Starship Troopers with four birthday parties of 12-year-olds! A Life Less Ordinary in surround sound! Until the Pavilion (188 Prospect Park West, at 15th St.; 718-369-0838) opened two years ago, it was either Manhattan or Sheepshead Bay for big screens and big movies. The Pavilion renovated a long-abandoned theater into a proper movie palace at the southwest corner of the park, complete with soigné cafe and carpeted doors. They promised to play both big-budget and edgy movies, and for the most part they deliver. Unfortunately, the swanky surroundings mean Brooklyn’s de facto 10 percent movie discount is not in effect. Frown as you pay your $8.50.
A Venetian palazzo in deepest Brooklyn, not even near the Gowanus Canal, the Montauk Club (25 Eighth Ave., at Lincoln Pl.) features terra-cotta friezes of early Americans swapping wampum for the Hamptons, plus curlicue columns, stained glass, and copper pipes. A popular spot for filmmakers – local hero John Turturro filmed The Illuminata with Christopher Walken here this fall and had a horse-drawn carriage standing outside the door for the duration of the shoot – your best hope for seeing the interior is either to get invited to the wedding of one of Park Slope’s many affianced or to a smaller soiree in one of the luxurious condos on the upper floors.
They say Korean is the next Thai (more interesting, though no more expensive, than Chinese) but there’s no Little Seoul in the Slope. The newest contender for Lemongrass’s throne is the even more modestly scaled Olive Vine (131 Sixth Ave., near Sterling Pl.; 718-636-4333), a pizzeria off well-traveled Seventh Avenue. Ambiance is minimal: rugs on the walls, kazoo-like music on the sound system. They have the usual falafel and kefta kebabs, but the house specialty is a thin-crust pita pizza sprinkled with green spices and everything from sun-dried tomatoes to ground lamb. The garden salad actually contains more than lettuce and a few green peppers: capers, olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, and a sprinkling of paprika. Wash it all down with the mysterious lemony loomi – Is it tea? Is it soda? Who knows.
If you’ve ever had a bad, bad haircut, go to Hair Concern (84 Seventh Ave. between Union and Berkley Streets; 718-622-7171), where they listen to your issues (‘I don’t want to look like a mom,’ ‘I don’t want to look like a college student,’ ‘I don’t want to look like my mom’), massage the stress away with a slightly frightening electric contraption, and then cut your hair with remarkable dispatch. Spiky cuts, Friends cuts, and the new bangs are all within their parameters – Slope residents, to be honest, are not known for anything too fashion-forward. They’ll also do highlights, subtle or outrageous, but only after they’re sure you’re in touch with your inner blonde.
Lycra was practically an endangered species in the Slope until the House Boutique (54 Seventh Ave., near Lincoln Pl.; 718-638-4566) opened, right between the execrably named Prints Charming and the New Prospect Bakery, Seventh Avenue’s last bakery. Bikinis with plastic daisies, old-master minis, dresses with suggestive cutouts: They’ve got all the stuff you only have the courage to wear on October and December 31. The owners, clearly fashion-school grads, change the window display weekly, so every trip to the dry cleaners provides stretchy fashion tips.
NoLiTa has already maxed out on bistros, but my neighborhood, it seems, was still hungry for nouvelle Franco-American. Max and Moritz (426A Seventh Ave., near 14th St.; 718-499-5557), open less than a year, has a permanent twenty-minute wait even though it’s several blocks farther out than the unofficial 9th Street Slope boundary. Specialties include shrimp ravioli, baked brie with fruit compote, even the basic roast chicken, all served in the requisite creamy, minimal, candlelit room.
For a kids’ activity that might, like the Prospect Park carousel, prove to be more fun for all ages than anything Disney has devised, try the A Day in Brooklyn Trolley (718-965-8967). Cuter than public transportation has any right to be, the trolley makes scheduled stops at the zoo (oops, “Wildlife Center”), Botanical Gardens, and Brooklyn Museum on weekend afternoons year-round, providing an all-inclusive view of Olmsted’s masterpiece without pedestrian exhaustion.
The Pavilion has the seats, but the Plaza Twin (314 Flatbush Ave., near 7th Ave.; 718-636-0170) has all the charm critics say the multiplexes extinguished. Oddly-shaped cinemas, carved from a grand old theater. A lobby too small for indoor waiting. An industrial strength popcorn smell. And a personal taste in films: The Plaza gets any movie with a black star in its first week of release, catering more to the audience from the other side of Flatbush Avenue. The other theater is filled with an assortment of action and sci-fi flicks, interspersed with a little romance for the ladies, so Eve’s Bayou and Starship Troopers opened in the same week, and The English Patient turned up months late, when they had a hole to fill. But it’s nice to see a marquee not programmed in Hollywood.
Architectural historians are divided, but some believe the milky Star of David-patterned front window on the Congregation Beth Elohim (corner of Garfield Pl. and Eighth Ave.) is an original Louis Comfort Tiffany. It would be a departure from his romantic, organic curlicues, but the canted corner entrance and Beaux Arts dome of the synagogue indicate that the congregation has prospered since the turn of the century, and could easily have afforded stained glass’s best. The Congregation’s school building, across the street, has quirky Islamic decorations.
Entering Sanford and Son (313 Fifth Ave., near 5th St.; 718-768-1872), you have to trust to the power of serendipity. This junk shop-cum-antique store may have treasures – a Shaker-style oak bench, a pair of mahogany tables with Empire legs – but it takes some looking. Framed prints and ancient handkerchiefs cover most surfaces, including the floor, and the racks of clothes hold Lurex sweaters and forties housedresses. But you never know, and neither Sanford nor son is likely to kick you out, should you lose yourself picking through the layers of furniture in their stamp-size backyard.