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A Brooklynite's Guide to Brooklyn

A Brooklynite's Guide to Brooklyn

By
Trip Plan Tags: 
arts + culture,
budget,
city,
design + architecture,
food,
romantic,
wine
Destinations: 
Brooklyn,
Financial District,
Gramercy,
New York,
New York City,
North America,
United States

I live in Brooklyn and love dragging--er, showing--other people around my hometown. Brooklyn has it all over Manhattan: insanely-great shopping, great food, and a chillaxed atmosphere. This trip plan contains some of my all-time favorite spots in the Better Borough, but I'd also highly recommend walking tours of Smith Street and Court Street between Atlantic and Fourth, Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and 9th, and Atlantic Avenue between Bond and the waterfront. Come to Brooklyn!

ITEMS

Shop

ABC Carpet & Home, New York

881 and 888 Broadway, Gramercy
New York City, New York 10003
Tel: 212 473 3000
Website: www.abchome.com

Despite the fact that the average New Yorker's apartment could generously be compared to a shoebox, the residents of Gotham sure do love their homewares. And nowhere do they more seriously indulge their passion for furnishings, light fixtures, rugs, antiques, draperies, and every kind of big-ticket tchotchke under the sun than at ABC Carpet & Home. Spread across multiple floors and two stores, the beautiful merchandising suggests little environments that could easily be transposed straight into a New York loft. Silk pillows, handblown glass, artfully scuffed French country furniture, delicate glass chandeliers—add several floors worth of exquisite rugs and floor treatments and you have the makings of a swoonworthy afternoon's shopping. The best part: They ship all around the globe. If you're looking for a bargain, you can make the trek up to their outlet store in the Bronx (1055 Bronx River Avenue, 718-842-8772).

Open Mondays through Thursdays 10 am to 3 pm, Fridays 10 am to 6:30 pm, Saturdays 11 am to 7 pm, and Sundays noon to 6:30 pm.

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See + Do

Brooklyn Bridge, New York

Pedestrian access at City Hall Park
New York City, New York 10007

When it was completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was a marvel of civil engineering—the longest suspension bridge in the world. Over 150,000 people walked across the bridge opening day. Today, the number of car crossings per day approaches that number, but the best views of the crisscrossing steel cables, neo-Gothic stone archways, and majestic cityscapes are still to be had by the commuters, tourists, and idling New Yorkers who cross the span by foot or bicycle. Stop under the arches to trace the history of the bridge, including the story of famed engineer Washington Roebling, who inherited the construction project after his father's death, and completed it via telescope from his apartment while suffering from the bends. Access the bridge near City Hall on the Manhattan side, or take the A train to High Street in Brooklyn and look for the stairs to the bridge walkway at Cadman Plaza East and Prospect Street, under the bridge's approach. Always be alert on the path; bicyclists gaining momentum on the way down from the center tend to swerve outside the dedicated lane. Once you're across the East River from Manhattan, use our Brooklyn Insider Guide to find places to eat and shop.

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Nightlife

Bembe, New York

81 S. Sixth Street, Williamsburg
Brooklyn, New York 11211
Tel: 718 387 5389
Website: www.bembe.us

A happy, multiculti crowd bucks the standard rocker-dive trend at this lounge in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge. The interior, created almost entirely from aged hardwood salvaged throughout the city, strives to be "familiar to many people and their respective cultures," with global accents such as Cuban portraits and Colombian burlap coffee bags. Inclusiveness pays off in a borough as diverse as this: Each night, many single women looking for a dance partner pack the house for beats ranging from Afro-Cuban salsa to roots and reggae. A cask of watermelon rum punch and other fruit-based cocktails keep the party going, and conga drums are often at patrons' disposal (be warned, it's a bit of a democracy). And that high-pitched maraca? That's the bartender nailing a screw into a coconut so she can dump its milk (and perhaps some rum) over ice.

Open daily from 7:30 pm to 4 am.

Shop

Sahadi's, New York

187 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn, New York 11211
Tel: 718 624 4550
Website: www.sahadis.com

This Middle Eastern supermarket is one of the few remnants of the ethnic enclave that once thrived on the Atlantic Avenue corridor. Homesick Arabs from around the state come to visit for staples such as Al Wadi preserves and hummus dips, but it's just as popular with foodies down from Brooklyn Heights wanting a bit of a respite from Whole Foods. Half the fun is imagining up a good use for, say, mahleb (a spice made from the inside of cherry pits used to flavor Syrian string cheese). The store doubles as a wholesaler and distributor, so prices are kept lower that one might expect for such exotic imports. Indeed many of its samplings are stored in bulk: vats of olives, buckets of grape leaves, and bins of bulgur line the walls. You don't need to be on an obscure stockpiling mission, however, as there's a deli in back with prepared food including feta-cheese salad, hummus, and baba ghanoush.

Open Monday through Saturday 9 am to 7 pm.

