how to (actually) spend a day in brooklyn
brooklyn's atlantic avenue best — and plenty of reasons to make a day of them.
Published May 9, 2016 5:00 AM
by Regan Stephens
Any trip to NYC should include a visit to Brooklyn, but where do you begin in the borough that’s larger than the whole city of San Francisco? With a rich cross section of old and new, the lively stretch of Atlantic Avenue between Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Barclay’s Center is the perfect place to start. Whether you’re coming from across the country or across the East River, get to know the neighborhood, one falafel, local beer, and vintage shop at a time.
NU Hotel, 85 Smith Street
Overlooking Atlantic Avenue, this stylish boutique hotel is an ideally situated home base for exploring the neighborhood. From its prime place precisely between Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Barclay’s Center, hop on the ferry to Governors Island at Pier 6, cheer for the home team at a Nets game, or grab one of the hotel’s free loaner bikes and cruise over the Brooklyn Bridge. Make sure to ask for one of the rooms featuring a mural painted by a local artist.
Bedouin Tent, 405 Atlantic Ave
The first thing you might notice at this friendly Middle Eastern restaurant is the guy stationed in the front, rolling out fresh pita dough. He’ll pop a disc into the oven when you order (everything on the menu is awesome, but we love the spiced chicken plate) and when the hot, pillowy pita lands on your table, try it with a scoop of fresh hummus. That bite alone may be worth the trip to Brooklyn.
Boomwich, 311 Atlantic Ave
Hailed as a “down to earth hip hop sandwich shop” Boomwich pedals in Brooklyn heroes, which is to say that you’ve never had a sandwich quite like this. Each made to order on a hot pretzel roll, choose from inventive options like the kimchi bruschetta with mozzarella and thai basil pesto, the Dr. Cubano with Dr. Pepper roasted pork, or a cheese steak with pickled jalapeños, pineapple, and crushed Cheetos.
Sottocasa, 298 Atlantic Avenue
There’s no shortage of solid slices here, but head to Sottocasa for your Brooklyn-via-Italy pizza fix. Hailing from Milan, pizzaiolo Luca Arrigoni churns out pies from a wood-fired oven shipped directly from Naples. Duck into the cozy space below street level (Sottocasa translates to “under home”) and enjoy a glass of Lambrusco with a perfectly charred, chewy-crusted Margherita, or a Diavolo with hot soppressata and olives.
two8two Bar & Burger, 282 Atlantic Ave
Made with freshly ground meat from neighborhood butcher shop Paisanos, the burgers here among the best in the city. The Billy Burger, topped with fried onions, cheese, and two8two sauce is a particularly popular, but the lamb burger with house made tzatziki shouldn’t be missed. Get a side of Greek fries, liberally sprinkled with feta and oregano.
Damascus Bread & Pastry, 195 Atlantic Avenue
Damascus is an Atlantic Avenue original. The Syrian bakery has been around for over 85 years and offers delicious, made-to-order falafels (for $4.50!), savory vegetable or meat pies (for $2!), and classic Middle Eastern sweets like flaky walnut baklava and Harisa El Loze (honey cake.) Located just a few doors down from Sahadi’s, stop in for more pre-Pier 5 picnic provisions. (See also: Sahadi’s.)
Sahadi’s, 187 Atlantic Avenue
Generations of Sahadis at this beloved Middle Eastern market have been keeping the people of Brooklyn Heights in imported olives, smooth spreads, and countless other edible goods from places near and far. Olive oil from Greece is a few rows over from Turkish Delights and Brooklyn-made chocolate. It’s packed on the weekends, but grab a number and wait your turn to shop from barrels of dried fruit, nuts, spices, and candy. Those in the know head for the deli counter to stock up on spinach pies and other prepared foods, and while they go back to work, take yours to Pier 5 at Brooklyn Bridge Park — a 10 minute walk down Atlantic Avenue with picnic tables overlooking the NYC Skyline.
Chez Moi, 135 Atlantic Ave
With twinkling candlelit tables, exposed brick walls, and fresh cut flowers, this little French bistro is as charming as they come. Open for brunch and dinner, you’ll find quintessential French fare like savory crepes, steak frites, and bowls of mussels in 5 different varieties. On warm days they open the doors to the street, so snag the front table, sip your cocktail (a Petit Cochon, a Jolie — even the names are charming!) and soak up the neighborhood vibe.
Colonie, 127 Atlantic Ave
From your seat in the dining room, watch chef Andrew Whitcomb and his team in the open kitchen whip up delicious dishes from the highly seasonal, vegetable heavy menu. (Think beets with violet mustard or burrata with snap peas, mint, and lemon marmalade.) They also serve a stellar brunch, and whatever you order, do yourself a favor and add the hot doughnuts with caramel custard.
