9. Soda Bar
629 Vanderbilt Ave., nr. St. Mark’s Ave.; 718-230-8393
With the best backyard and jukebox in the neighborhood, Soda combines the scruffiness of a rock club with the laid-back comfort food of your local diner. Hefty cheeseburgers ($7.50), pirogen ($8), and greasy onion rings ($3.50) will soon be served until 4 a.m. on weekend nights.
10. Amorina Cucina Rustica
624 Vanderbilt Ave., nr. Prospect Pl.; 718-230-3030
This tiny restaurant serves a spicy “diavola” (sun-dried tomato pesto, spicy salami, mozzarella, and pepperoncini, $12), a fantastic prosciutto e fichi ($12.50), and deliciously weird dessert pizzas, including the giallorossa (dried cherries, orange zest, crème fraîche, and nutmeg, $13).
11. Corduroy Kid
613 Vanderbilt Ave., nr. St. Marks Ave.; 718-622-4145
Definitive proof that Park Slope’s fertile crescent has pushed into Prospect Heights, this new children’s boutique sells high-end hand-knitted sweaters, monkey-emblazoned backpacks, cosmonaut-inspired hats, and the Micralite stroller, which has the dubious distinction of being almost as expensive as the Bugaboo.
638 Bergen St., at Vanderbilt Ave.; 718-399-6855
“Beast loves geeks,” read the advertisements for “Pocket Protector Trivia Night” at this oddball restaurant, where gargoyles loom over your dinner and a real bat can be found framed between bottles of Chianti. The brunch is cheap and tasty (the thick, crispy bacon is impeccable). Try the generously sized tapas for dinner: mussels in a tomato-saffron broth ($11) and lamb skewers with sweet peas and potato rösti ($13).
13. Complete Music Studios
227 St. Marks Ave., at Vanderbilt Ave.; 718-857-3175
John Legend spent three months here this summer, preparing for his world tour. If you dream of playing to capacity crowds, a 350-square-foot rehearsal room costs $25 per hour or $200 per day.
14. The Garden Café
620 Vanderbilt Ave., nr. Prospect Place; 718-857-8863
A stalwart of more than twenty years, this tiny restaurant is shrouded by imposing metal gates until 6 p.m., when it unveils a cozy interior with just nine tables. Order the simple but delicious flank steak with garlic mashed potatoes or one of the seasonal seafood specials.
15. Los Viejos Amigos
599 Vanderbilt Ave., nr. Bergen St.; 718-636-3871
Pick up some Dominican comfort food at this old-school lunch counter, where you can still find very old-school prices. Treat your friends to grilled ham-and-cheese sandwiches for just $2.99 or a cubano for just $4.99, then splurge with a grilled-pepper-steak platter for $10.99.
16. Red Lipstick
560 Vanderbilt Ave., nr. Dean St.; 718-857-9534
Knitter and designer Staceyjoy Elkin brings a homemade punk appeal to her hats and scarves. Her store’s eclectic collection of jewelry, refrigerator magnets, arts magazines, and Japanese toys (including the tiny, futuristic Pluq dolls) make great last-minute gifts.
17. Le Gamin
556 Vanderbilt Ave., nr. Dean St.; 718-789-5171
Crêpes, croissants, and croque monsieurs are served at this cozy branch of the East Village original.
18. Eastern Athletic Club
17 Eastern Pkwy., nr. Underhill Ave.; 718-789-4600
There’s a sparkling new Crunch on Flatbush Avenue, but it doesn’t have a basketball court, a heated pool (with baby swim classes), or the disheveled high-school-gym charm of this place.
19. Mount Prospect Park
Eastern Pkwy. and Underhill Ave.
Hidden between Prospect Park, the library, and the botanic garden, this secret little gem of a park has one of the borough’s best views of the Manhattan skyline. Accessible only through two entrances on Eastern Parkway, it’s the second-highest point in Brooklyn but nearly forgotten: the perfect, quiet locale for romantic picnics, tricycle rides, or playing on the secluded playground.
20. Brooklyn Botanic Garden
1000 Washington Ave.; 718-623-7200
Brooklyn’s crown jewel is practically a cradle-to-grave experience. Kids plant their own vegetables in the Children’s Garden, teenagers date in the cherry grove, and newlyweds get hitched in the atrium. Couples push their strollers through the Japanese garden, families munch on surprisingly good chicken- salad sandwiches in the open-air café, and retirees relax with bird-watching classes.