Anyone with a liking for New York City will surely know that near neighbour Brooklyn – with its independent shops and stores, restaurants and cafés and artisanal shops, its art centres and hotels – is a destination in itself. For a change, then, why not resist the Big Apple and make your way to its smaller but no less invigorating cousin?
New Yorkers and out-of-towners love pizza, and if there’s one commercial compliment that can be made to any business that doesn’t have built-in obsolescence is that after decades they are still a going concern. Enter Juliana’s Pizza, a joint with an enviable legacy, courtesy of Patsy Grimaldi, a celebrated NYC pizza maker who came out of retirement less than ten years ago to once again deliver the product he had been celebrated for across previous decades. From being Trip Advisor’s Best Pizza in America to Zagat’s Best Pizza in NYC, you are advised to start queueing early for the crispiest, tastiest pizza in the neighbourhood.
With high ceilings, large windows, vintage furniture, murals and a becalming colour scheme that brings you back to the 1960s, Gertie is renowned in the area for its brunch offerings. Homemade muffins and bialy (a flat breakfast roll originating from Poland; think of it as the bagel’s older, more handsome relative) are favourites for brunch, but you’ll also swoon over further selections of baked goodies such as buns and focaccia. Lunch/brunch starts at 11am, which might just mean you’ll have to skip brekkie altogether. We are bemused by its website tagline: “A place to gather. Or to sit alone with your coffee and thoughts. Just like you did at Grandma’s.” They have clearly never lived in Ireland!
HOTEL: THE BOX HOUSE HOTEL
Fancy a hotel minutes away from Midtown Manhattan yet which has a boutique sensibility, is as chic as it is tidy, and with front-of-house staff that are friendly without being overbearing? Pop along to the funky Box House Hotel, then, for reasonably priced apartment-style rooms (over 50 of them) that can boast large windows, high ceilings, polished hardwood floors, vintage furnishings, and commissioned art by Brooklyn artists. Not many hotel owners can say with certainty that their property ticks every box (see what we did there?) but this one does.
WALKING: BROOKLYN UNPLUGGED/BEST OF BROOKLYN WALKING TOUR
As you can imagine, there are many walking tours you can choose from, but we like this lot because they know how to relax you into a mixture of history, heritage, culture and what’s happening right here/right now. The two-hour brings you face-to-face with the charm, industry, creativity and quirkiness of Brooklyn. The experiences the guides provide are inherently interactive, educational and entertaining. Walking shoes at the ready!
BAR: THE FOUR HORSEMEN
You really need to sit your backside down here. For starters, it’s hipness quotient is so far through the roof it’s skateboarding on the rings around Saturn (it is co-owned by MCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy). Secondly, while gorgeous food is on offer (the clam toast with pancetta is simply divine, darling), The Four Horsemen is primarily a wine bar. But not just any wine bar. This place focuses on natural, artisanal wine: that is, produce created without any unnecessary added chemicals or by high tech machinery processes. For those interested in such things (and if you’re a James Murphy fan, you will be) the vintage sound system here is amazing, but you’re here mostly for the wine, aren’t you? You’re in the right place, then, as the wine list is – no word of a lie – extraordinary.
ATTRACTION: LUNA PARK, CONEY ISLAND
Named after the original 1903 Luna Park (which was in operation until 1944) and constructed on the former site of Astroland, this amusement park has been giving thrill rides and goosebumps to people since the summer of 2010. The entrance is styled after 1903’s property, and alongside some of the old rides (notably, the Coney Island Cyclone, a wooden roller coaster that can reach a maximum speed of 60 mph!) are almost 20 new attractions, rides, and games. In other words, this place is all about having the most fun you can get with your clothes on.
RELAX: BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK
Formerly a dilapidated industrial section of waterfront, this 85-acre park on the Brooklyn side of the East River opened in 2010. Its mission, according to its overseers, is to “create and maintain a world-class park that is a recreational, environmental and cultural destination”, and to serve as a crucial connection point between the area and the river. It does exactly that, as it is now a world-class waterfront landscape featuring gently rolling hills, riverfront boardwalks, amazing urban views, and blossoming garden spaces.
SHOPPING: BROOKLYN FLEA
According to the New York Times, the Brooklyn Flea is “one of the great urban experiences” in the city. It is also one of NYC’s top tourist attractions. Frankly, it is impossible to think of any other open-air market with the same appeal, let alone amount of stuff to sell. From April to October, the weekend markets take place in Williamsburg and DUMBO (formerly known as Gairville, but now the acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and feature hundreds of indie sellers doing the best they can to offload antiques, furniture, vintage clothing, art, vinyl, and craft/design work. Also – don’t ignore the in-situ sizeable food market, Smorgasbord, which will take care of any hunger pangs you might experience.
CULTURE: BROOKLYN MUSEUM [images:firstname.lastname@example.org]
New York City’s third-largest museum and the host of approximately 1.5 million artworks, Brooklyn Museum was founded in 1895 and has since been substantially renovated. Contemporary American art is predominantly displayed, with rooms adorned by works from the likes of Mark Rothko, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe, Max Weber, Norman Rockwell, and Winslow Homer. Is it a one-stop-shop for your cultural fix? No, but it’s certainly one of the more impressive art spaces you’ll ever see.
MUSIC: MUSIC HALL OF WILLIAMSBURG [images: ‘Show Gallery’ tab on home page]
You can’t walk around the streets of Brooklyn without hearing music of virtually every stripe. You will hear it in bars, cafés, second-hand clothes shops, art galleries, and venues such as Music Hall of Williamsburg, which has music on throughout most of the week. With a capacity of over 600, you’ll be seeing mostly established acts over emerging newbies, but whatever is on you can be guaranteed of a good venue vibe and great sound equipment. See you at the front?
Written By Tony Clayton-Lea