CITY GUIDE: Brooklyn Pt. 1

Today’s CITY GUIDE is brought to you by Lindsay Mueller! Enjoy!

After living in various Brooklyn neighborhoods over the past four years, I can confidently say that Carroll Gardens (and its surrounding neighborhoods) is my favorite. That’s not to imply that the rest of the best borough isn’t totally awesome… it’s just too much to cover in one City Guide. Be on the lookout for the next Brooklyn installment which will highlight the rest of Brooklyn on November 28!

Geographically speaking, these neighborhoods — Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, DUMBO, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, which all share borders with each other — are on the west side of Brooklyn, below Williamsburg and Greenpoint (northernmost hoods), above Prospect Park and just across the water from Lower Manhattan. Tree-lined streets, a relaxed vibe, an amazing restaurant scene (superior to Manhattan’s if you ask me) and lower rents make Brooklyn an attractive place for creatives and families to live. Actresses and musicians like Keri Russell, Michelle Williams, Solange Knowles and Zoe Kazan live in the hood, as did great American writers Truman Capote, Norman Mailer and Walt Whitman. Lots of cool cred!

This will be somewhat of a walking (or biking) tour, which is one of the reasons I love New York so much – no car necessary. I recommend starting in Cobble Hill, especially if you’re in the mood for a life changing breakfast sandwich. Ted & Honey [photo above] on Clinton Street at Verandah Place is low key and delicious. Inside, there’s a great artsy vibe and they serve unique and tasty sandwiches, salads and even wine or beer. The “number one” — egg, cheese, avocado and tomato on a brioche roll — is sublime. It’s also conveniently adjacent to Cobble Hill Park, a beautiful sandwich eating sanctuary.

After breakfast, continue walking with traffic on Clinton Street and turn left onto Atlantic Avenue, where you’ll walk toward the water until you reach Pier 6, part of Brooklyn Bridge Park. The city has allocated almost $250 million to the creation of BBP, and it’s fascinating to watch and enjoy the progress. Pier 6 is brand new and boasts public volleyball courts, delicious food from Bark Hot Dogs and incredible views of lower Manhattan. It’s a great way to escape the crowds because not many people know about it (yet). It’s also fun to meander through the runner and biker’s paths close to the water. Fun fact: BBP has become a common destination for weddings and wedding photos because of the stunning Manhattan skyline views.

Once you finish walking through the BBP Greenway and exit from Pier 1, you’ll end up in DUMBO, short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. This industrial-looking neighborhood is known for it’s creative atmosphere and is one of the most sought after places to live within Brooklyn. Old warehouses were converted into spacious lofts and most have killer views of Manhattan attracting all kinds of artists and families. DUMBO is also home to New York’s most famous pizza joint, Grimaldi’s. People from all over the globe wait in a line whose queue is often blocks-long for a taste of Brooklyn’s delicious thin crust pizza. Walk toward the water on Old Fulton Street, make a right onto Everit Street and you’ll pass Hillside Park, one of the city’s top rated dog parks. Continue up the daunting hill and you’ll find yourself on one of the best “boardwalks” in Brooklyn, the Promenade. Soak up the views as you walk through to the end and onto Montague Street, a stretch of cute shops and restaurants. As tempting as they are, you’re better off waiting to eat until you reach Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens. Take a right onto Henry Street for a look see of the prettiest and historic blocks lined with old carriage houses and brownstones. You’ll eventually stumble upon Atlantic Avenue, one of the borough’s busier streets. If you’re craving a pre-dinner pint, stop into Floyd. They have a good selection of beers on draft, but its real selling point is the bocce ball court inside. If you’d rather shop, take a peek inside Holler & Squall, an antique store that feels more like a gentleman’s club than a boutique. Here you’ll find a carefully curated collection of taxidermy, knick knacks, leather furniture and storage vessels.

Truth be told, you may choose to abandon all of these suggestions if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a spur-of-the-moment entertaining event on your own. For example, I discovered the Go Brooklyn Art initiative last weekend at my favorite ice cream joint, Van Leeuwen. That’s another fantastic aspect of Brooklyn culture: there is a community of small business owners and creative types who support each other. The Go Brooklyn Art initiative is a “community-curated open studio project” that showcases different artists in various locations around Brooklyn. The ultimate goal is to expose Brooklynites to local artists, and believe it or not, there’s an app for it. The art-goers vote for their favorite artists, using the app to check into different studios as they visit. Never a dull moment in Brooklyn!

Whether your day is full spontaneity or carefully chosen activities, you’ll need to eat dinner at some point. I highly recommend Frankies Spuntino: it’s a truly delectable destination for lovers of Italian food. Carroll Gardens is known for its Italian roots and is home to some of the best Italian restaurants in the city. I recommend going during the week and avoiding rush hour on Friday and Saturday unless you don’t mind waiting two and a half hours for a table. We ordered the three cheese plate, gnocchi, ribeye (served cold – different but divine) and the house wine. They cater to gluten-free patrons too! With candles, great indie folk music and a rustic interior, the vibe is just as good as the grub. If you’re not totally pooped after dinner, head to the old school Cobble Hill Cinema for a late night movie – the theater itself is as much of a sight to see as its movies.

Until November, cheers!


September 19, 2012