Everyone has opinions about latkes — Jewish-style potato pancakes — at Hanukkah time. What makes a good one? Is it that the potato pancake is thin and deep fried to a crisp? Or thick, with a soft inside and crunchy outside? Does a gourmet latke really count as a latke? Is there such a thing as a low fat latke? Can you fry and then freeze, and still hold your head up high on Hanukkah?
Latkes, like pizza, can generate a lot of discussions (and stomachaches, too, if you overdo it).
Read about gourmet potato pancakes at the Brooklyn Latke Festival.
If you love latkes, but don't really feel like buying the frozen ones (find out how many calories in a frozen latke), and certainly don't feel like grating potatoes and messing up the whole kitchen frying them, then where can you go in Brooklyn — at Hanukkah or any other time of year — to get the taste, without the tribulation, of a homemade latke?
It turns out there are choices galore.
Where to Go for Take-Out or Eat-In Latkes
1. December 2012 Latke Festival at BAM (in Fort Greene):
The classiest place to check out the contemporary latke scene is, oddly, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The 4th annual 2012 Latke Festival will be held at BAM on Monday, December 10,2012 at 6:30-9 PM.
There one can find a one-night stand Latke Festival, a cook-off featuring an impressive array of 17 professional chefs and latke judges. Tickets are $30.
2. Teresa's (in Brooklyn Heights):
- Where: BAM, Lafayette near Flatbush Avenue in Fort Greene.
- For tickets: http://www.greatperformances.com/latkefest. Tickets cost $55 per person which includes food and drink, but not Alka-Seltzer after the fact.
Humble as a spud, Teresa's is a homey restaurant in a classy neighborhood. It's located just a stone's throw from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade (once home to Norman Mailer) with its world class views overlooking NY Harbor. Teresa's ignores Brooklyn's hot food trends and just keeps on doing what it does best: making basic Polish food. Their potato pancakes are fresh, crisp, and very filling. You can sit at the counter or grab a table. Teresa's is a favorite with the retiree crowd, so the people watching (and conversations) can be either boring or entertaining, depending on your mood.
3. Kasia's (in Williamsburg):
- Where: 80 Montague Street, Brooklyn Heights.
- Contact: (718) 797-3996
If being smack in the middle of hipster Williamsburg doesn't grate on you, then head to Kasia's on Bedford Avenue. It is known for affordable, basic comfort food, including both pierogis and potato pancakes. Smear on the sour cream or applesauce, and eat your fill. Kasia's hasn't made an appearance (yet) in the likes of Zagat's, but it's a popular modest local eatery. You can order in advance to pick up, too. About $9 for five latkes.
4. Mill Basin Deli (in Mill Basin)
- Where: 146 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg
- Contact: (718) 387-8780
: The latkes here start out thick, but you can slice them thin. (That's the inverse of what happens to your waist, which starts out thin and ends up thick after a latke binge). Just ask for them crispy and thin, and the cook will slice a big fat potato pancake, and refry both halves. For catering or to take home, it's best to order a day in advance. If you're taking out, you can get the latkes half-cooked; when you finish cooking them at home they won't be soggy. A dozen latkes will cost about $20.
5. Jay and Lloyd’s Kosher Deli and Family Restaurant (in Sheepshead Bay):
- Where: Mill Basin Deli. 5823 Ave. T (at 59th Street), Mill Basin.
- Contact: (718) 241-4910. www.millbasindeli.com
By mid-December, Jay Stern, one of the owners of this deli, is fried from making so many latkes — and that's before Hanukkah even begins. If you ask whether Jay and Lloyd's sells latkes for your Hanukkah party, he may just reply, "Sure, how many thousands do you want?" Not that been he's been burned by latke fatigue, but around Hanukkah Jay and Lloyd’s make mountains
of latkes. Their best seller is the "baby" latke, about as thick as a silver dollar pancake, sold for $15 a dozen, applesauce included. Order in advance and pick them up cold, and just pop them in a toaster oven ("don't use the microwave or they get soggy," he advises). Or, if you like them very crispy, then briefly refry.
6. Mile End Deli: (in Boerum Hill)
- Where: 2718 Avenue U at 27th Street, Sheepshead Bay.
- Contact: (718) 891-5298
Last but in no way least, however you spend Hanukkah, don't overlook the acclaimed Mile End Deli, who've brought Canadian zest and humor to the reinvention of Jewish food in Brooklyn. The traditional potato and chive latkes are recognizable. But yuum
, try the sweet potato and butternut squash, or
celery root and parsnip potatoe latkes. On the top,you can get homemade applesauce or to-die-for mayer lemon sour cream or creme fresh. A half dozen latkes cost $9, worth their weight in gelt. Order for the holidays, and tell your Jewish mother all about them. You can also order traditional jelly donuts, and olive oil cake with fig compote.
- Where: 97a Hoyt Street
- Contact:(347) 651-0636 www.mileendbrooklyn.com