Ozzie’s (57 Seventh Ave. at Lincoln Place; 718-398-6695) is one of those neighborhood institutions whose charms may not be immediately apparent. People will walk blocks past seemingly reasonable coffee shops to stand in the ever-present line at Ozzie’s, gazing at the china displays and the new piercings of the remarkably consistent staff. The coffee is the best, though you take your chances with the baked goods. The desserts in the glass case seem not to have moved a caramel-encrusted inch in recent memory.
The Village has Jefferson Market Tower as its omnipresent timepiece, but Brooklyn has the Williamsburg Savings Bank (which is not actually in the Slope, but is a visible presence). Unless you frequent BAM, you might never see the bizarre Byzantium-meets-bank base: Venetian columns, stained-glass allegories, and the usual allegorical acorns and coins over the front door. At night, the clock’s face is lit in red. Since it’s atop the tallest building in Brooklyn, you really can’t miss it.
Scone prices seem to have topped out at two dollars plus, and soon even buying a bagel will require paper money. But one bakery bargain remains the same. A loaf of Irish soda bread (the inauthentic, raisin-flecked kind) will set you back only $1.25 at Cousin John’s (70 Seventh Ave. near Lincoln Place; 718-622-7333), and it’s big enough to feed two or three. Don’t wear black, however, when you indulge: The floury coating tends to migrate immediately from loaf to shirt.
At some point, Park Slope must have had more Christians per capita than any other neighborhood in the city. There’s a church on what seems like every corner, and the collective bell-ringing on Sunday mornings is more effective than any alarm clock. My favorite is Saint Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church (116 Sixth Avenue between Sterling and Park Places), a Victorian chapel run by a priest with a sense of humor. The sermon on a recent Sunday: “The Afterlife: Your Choice: Smoking or Not Smoking.”
The Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway, at Washington Ave.; 718-638-5000), which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary by adding the words “of Art” to its name, is trying all the Met’s tricks to increase attendance. Film festivals, karaoke nights, and the crowd-pleasing show of the fall, “Monet in the Mediterranean.” But BMA should be playing catch-up to no one: Its collection of Egyptian antiquities is unrivaled, and the museum itself is a fine example of McKim, Mead, and White’s classical grandeur. In front are two allegorical sculptures by Daniel Chester French, originally placed by the Manhattan Bridge. Manhattan looks steely and holds a chest of gold; Brooklyn looks dreamy and holds a palette – in which borough would you rather linger over an Italian Impressionist sunset?
To those who thought food co-ops went the way of the bell-bottom, we say (as we have been saying for three years): Think again. The Park Slope Co-op (782 Union St.; 718-622-0560) continues to flourish, after 25 years, drawing naturally minded folk from the outer boroughs and mesclun-starved parts of New Jersey. Practically any item that can be all-natural (granola to greens, rice to ricotta) is for sale at a 20 to 35 percent discount – and they even have poultry and fish. To join, you pay a small entrance fee and all you have to do is show up once a month for about three hours to sweep the floors, help label the produce, explain the joys of tempeh to your co-op compatriots, and watch the next generation mush their organic O’s.
Neil Ganic brought haute cuisine to Atlantic Avenue with La Bouillabaisse, a one-room restaurant so charming that even non-fish-eaters found it a treat. His takeout shop Petite Crevette, located two doors down, soon became a full-on restaurant, as hungry Heights residents loitered on the sidewalk too long. Now Ganic has opened annother Petite Crevette at 168 Seventh Avenue (near First Street; 718-832-9575), a cross between La Bouillabaisse and the original Crevette—nice-but-plain room, reasonable prices for grilled fin fish, tuna steaks, shellfish, most sautéed French-style in olive oil.
Central Park is only Frederick Law Olmstead’s second-greatest masterpiece of landscape design, as any card-carrying Prospect Park fan can tell you. The Long Meadow, unlike the tanning-heavy Sheep’s Meadow, extends to the horizon, never crowded. The 3 1/2-mile ring road has more BBQers than Rollerbladers (there’s something strangely piquant about jogging past a roasting pig), and you can, scarily, let yourself get lost in the rambles, discovering grand bridges and abandoned bandstands for yourself. Yes, there’s more trash than in the other park, but that’s a small price to pay for not having to take your life in your hands every time you cross the road.
Park Slope is a writer’s neighborhood, which seems the only explanation for the number of eyeglass shops that line Seventh Avenue. There’s no good shoe store, and only one CD shop, but the wordsmiths must be served. The best is the Eye Shoppe on Seventh (107A Seventh Ave. at President Place; 718-789-0841), whose owner, Michael Stoff, will tell you, with little delicacy but utmost candor, “Yes. No. No! Those are out of your price range.” A little honesty goes a long way when you’re buying a permanent accessory. Stoff makes the eyeglasses on the premises, so he can also fit lenses into those vintage frames you bought, god only knows why, at the flea market. Quick, before cat-eyes go out of style.
The Amish and the Italians fight it out at the baked-goods end (apple pie or focaccia?), and come September, it’s apples as far as the eye can see. The Prospect Park Greenmarket (Grand Army Plaza; Saturdays) has fewer flowers (and fewer vegan delights) than the one at Union Square, but it still manages to squeeze a lot of produce onto an awkward triangle outside the entrance to the park. Get there early, though. By noon many of the farmers have packed their trucks and taken their turnips elsewhere.