When I moved to Park Slope three years ago, there was only one place anyone ever went to eat: the Lemongrass Grill (61A Seventh Ave., near Lincoln Pl.; 718-399-7100). Trust me, the Manhattan outposts, though run by the same family, are pale imitations of the original. Today, the food is still delicious – I recommend the chicken massaman khari, broad rice noodles, and vegetable dumplings – but the restaurant is a victim of its own success. The line into the hot, smoky restaurant is out the door from Thursday through Sunday. Do yourself a favor and order in.
The seasons sweep through the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens (1000 Washington Ave; 718-622-4433) hillside by hillside. Monthly visits in the spring bring cherry blossoms, lilacs, roses, and wisteria in varying stages of bloom and decay. Just south of the Brooklyn Museum, the 50-acre garden takes its formal cues from the museum’s columned front, organizing flora by color, by scent, by medicinal properties. In summer, it seems as if there’s a wedding every weekend; the great lawn is flanked by Japanese maples and the smaller cherry trees, like red groomsmen and white flower girls; the more feminine rose garden has a trellis to fulfill every Austenian expectation.
The only ice-cream parlor on Seventh Avenue is a tiny, busy, dirty Haagen Dazs, so the arrival of Luna Park two years ago (249 Fifth Ave., between Carol and Garfield Streets; 718-768-6868) was greeted with some fanfare. An old style sweet shop, Luna Park has the additional charm of psychedelic bedtime-story murals and a lavender-heavy decorating scheme. Even the birthday cakes on display seem designed for an exclusive audience of 12-year-old girls: turquoise, rainbows, and hearts figure prominently. Once you’ve plopped yourself down on one of their second-hand sofas and consumed a banana split, you may never be able to rise.
It’s impossible to get lost, even for those who never learned right from left, because all directions in Park Slope can be given in terms of uphill or downhill. A small thing, perhaps, but important when you are a little drunk, in a cab, and the driver wants only to leave Brooklyn ASAP. The slope of the Slope also makes it easy to calculate rents when you are trading up, or down, for an apartment. The houses diminish in size and architectural detail as you descend from Prospect Park West to Eight to Seventh to Sixth Avenues. So, in life as in The Jeffersons, your goal is to move on up.
Don’t spend a Saturday in the Slope with your girl if you can’t stand it when she makes goo-goo eyes. Babies, lined up in carriages outside Ozzie’s, or toddling along in purple puffy suits, are as plentiful as the multi-culti couples that made them. You can’t go far without seeing a Drew feeding the pigeons, or an Amanda still wearing her Halloween costume in December.
A mecca for those under three feet tall before 8 p.m., the original Two Boots (514 Second St.; 718-499-3253) transforms into a spirited scene on the weekends. No cover, beer specials, and an excellent sangria make the live bands playing everything from retro-Hawaiian to nouveau funk sound fabulous. There’s usually a pizza special involving roasted garlic, and some non-Southerners swear by the fried catfish – the two boots, you see, are Italy and Louisiana. Not the place for a tête-à-tête, or for the minimalist.
A good bar is hard to find, especially when there’s so much damn nesting going on. At O’Connor’s (39A Fifth Ave., between Bergen and Dean Streets; 718-783-9721), despite the Irish name and dank décor, it’s not the Guinness that knocks you off your stool but the $2 mixed drinks. Lightweights will have to leave early because the fourth round, usually, is on the house.
Impulse buying in the Slope is difficult, because clothing stores are few and far between. But at least it’s cheap, because most of your split-second decisions will be about secondhand merchandise. Weeds (167 Lincoln Place; 718-398-4471) and its new sister store Hooti Couture (179 Berkeley Place; 718-857-1977) have all the fur-collared coats, appliquéd cardigans, and stiff-sided pocketbooks your heart desires, plus a nice selection of tchotchkes – pewter candlesticks, neoclassical vases, hat boxes for that furry toque you bought last weekend but will never ever wear.
The prettiest block, hands down, is the one-block-long Montgomery Place between Prospect Park West and Eighth Avenue, designed in the late 1800s for forward-thinking developer Harvey Murdock by C. P. H. Gilbert. Most of the houses are Romanesque Revival: terra-cotta arches, golden brick, and chunky stone foundations. It’s an opulent setting, consistently grand on both sides of the street. Gilbert’s Thomas Adams Jr. house (corner of Carroll Street and Eighth Avenue), still a private residence, is more like a mansion than any of Montgomery Place’s row houses, but the sheer consistency of the street is transporting. The idea of living there seems patently anachronistic.