Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens
Sleepy streets, boutiques, and comfort eats
BoCoCa? Yup. This unofficial acronym stands for the area in South Brooklyn that includes Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens. Disclaimer: hardly anyone from these three lovely neighborhoods actually uses the term. For the purposes of exploring though, this combination of neighborhoods is perfect for a day of leisurely wandering.
Of all the neighborhoods I've recently visited in New York, BoCoCa felt like one of the most tight nit as a community. Boutique owners remembered what a woman's husband had purchased for her for Christmas and why, two local strangers bonded over the flakyness of the biscuits served up at the bar of Van Horn's, and families with kids played dominos on the floor of the Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain on a cold winter morning.
Moments like these probably account for this area's reputation as a wonderful (and expensive) place to raise a family. The brownstone and tree-lined streets are quiet, with passerby pausing to catch up with a neighbor or heading to a cozy local corner cafe. Visit for brunch or a tasty lunch on a sleepy weekend afternoon, stroll the boutiques on Smith and Court Streets, and even take in the breathtaking views of the city from the Brooklyn Promenade. A tour of this lovely hood from Brunch to sunset and cocktails below. Enjoy!
First Stop: Oyster Bloody Marys and breakfast biscuits at Buttermilk Channel
Rallying some friends to meet you out in this corner of Brooklyn for the day? Consider tempting them with Buttermilk Channel's Bloody Marys with a raw oyster on top. For your non-alcohol motivated friends, the biscuits, pancakes, hash, and pretty much everything else here are stellar too. Hop off the Smith-9th Street F or G train a few minutes early and walk two blocks to this spot to put your name down though because it sure does get busy.
Van Horn (below) is a great alternative to Buttermilk Channel if you're still in the mood for biscuits and comfort food, but: A. don't feel like waiting for a table at Buttermilk or B. want to start your day a little more north in the center of all the Cobble Hill boutiques. The fried fish or chicken sandwiches are the specialty and boy are they delish.
Time to walk off the biscuits: shopping on Smith and Court Streets
You ate too much, I know. But who can let a biscuit go to waste? Time to stop regretting it and start walking it off. You could spend hours walking up and down Smith and Court streets but below are a few of my favorite spots. There's a little something for every budget, but don't be surprised if that white T you're looking at has a $400 price tag.
Bird is probably one of the trendiest (and most expensive) clothing stores in this hood. No matter your budget, stop by for some window shopping and to get a sense for the latest and greatest.
Smith and Butler is another (higher end) boutique with a great selection of high quality items, especially menswear and accessories. They describe themselves as catering to the "nomadic biker lifestyle". Take that as you will, but it means that the shop has a great selection of vintage motorcycles.
Next up: must. have. coffee.
Your brunch buzz just wore off and you realize that you should have perhaps had more coffee and less Bloody Mary. Time for an espresso. Smith Canteen has got you covered with a delicious brew + all the other snacks you'll need.
Back to it: beautiful artwork at the Invisible Dog
This awesome art space opened in 2009 when the owner converted an unused factory into an interdisciplinary studio and exhibition space. Formerly the home of a belt manufacturer, it gets its name from a little party trick that was invented there and popular in the 1960's: the Invisible Dog. For those of you who know their antics, Improv Everywhere recently did a charming little stunt in Carroll Gardens featuring these goofy suspended-in-air dog leashes.
Stop by any day to check out the rotating set of exhibitions and various pop ups that might be in the lot next door. When I went a few weeks ago, the lot was occupied by the beautiful glass house below, featuring photographs of Brooklyn families.
Afternoon sweet tooth: Sundaes and floats at the Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain
This charming spot in Cobble Hill has as interesting a past as any. Housed in what was formerly a pharmacy in the 1920s, Brooklyn Farmacy's transformation occurred via a Discovery Channel reality series on renovations. Since then, it has becoming one of the most well known destinations in the neighborhood, serving up seasonal delights like pistachio cardamom ice cream sundaes, classic egg creams, sparkling hibiscus soda floats, etc, etc.
Pre-dinner sunset: The Brooklyn Promenade
This brilliant, elevated waterfront park is above the highway that runs along the east river and has some phenomenal views of Manhattan, sunset or not. The promenade is technically considered Brooklyn Heights, but it's a short diversion away and too beautiful to miss out on.
Dinner time: cocktails and great eats by the fire at Clover Club
Girls night, a date, your parents are in town - you name it. This spot is great for all occasions and serves up some seriously delicious cocktails. I can also vouch for the steak tartar, deviled eggs four ways, and mushroom risotto which were all amazing. This is not to mention the beautiful old world decor inside. Sit by the fire on a Victorian era chair and you'll feel like you've transported yourself into another time, or perhaps a particularly dark and smoky episode of Mad Men.
Drinks! 61 Local is where its at
This awesome bar is an old carriage house turned beer hall, a cavernous space still made cozy with large wooden picnic tables and beautiful hanging lights. Stop by during the day for a cafe vibe and excellent food (think veggie toast, kale salad, charcuterie plates AND spicy pickles). Come in the evening for all sorts of delicious bar snacks, a seriously impressive selection of local craft beers, and a great local scene.
Mapping your trip
This is a beautiful area to just get lost in for a day or an afternoon, with lots of streets covered in boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Hop off the subway either down in Carroll Gardens as suggested above or near any of the subway hubs at Atlantic Avenue, e.g., Jay Street Metrotech.