Garden of eatin’! Windsor Terrace restaurant scene blooms

Garden of eatin’! Windsor Terrace restaurant scene blooms
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Windsor Terrace has a lot on its plate.

The quiet residential nabe was once a fine-dining desert, but a garden of eatin’ has blossomed in the small tract of land between Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery over the past five years as the area’s real-estate market has taken off, say local foodies.

“Right now we’re in this tornado of new restaurants, homes, and real-estate coming in, and it’s good for everybody,” said Chris Scott, co-owner of Brooklyn Commune, a cafe on Greenwood Avenue between Prospect Avenue and E. Seventh Street where diners can eat tofu scrambles and fancy grilled cheese sandwiches at a communal table.

It all started with Brancaccio’s Food Shop in January 2010, say Windsor Terrace food historians.

Eponymous chef and owner Joe Brancaccio says he was driving around Brooklyn the year before looking for a place to open his own sandwich joint, when he spotted a vacant store-front on a strip of Fort Hamilton Parkway between E. Second and E. Third streets that had the exact quality he was looking for — it was deserted.

“You have to get out in front of new areas as they’re coming up,” said Branccacio. “A part of my plan included opening something where there was nothing.”

Sensing an opportunity, the wannabe restaurateur staked out the strip with a hand-held tally counter and tracked the foot-traffic — or lack thereof — confirming that it was indeed the dead-zone of his dreams.

“I sat in my car for hours with a clicker, and counted the activity,” he said. “You couldn’t count 10 people that walked along this strip.”

Brancaccio’s entrepreneurial instincts served him well — not long after the restaurant celebrated its debut, home-buyers started paying upwards of $1 million for houses in the neighborhood, and more young, affluent families began moving in, he says.

“It was about a year after the opening — older people started selling their homes and newer clients started coming in,” he said. “Windsor Terrace is kind of in a pocket, and because of that, when you have a business here, you’re dependent on the community.”

And a flood of new restaurants followed in their wake. Scott opened Brooklyn Commune later that year, French bistro Le Paddock settled down on Prospect Avenue at Reeve Place in 2011, comfort-food pub Hamilton’s opened down the road at E. Fourth Street in 2012, followed by Israeli eatery Batata Pita Bar and Fina Pizza Bar between E. Second and E. Third streets in 2014.

This year alone, hip dumpling house East Wind Snack Shop has begun steaming up a storm on 16th Street near Prospect Park West, Italian eatery the Tuscan Gun set up shop on Windsor Place near 10th Avenue, and pancake house the Fox and the Crepe started flipping out on Prospect Avenue near Reeve Place — right next to another newcomer, beer and cheese joint the Prospector.

The new eatery owners say the neighborhood’s affordable leases are as big a draw-card as the hungry young diners moving into the area.

“Windsor Terrace is still affordable now, but, if I had gone to Park Slope, I’m not sure I would have been able to do that,” said Batata Pita Bar owner Shenhav Yehzkel. “We’ve been doing pretty well here.”

But it won’t last forever — Scott predicts the neighborhood will soon become too pricey for newer eateries — and then the whole process will repeat itself further down the borough.

“I guarantee you that Bay Ridge, Sheepshead Bay, and Ditmas Park are going to be the next spots that explode,” he said.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.