Nunu Chocolates, 529 Atlantic Avenue
You can find Nunu at shops and markets all over the city, but stop into the friendly flagship for one of their heavenly signature chocolates, handmade right there. Pick up an Assortment Box filled ganache (in flavors like Earl Grey and prosecco) and the addictive salted caramel sprinkled with Fleur de Sel. They make a thoughtful gift to take home (if you have superhuman willpower), or snag a table, order a coffee or craft beer, and taste what the fuss is about right there.
Betty Bakery, 448 Atlantic Avenue
If you’re on the hunt for Brooklyn’s best cheesecake, look no further than this sunny little bake shop selling a simple, not-too-sweet slice with a cloud-like texture and thin graham cracker crust. Also on offer: homemade twinkies, pastel-colored cookies and cupcakes, and the prettiest petit fours (that actually taste as good as they look.) You’ll want one of everything here, so it’s a safe bet to order liberally and ask for a fork.
St. Gambrinus, 533 Atlantic Ave
Part bar, part bottle shop, this super-friendly spot is the perfect place to sample local craft beers and take your favorites to go. Whether you’re a novice or a beer geek, the helpful staff will point you in the right direction with samples from one of the 16 rotating taps, many representing the boroughs — a Flagship American Wit, an LIC Beer Project saison, or an Other Half IPA (brewed in Staten Island, Queens, and less than two miles away in Brooklyn, respectively.) Pro-tip: there’s a no-frills patio in the back, on sunny days drink al fresco.
Le Boudoir, 135 Atlantic Ave
Gain access to this ‘hidden bar’ via a secret set of stairs (located behind a bookcase, natch) in Chez Moi. In the subterranean space, you’ll find an opulent little gem of a bar, inspired by Marie Antoinette’s private rooms and decked out in red velvet banquettes, gilded mirrors, and ornate antiques. Channel the cake-loving Queen with a French 75 or another one of their signature cocktails.
Long Island Bar, 110 Atlantic Ave
Once a family run bar and restaurant frequented by neighborhood folks and longshoremen, Long Island Bar was lovingly restored to its mid-century glory and reopened a few years ago. Look for the original neon sign hanging above the entrance, and inside you’ll find incredible craft cocktails served from a beautiful Art Deco bar. The dinner menu is short but has plenty of standouts, including the fried cheese curds — a nod to co-owner Toby Cecchini’s Wisconsin upbringing, they pair perfectly with an appropriately retro Boulevardier or Long Island Gimlet.
Hunting with Jake, 380 Atlantic Ave
Featuring a thoughtfully curated collection of new and vintage pieces, shop owners Catherine Christman and Drew Riley “seek out objects that are interesting, different and one of a kind.” Among the many gems you’ll find dazzling chandeliers, Brooklyn-made bath products, antique coupe glasses, and inspired, original artwork from renowned folk artist Butch Anthony displayed next to a hand woven wall hanging made by a local NYC school teacher.
Erica Weiner Jewelry, 360 Atlantic Ave
Designer and self-taught jewelry maker Erica Weiner’s eponymous line is handmade on site. Browse from a collection ranging from exquisite fine jewelry to fun, irreverent pieces like the gold-plated Heartbeats necklaces featuring quotes from Drake and R.Kelly (Lena Dunham has that one!) Whatever your jewelry budget, you’ll find something incredible to take home.
Acorn, 323 Atlantic Ave
So much more than a toy store, Acorn houses a beautiful selection of children’s clothing, art, accessories, and yes, toys. Choose the perfect present from among the carved wooden unicorns, tiny matchbox mice, sleek racecars, and colorful Japanese masking tape and they’ll wrap up it with lovely floral paper and a green bow.
Collyer’s Mansion, 179 Atlantic Ave
Among candy-hued bistro chairs, hand carved wooden trays, and stacks of fluffy towels, there’s a salon wall, filled with art curated and expertly displayed by shop owner Mauri Weakley. “They’re mostly local artists, and the works sell out fast. As soon as one sells we replace it with another.” Whether you’re adding to your collection or starting a new one, if you see something you love (you will) snap it up quickly.
Holler and Squall, 119 Atlantic Ave
Stepping into this antique shop is like visiting your great aunt’sBrooklyn brownstone
. That is, if she were a world traveler with impeccable taste and a fondness for objects that strike the perfect balance of quirky and stately. They specialize in seating and lighting, but there are also myriad other treasures here, including vintage sterling silver charms and a monumental terracotta putti bust. (I.e. a giant baby head.)
Junior Lowe, 89 Atlantic Ave
For your fashion-forward tot who’d like to dress the part of Brooklyn kid long after you’ve gone home, browse from racks of well-cut, colorful clothes cooler than anything hanging in your own closet.