I’m going to borrow Lana Del Rey’s crown for just a moment after my three day quest around Brooklyn last weekend. After spending many winters, falls, and Labor Day weekends in Manhattan my latest trip called for a change. Brooklyn turned out to be the most beautiful change possible with a more relaxed feel and less scene-y environment. I toured around a majority of this borough, beaming with excitement. Here is my Brooklyn Breakdown.
My base for the weekend lied in Brooklyn Heights, on Clark Street, steps away from the new waterfront promenade. My most excellent hostess, Maddy, has become quite the local after living in the city for only two months. Her coffee shop and subway knowledge was most impressive and she made the perfect guide. The promenade which I explored on my own is a very exciting addition to the neighborhood and was packed with people enjoying the riverside. The renovation of old piers into athletic fields, basketball courts, water parks adds a cool texture to the landscape and your normal recreational activities becomes literally elevated above the water. Brooklyn Heights is a bit blissful and is is so quiet and calm, it’s shocking. My tour de Brooklyn was marked with countless cups of coffee, too many to do a review for each but I’ll mention my caffeine stops in each area. For Brooklyn Heights, Vineapple is an elongated, elegant coffee shop that is dark and cool during the summer heat. Most coffee joints here seem to be serving Stumptown Roasters, so this can be assumed unless noted otherwise. Unfortunately, Stumptown a Portland-based company is not my favorite coffee and I think there are probably local roasters that are more suitable.
Dumbo is teensy tiny and it is hard to to tell when Brooklyn Heights ends and Dumbo begins. The easiest indication is that D-U-M-B-O is an acronym for “down under the Manhattan Bridge,” which directly points to its size. Nicely nestled under the bridge Dumbo’s narrow, cobbled streets and arching underpasses evoke an almost European feel. I was immensely disappointed with the popularized Brooklyn Roasting Company, whose enormous flagship location offered up a weak cold brew coffee and an even more mediocre peanut butter cookie. The antique and thrifted atmosphere felt very forced in the enormous Starbucks-like space. One evening, we chose to do prepared food roof dining, as the Clark Street Studio offered up a nice view of “the other” (Manhattan). Stepping into Foragers, a quaint speciality store we walked out with a nice vegetable medley and Lentil soup.
Getting to Bushwick from Booklyn Heights does require a tedious trip into Manhattan, subway transfer, then move back into Brooklyn. In Bushwick I met up with a friend, Julian, an artist I have previously written about (here). I certainly could not have navigated this area without some pro supervision so I was very happy to meet up with Julian. We first stopped for a pair of good cappuccinos at Kave. This super interesting spot is tucked away behind a wooden gate, making it appear to be quite secretive. The courtyard behind the gate was smartly curated and felt very calm and cozy. Strolling on from Kave and the recycling plant there are rows of old factories, now transformed into studios, sound stages, and other creative spaces. However, the outside of these cracked buildings displays little indication of what lies inside. For brunch we headed to Cafe Ghia, a petite spot packed with diners. The highlight was the Ranchero Benedict, a twist on the clasic composed of poached eggs on corn griddle cakes with avocado and Huancaina sauce (yellow pepper and Feta). Bushwick is well-known as a sort of ‘artist’s colony’ with it’s most prominent group being The Bushwick Collective which is advertised an an outdoor street gallery. Julian explained it succinctly as a bunch of graffiti artists that decided to unionize. The work is now, ironically the opposite of street art with building faces as approved canvases, semi-regular turnaround, and often less gritty depictions. Some of muralists are extremely talented and others are less successful but still, the covered walls bring a lot of vibrancy to the streets.
Still to come… Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and Park Slope