Rose gardens, Caribbean soul, and picnics in Prospect Park
Tree-lined streets, Caribbean eats, and a park so vast and green that *some* folks say it even beats Central Park. Hello summer Sundays in Prospect Heights.
This bucolic corner of Northwest Brooklyn isn't just for the families and kids pushing scooters and strollers past rows of beautiful brownstones; its got a lot to offer no matter who you are. With Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park at one end and all the great shops, cafes, and book stores on Franklin Ave at the other end (technically Crown Heights for all the boundary puritans out there), there is a ton to explore in this small but mighty neighborhood.
Prospect Heights is a veritable Brooklyn powerhouse of culture, home to the borough's very own take on the museum mile with the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Brooklyn Public Library all taking their place on the tree-lined edges of Eastern Parkway. And, lets not forget the parkway itself. Eastern Parkway was the world's first parkway ever built, conceived of and designed by Calvert Vaux and Fredrick Law Olmsted, the beloved architect of both Central Park AND this neighborhood's very own Prospect Park (stay tuned on that one).
This is all not to mention the incredible cultural diversity of the neighborhood. You'll see all kinds of folks on the street, and as an added bonus, have no trouble at all finding the best Caribbean food in town. Yes please.
First up: grab a gourmet picnic lunch to go (or a stellar egg sandwich) at Lincoln Station
This charming local spot on Washington Ave has all the bases covered: beautiful atmosphere, great coffee, delicious veggies and sandwiches, and what I would confidently say is the best bacon egg and cheese I've had in town. Its the special sauce, my friends.
If you're in the mood for a more traditional sit down lemon ricotta pancake brunch situation, I've heard Tom's Restaurant across the street is pretty delish and its on everyone's list of local neighborhood icons.
If its the 1st or 3rd Sunday: grab your picnic lunch at the Grand Army Plaza food truck rally
Every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month from April to October, you can expect to wander into a large crowd of some of the city's best food trucks, all parked in front of Grand Army Plaza and very conveniently located in front of the Prospect Park entrance. Can you say summer picnic? My go to order is a lobster roll (lemon mayo please) and a hibiscus tea, but you can find just about anything. Check the schedule here for times and dates.
Picnic time in Prospect Park: grab your Frisbees and dust off those picnic blankets
I can't say enough good things about the rolling green meadows and building-less views from Prospect Park. And neither, apparently, can its architects Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Though also the master behind Central Park, Olmsted always said that Prospect Park was in fact his proudest achievement. I'll have to agree, sirs. The Manhattan public, though, is not so sure. Gothamist is tracking all the park-related borough rivalry if you're the competitive sort.
Next up: rose gardens and cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Most famous perhaps for its massive field of cheery blossoms that all bloom at the start of spring, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is best described as a 52 acre expanse of gardens within a garden. From the Bonsai museum, to the rose garden, to the glass conservatory, you can find just about anything here. I took my mom in the spring for mother's day - a beautiful day at the BBG to be sure!
Did I mention that the BBG is the perfect mother's day / parents come to town destination? JCrew may have personally outfittted the folks above by the looks of it.
^ Yes, this is indeed a plant species named Chuckles. Need I give you more reason to visit the BBG?
Your weekend culture fix: The Brooklyn Museum
The Brooklyn Museum is no afterthought art museum. With recent exhibitions like the fabulous Ai Wei Wei retrospective and a forward thinking look at the fashion world of Jean Paul Gaultier, this museum's permanent collection and temporary exhibitions pack a serious art world punch. And, don't forget to check out the evening fun at First Saturdays - think Afro Latin Jazz Orchestras, participatory art projects, talks, bar, and bites all from 5-11pm. Count me in.
Pop over next door to oggle some impressive Art Deco architecture: the Brooklyn Public Library
Concerts, readings, lectures, and over a million books, magazines, and other multimedia materials are all inside this massive Art Deco building. Whether you walk by on your way past the park or visit for one of the many programs, a quick stop at the BPL's Central Library is at least worth a few minutes.
Time for a stroll (and some caffeine!): charming cafes, book stores, and gourmet cheese shops on Franklin Ave
Hullabaloo, Little Zelda, and Wedge are some of the most charming spots on Franklin Ave, and all in fact owned by one very talented guy named Michael de Zayas. Hulaballoo is best described as a cave of books. Whispers are appropriate. Raw light bulbs hang on wires from the ceiling. You get the idea. Little Zelda is great little cafe where you can not only get your favorite Ovenly cookies but also order any variety of cheese-based dishes from Wedge, the cheesemonger next door. A totally fun and adorable side note, Zelda is Michael's really cute little daughter, who he describes as "owner and overlord of Little Zelda".
Hungry yet? Get the best Caribbean food around at The Islands
Lets talk Jerk Chicken. This little place on Washington Ave is pretty stellar. Come at lunch and grab it to go or stop by for dinner and head up the stairs to take a seat at one of the tiny tables above the kitchen. Ask what's on the menu for the day and you're likely to hear something about goat curry, oxtail, jerk chicken and a whole lot of delicious rice, peas, and cabbage. Too good.
Dessert? Okay. Blue Marble.
Sam Levinson of Serious Eats seems to have had a pretty religious experience with the Strawberry ice cream at Blue Marble. I'll let him tell the story:
"Don't be fooled by its understated facade—this is serious ice cream. It hits the tongue in two distinct waves: ripe fruit followed by intense buttery richness. Unlike most commercial numbers, there are no icy hunks of frozen strawberry here, but only small bits of flesh, seed, and incredibly deep berry flavor. Between bites, I found myself thinking that the full-flavored creaminess was almost more reminiscent of buttercream cake icing than the corn syrupy Neapolitan stripe of my youth (likely the result of 14%-16% butterfat)."
Mapping your trip
Getting to this part of town is really easy -- it's a straight shot with the 2/3 to Grandy Army Plaza or Eastern Parkway. Prospect Heights is also a really safe, walkable neighborhood with lots of families and plenty to explore. Bring an appetite and a frisbee!