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Shop

Bird, New York

316 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope
Brooklyn, New York 11215
Tel: 718 768 4940
Website: www.shopbird.com

Bird brands itself as one of Brooklyn's first fashion destinations. That may be something of a stretch, but it certainly was a pioneer when it set up shop in Park Slope in 1999. It still has its finger on the pulse of the city's mercurial fashion trends and feels utterly fresh amid a crop of arrivistes. Up-and-coming designers such as Brooklyn-based Apiece Apart and eco-friendly Bodkin woo a rabidly devoted clientele. And heavy-hitters including Isabel Marant and Alexander Wang, add some high-end polish to the whimsical mix of clothes, handbags, shoes, and accessories. Two additional outposts are located in Cobble Hill and Williamsburg.

Open Monday through Saturday noon to 8 pm, Sunday noon to 6 pm.

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See + Do

Dumbo, New York

Brooklyn, New York

Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass was a wasteland not long ago. You could practically see tumbleweed bowling down Front Street. Now it's all lofts and home stores and converted factories, but it has a totally different feel from other gentrified Brooklyn 'hoods, since the real estate here is nearly all warehouses. The first section of Brooklyn Bridge Park opened in spring 2010 as a seven-acre expanse at Pier 1 with grass lawns for picnicking and long rows of benches with views of the lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. The ambitious park will eventually occupy 85 acres along the waterfront. Braving the line at Grimaldi's Pizzeria is something of a Brooklyn tradition, and it's certainly worth a stab to sample one of the coal brick-oven fired pies—try the fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil (19 Old Fulton St.; 718-858-4300). For a pick-me-up afterwards, swing by Jacques Torres on Water Street—its signature hot chocolate, a heady mix of cocoa powder, allspice, cinnamon, and sweet ancho chile peppers, packs a nice punch (66 Water St.; 718-875-9772). Keep walking east on Front and you reach a curious neighborhood called Vinegar Hill, a cluster of small Federal-era brick row houses. If you keep walking east (it gets a bit hard to navigate through the housing projects), you reach the Navy Yard, a massive former U.S. Navy shipyard that now provides work spaces for a burgeoning population of artists and craftspeople and also houses Steiner Studios, a film production complex.

See + Do

Prospect Park, New York

Park Slope
Brooklyn, New York
Website: www.prospectpark.org

Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted was reportedly more proud of this 585-acre idyll than anything else in his repertoire. He and partner Calvert Vaux secured the commission of Central Park several years prior but approached the design of Prospect Park, which was completed in 1868, with a vastly different vision. Think of it as a wilder, free-spirited version of its more famous cousin, with a lake for fishing, forested ravines, and horseback riding trails. Many formerly decaying landmarks have been restored, such as Lefferts Historic House, a quaint example of 18th-century farm life in Brooklyn, and the Beaux Arts boathouse, home to the country's first Audubon center. Overall, though, it's the grand sweep of the 90-acre Long Meadow that thrills, and where polyglot Brooklyn, with its lesbian softball leagues, Honduran soccer teams, and moneyed brownstoners all commingles in a hopeful, heartening display. There are multiple entrances, but the most convenient from Manhattan is via Grand Army Plaza, whose magisterial arch was built as a tribute to the victorious Union in the late 1800s.

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See + Do

Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York

30 Lafayette Avenue, Fort Greene
Brooklyn, New York 11211
Tel: 718 636 4100
Website: www.bam.org

BAM is one of the premier avant-garde venues in the country, showcasing music, theater, and modern dance. Curators take chances that couldn't be taken in Manhattan, and the results can be dazzling. Radiohead played live as accompanists to a Merce Cunningham debut, for example, and Flaubert's Temptation of St. Anthony found itself adapted to theater and set to a gospel score. The schedule ramps up during the fall for the annual Next Wave festival: Highlights will include the U.S. premiere of Frank Wedekind's Lulu and a Sufjan Stevens video commission (a nod to the next generation of patrons, no doubt). BAM's 1908 terra-cotta pile in Fort Greene houses an opera house, café, and cinema featuring current indie releases and themed retrospectives. A separate building named after Harvey Lichtenstein, the dancer who served as BAM's executive director for 32 years, hosts a smaller theater with big-name performances such as Ian McKellen in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of King Lear.

Eating

Ici, New York

246 DeKalb Avenue, Fort Greene
Brooklyn, New York 11205
Tel: 718 789 2778
Website: www.icirestaurant.com

Fort Greene's abundance of 19th century brownstones and French expats can lend it a decidedly European feel. This haute bistro certainly plays a role as well, with its spare, whitewashed interior, heavily accented waiters, and good rosé selection. When Ici's menu quotes Alice Waters, it's not just lip service: Owners Laurent and Catherine Saillard are keen on using fresh, naturally grown ingredients from local farms. And while the Gallic bent here is pronounced, they've thankfully had the good sense not to bog the freshness down in heavy sauces. Dishes change seasonally, but might include a wilted dandelion salad with poached eggs and bacon in an anchovy cream. Entrées are spare but flavorful—try the sautéed skate with collard greens and brown butter. The outdoor patio's herb garden and white picket fence are a delight; the ample space between tables unheard of in this town. Service is competent and assiduous, with just the right touch of French attitude. The restaurant is a good spot for pre- or post-BAM performances, and also serves a popular brunch on weekends.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 9 am to 10 pm.

