Brooklyn: A Local's Guide for GALA Conference-Goers
No longer taking the back seat to Manhattan, Brooklyn (New York’s largest borough) has become one of the hippest places to live or to visit. Boasting the new Barclay Stadium, edgy galleries, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and some of the best restaurants in New York City!
To attest to this, Manhattan-ites who would never dare cross the East River twenty years ago can now be seen coming to Brooklyn in large numbers for brunch on the weekends. Growing up in Brooklyn, we made the trip to Manhattan for different restaurants, nightlife and museums and it seems the tables have turned. After 9/11 many folks from lower Manhattan moved in to the Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope neighborhoods temporarily and never moved back.
"Manhattan Bridge from the Middle Lane" - I usually travel over the Manhattan Bridge in the right lane and miss this perspective. On my way back to Brooklyn after a long day in Manhattan.
I keep a list of my favorite spots in Brooklyn, it gets longer each year, but if I had to choose a few favorites today, these would be my choices:
A Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge
Until you do it, you can’t imagine how beautiful a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge is. At sunset, or in the moonlight or really anytime, coming from any direction you are sure to enjoy your walk over this NYC landmark.
This is one of those not to miss New York City adventures. Up on the bridge it is magical, the view of the skyline and the harbor are unbeatable and it is the best photo-op in New York City. One caveat though, be aware of the pedestrian lane because the bridge also hosts fast cycling commuters. Photographers regularly crash with speeding cyclists while trying to get the perfect symmetrical snapshot of the Brooklyn Bridge cables and the New York Skyline. If you are a cyclist, each of the three bridges connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan, (The Brooklyn Bridge, The Manhattan Bridge and The Williamsburg Bridge) has a bike lane.
Grimaldi’s Pizza - Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge Overpass)
After the walk over the bridge, back on the Brooklyn side, dinner can be casual or elegant. No slices, only pies is the slogan at the famous Grimaldi’s pizza place, located just under the Brooklyn Bridge. It can be overflowing with tourists as well as locals but the pizza is always delicious (thin crust) and worth the wait.
Jacques Torres - Dumbo
For dessert try handmade ice cream sandwiches and freshly made chocolates (or chocolate covered macadamia nuts) from Jacques Torres chocolatier, also located under the Brooklyn Bridge. The chocolates are made right on the premises, and if you're lucky you might learn a thing or two watching them being made through the window that sees right into the chocolatier's kitchen.
The River Café - Dumbo
On a barge just under the Brooklyn Bridge, the River Café is a very elegant dinner spot, facing Manhattan, again prepared to be overwhelmed by the views. When it opened in 1977 it was considered a risk as the neighborhood was dark and uninviting. It recently reopened after repairs and renovations post hurricane Sandy. This is a great spot for very small reservations.
Photo Credit: The River Cafe
The Brooklyn Bridge Park – Dumbo
The Brooklyn Bridge Park is a wonderful bit of rustic (yet landscaped) waterfront winding down under the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. Home of the River Café, a Carousel as well as a kayak launch.
Dough – Bedford Stuyvescent
Come to Dough for donuts with a fluffy brioche texture, with unique flavors like Chocolate Earl Grey and Hibiscus that have local high school students eating them for lunch. Dough is my #1 choice for donuts in Brooklyn. One of the most recent additions to the Dough menu is the “Doughka”, a twist on the Babka (it's all kosher as long as you don't tell your bubby its better than her Babka).
The Brooklyn Museum – Park Slope
How can teachers ever hold their students attention with the Brooklyn Museum there to distract with the mummies in the Egyptian wing, the Rodin Collection and a huge host of new artists and community activities? And yes, I did cut classes to hang out at the Brooklyn Museum as a teenager.
Photo Credit: The Brooklyn Museum
The Nitehawk Cinema - Williamsburg
For a funky dinner and movie spot in trendy Williamsburg visit the Nitehawk Cinema. Filled with hipsters and showing primarily independent films, serving drinks and dinner at your seat and the most delicious truffle butter, citrus salted popcorn!
Fort Defiance – Red Hook
A relatively new very casual brunch spot in Red Hook is Fort Defiance, where you will meet locals every day of the week. I think of the food as modern American comfort food and they also serve a pretty good chocolate egg cream. The chocolate egg cream is a unique NY drink that consists of cold milk, chocolate syrup and seltzer but I don’t think any two New Yorkers can agree on the exact recipe.
Water towers - Brooklyn Heights & Brooklyn Bridge Park
Water Towers are unique to the urban landscape of Brooklyn and are celebrated by the artist TomFruin. He has created lovely illuminated stained glass city treasures.
The Bagel Store – Williamsburg
A new craze in Brooklyn is the rainbow bagel. It looks like it is made by 7 year olds dressed in fairy costumes and in some cases it comes stuffed with cotton candy. If you are already in Williamsburg it might be fun to try.
Check out this video about the process!
Here are some other great ideas for when you have a little more time to spend in my favorite borough. Happy exploring!
In and around Coney Island and the boardwalk:
- Nathans Hot dogs http://www.nathansfamous.com/contest, Home of the famous hot dog eating contest.
- Tom’s Diner http://www.tomsbrooklyn.com/index.html Located right on the boardwalk.
- Mermaid Spa http://seagatebaths.com/ This Russian Bath house also has a very delicious restaurant.
- The Aquarium http://nyaquarium.com/, Sadly many of the inhabitants (sharks included) of the NY Aquarium did not survive Hurricane Sandy but it is being renovated and repopulated and is situated right off the Coney Island boardwalk.
Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, http://www.bbg.org
New York City Transit Museum http://web.mta.info/mta/museum/#general