1936. Its history is written in the newspaper clippings, celebrity headshots and assorted tchotchkes that line the walls where owner Gus Vlahavas greeted customers until his death last fall. His mother Stella still works the register and lives upstairs.
PETER PAN DONUT AND PASTRY SHOP — Greenpoint, 727 Manhattan Ave. Long before the age of the cronut, Peter Pan was churning out doughnuts in Greenpoint. Its doughnuts — like its decor — lean more classic and less wacky. They'll also only set you back a little more than a dollar, making it easy for both longtime locals and Greenpoint transplants to embrace the shop. It's been on Manhattan Avenue since the 1950s, with current owners the Siafakas family taking over in '93. Bonus: Tina Fey even once said their white-cream powdered doughnut is the best she'd ever had.
RASKIN'S FISH MARKET — Crown Heights, 320 Kingston Ave. This kosher fish market has been serving fresh seafood to customers since 1961 when its owner, Shlomo Raskin, first opened for business. Between ice beds full of fish and refrigerators stocked with prepared foods — including Raskin’s own brand of gefilte fish — customers line up to order, careful to avoid slipping on melting ice and fish slime. It’s part of the charm!
FARRELL'S BAR — Windsor Terrace, 215 Prospect Park West. The neon Farrell's sign on the corner of Prospect Park West and 16th Street in Windsor Terrace has been a beacon for drinkers since 1933. The bar attracts a loyal clientele of firefighters and other city workers. There is no "cocktail program" or artisanal beer at Farrell's. Customers down their Budweiser in giant Styrofoam cups.
DAVID'S BRISKET HOUSE AND DELI — Bed-Stuy, 533 Nostrand Ave. Forget Katz’s Delicatessen, David’s is the real deal when it comes to sandwiches. Founded in the 1970s, the spot in the heart of Bed-Stuy serves up enormous stacks of pastrami, corned beef and roasted beef brisket. The Jewish deli was passed down to Muslim owners who continue serving overstuffed, mouthwatering $11 subs.
GRIMALDI'S PIZZA — DUMBO, 1 Front St. A line consistently winds down Old Fulton Street outside of Grimaldi's Pizzeria where people come from all over the world to taste the famous brick-oven pies. Voted Zagat's Best Pizza year after year, the more than 20-year-old DUMBO venue offers simple pizzas made with fresh dough and San Marzano tomatoes.
Voting for this round is now closed. Check back on March 16 for the final four.
— Reporting by Serena Dai, Janet Upadhye, Camille Bautista, Nikhita Venugopal, Rachel Holliday Smith, Leslie Albrecht. Graphic by Nigel Chiwaya.