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Eating

Franny's, New York

295 Flatbush Avenue, Park Slope
Brooklyn, New York 11217
Tel: 718 230 0221
Website: www.frannysbrooklyn.com

At first glance, this unassuming trattoria on the northern fringe of Park Slope might seem an unlikely candidate for what some glossies (most notably New York magazine) have christened the Best Restaurant in Brooklyn. Its humble vibe (butcher-block bar, stroller-heavy clientele) takes some easing into, but nibble on one of the starters and you start to realize what the fuss is about. Not only is the pancetta sourced from Eden Natural farm in Iowa, it's cured in-house in a separate room downstairs. Owners Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens take Franny's earnest mantra of sustainability as seriously as any restaurant in the borough—just about every ingredient is sourced on the back of the menu—but it's also backed up with surprisingly accomplished cooking. Feinberg trained at some of Manhattan's top kitchens, and his pizzas, such as the tomato, buffalo mozzarella, and basil, or the clam, chile, and parsley, are pitch-perfect. The comprehensive wine list is Piedmont-heavy, and there's an adventuresome cocktail list—try the Quince, made from homemade quince grappa, Carpano Antica Formula (red vermouth) and fresh lemon sour. The garden out back is lovely during the warmer months.

Open Tuesdays through Fridays 5:30 to 11 pm, Saturday and Sunday noon to 10 pm.

Eating

Frankie's 457 Spuntino, New York

457 Court Street (at Luquer Street), Carroll Gardens
Brooklyn, New York 11231
Tel: 718 403 0033
Website: www.frankiesspuntino.com

A spuntino, according to Frankie Falcinelli's nonna, is a snack and also a place that serves them—so what else could Falcinelli and Frankie Castronovo call their brick-walled, tin-ceilinged restaurant? As you might have guessed, the Frankies have impeccable Italian-American roots; before opening this tiny Carroll Gardens restaurant in 2004, they did stints behind the stove in both achingly hip (specifically, Falcinelli's days at Moomba) and perfectly serious (Aureole, Bocuse, Bouley) restaurants. The food here is rustic, fresh, and shareable: roasted vegetables, plates of cheeses and salumi, amazing sandwiches on Sullivan Street Bakery focaccia, superb salads with micro greens, a few hot dishes such as meatballs in "gravy" (Italian-American for marinara) and pork braciola (braised pork shoulder slow-cooked for four hours in spices). Add to this a short but excellent wine list, good cocktails, and a sizable garden out back, and you have the perfect restaurant for a hip neighborhood. You'll probably have to wait for a table unless, like some smart locals, you go at 11:30 am or 5:30 pm). Alternatively, try Prime Meats, another restaurant from this team, just a few doors down.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 11 am to 11 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to midnight.

Eating

Alma, New York

187 Columbia Street, Carroll Gardens
Brooklyn, New York 11231
Tel: 718 643 5400
Website: www.almarestaurant.com

The secret may be out by now, but you'll still feel in the know as you sip your Patron Silver premium tequila on the rooftop terrace of this tri-level Nuevo cantina—the drop-dead view of the Manhattan skyline across the harbor is one of the best in the city. Chef Hans Dannerhoj's creative, multiregional Mexican dishes are generally top-notch: Highlights include picada de puerco carnitas (orange-braised pork with pickled onions and guacamole); chicken in the most toothsome mole north of Oaxaca; cazuela Borrego (shredded lamb with guajillo chili, tomato, potato, and zucchini); poblano relleno con picadillo (poblano chili stuffed with pork, raisins, and olives); and sides of spinach with garlic and Cotija cheese. If the deck is packed, try heading downstairs to the convivial main dining room on the second level. B61, on the ground floor, is a mellow affair with a long walnut bar, jukebox, and pool table.

Open Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 2:30 pm, Sunday through Thursday 5:30 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 11 pm.

Eating

Al Di Là Trattoria, New York

248 Fifth Avenue (at Carroll Street), Park Slope
Brooklyn, New York 11215
Tel: 718 783 4565
Website: www.aldilatrattoria.com

The pioneer of the Fifth Avenue scene, this convivial Venetian place, with its wooden tables, rickety chairs, and understated yellow dining room, has held up just fine against ever-increasing competition—in fact, as the long weekend lines and the next-door wine bar suggest, it's still the best. This is due to the passion of the owners, Emiliano Coppa and his wife, the chef Anna Klinger, who has everyone addicted to her braised rabbit with black olives, her classic saltimbocca and calf's liver alla Veneziana, her ricotta gnocchi with brown butter and sage, and the risotto col nero—cuttlefish ink—that takes 20 minutes because she stirs every serving to order.

Open Mondays noon to 3 pm and 6 to 10:30 pm, Tuesdays 6 to 10:30 pm, Wednesdays through Fridays noon to 3 pm and 6 to 10:30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 11 am to 3:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.