1. Brooklyn Public Library–Central Library
Grand Army Plaza at Eastern Pkwy.; 718-230-2100
Brooklyn’s central library will soon add a new plaza and a 200-seat auditorium as part of an almost-completed $16.5 million renovation. The children’s reading room is often packed, and parents and nannies show up at 9 a.m. to get tickets to afternoon story time. Telecommuters adore the international reading room—not just for the 1.5 million books in a riot of languages, but also for the free Wi-Fi and plentiful Aeron chairs.
2. Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket
Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Park entrance, every Saturday
Trumansburg Trees rushes fresh-cut evergreens down from Ithaca. But before you pick out a tree, pick out your halibut at the stocked fish market— most of the fish is gone by noon.
3. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch at Grand Army Plaza
General Sherman laid the cornerstone of our own little Arc de Triomphe. Now there are performances below the arch (where the acoustics aren’t bad) and occasionally within the arch itself, where actors recently staged a Halloween production of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu.
671 Vanderbilt Ave., at Park Pl. 718-857-7211
Owners Colin and Latisha Daring’s Vanderbilt Avenue boutique specializes in tough urban flair with a kick, from small designers (Filippa K, Triko, True Religion), celebs (Gwen Stefani), and their new, ruffled-and-sexy Pieces line.
646 Vanderbilt Ave., nr. Park Pl. 718-623-7470
Telecommuting freelancers are already clogging up this stylish little bakery, which opened in September. Joyce Quitasol serves Gorilla coffee, homemade granola ($4), tasty lemon tarts ($4), and light vanilla madeleines ($1), but the Bourbon pecan cookies (75 cents) are especially addictive.
639 Vanderbilt Ave., nr. Prospect Pl.; 718-622-1255
Until Prospect Heights gets a Whole Foods, this tiny gourmet grocer bridges the gap between Key Foods and the finer things, with hard-to-find spices, fresh ravioli, and excellent cheeses. If you miss the Greenmarket, get your baguettes here.
7. Fabrica LLC
619 Vanderbilt Ave., nr. St. Marks Ave.; 718-398-3831
In addition to full-service interior design and upholstery, designer Demi Adeniran presides over a selective and surprisingly affordable collection of restored mid-century finds, handblown glassware, and durable children’s toys.
8. Bob Law’s Seafood Café
637 Vanderbilt Ave., nr. St. Marks Ave.; 718-789-4060
Civil-rights activist and talk-radio vet Bob Law (“Night Talk With Bob Law”) serves up giant orders of southern-style shrimp, whiting, and catfish (fried, blackened, or broiled), with ample sides of mac-and-cheese, greens, and biscuits. The bargain meal (catfish, shrimp, bread, and two large sides for just $29.99) easily feeds four.
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.
21. Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Pkwy., at Washington Ave.; 718-638-5000
Locals are excited about the exhibit by former Henson animator turned provocateur Ron Mueck, a veteran of the museum’s dung-dabbed “Sensation” controversy who specializes in eerily lifelike sculptures of humans, with all their flaws. The free, all-evening parties on the first Saturday of every month keep getting more crowded. Use the stairs; the elevators are incredibly slow.
22. Cheryl’s Global Soul
236 Underhill Ave., nr. Eastern Pkwy.; 347-529-2855
Food Network personality Cheryl Smith’s curved-wood-ceiling restaurant is the neighborhood’s unofficial canteen. Open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. (and 11 p.m. on weekends), the restaurant serves affordable, tasty breakfast and lunch ($5.50 for the day’s salad special). Prices are higher at dinner, with fusion comfort food, including a bulgogi-marinated rib eye and tamarind roasted chicken.
23. Bar Sepia
234 Underhill Ave., nr. Eastern Pkwy.; 718-399-6680
This laid-back, small-tab bar thrives in the shadow of Richard Meier’s tower, serving up tasty mojitos, draft beers, and local gigs. There are patio seats in the back, prix fixe dinners on the weekends, and wi-fi all day long.
24. Mi Montuno
810 Washington Ave., nr. Lincoln Place; 718-857-3329
This tiny tailor shop doesn’t just hem pants—it makes clothes to order, and displays them in the front window.
25. The Islands
803 Washington Ave., nr. Eastern Pkwy.; 718-398-3575
The wait can be an hour or more at this tiny, triangular Caribbean joint, which serves buttery, coconut-steamed red snapper, hot jerk shrimp, and curried goat— all cooked to order by aproned Jamaican matrons Shawn Letchford and Marilyn Reid. The candlelit dining room is too cramped for a group, but perfect for a date. BYOB.
26. Island Village Café
465 Lincoln Pl., at Classon Ave.; 347-787-4852
In October, chef Derrick Williams left the Islands to create his own takeout spot, with many of the same dishes. So far, so good: The steamed-fish dishes, steamed cabbage, and coconut-infused rice-and-beans are all familiar, but the service is much faster, and the $4 mango barbecue wings are a welcome addition.
27. Tom’s Restaurant
782 Washington Ave., at Sterling Pl.; 718-636-9738
A literary, musical, and culinary institution. Suzanne Vega autographed her lyrics for “Tom’s Diner” and hung them on the wall. Jeffrey Eugenides used Tom’s as inspiration for the Greek diner in his novel Middlesex. Owner Gus Vlahavas and his chummy staff provide quality diner food—tasty Belgian waffles, pancakes, and a like-Mom- made meatloaf, with old-school service. Closed Sundays.
28. Mayday Hardware Store
755 Washington Ave., nr. Sterling Pl.; 718-783-7171
Owner Jerry Walsh dispenses precision advice from behind the cash register on the finer points of DIY plumbing, drywalling, and wiring.
29. Shambhala Yoga & Dance Center
348 St. Marks Ave., nr. Washington Ave.; 718-622-9956
A landmark in gentrification, this yoga studio offers hatha, vinyasa, and ashtanga classes, plus dance classes from salsa to Afro-Cuban. It’s $13 per yoga class, or $850 for an unlimited one-year membership.
30. Ginger Root Café
702 Washington Ave., nr. Prospect Pl.; 718-857-1274
Christie’s Jamaican Patties, on Flatbush Ave., is busier, but this cozy café is more comfortable, and versatile. There are steaming curried chicken, beef, or vegetable patties ($9 a dozen), spicy rotis, and sweets including fluffy muffins for your morning commute (it opens at eight) or apple-coconut cake for dessert.
603 Vanderbilt Ave., nr. Bergen St.; 718-622-0600
Shop at this dog-friendly dollhouse of a gift emporium for cute gifts, bright bags, and doggie snacks in a riot of strange shapes and sizes.
The real-estate boom is still booming in Prospect Heights, where million-dollar-plus lofts in Newswalk (the old Daily News printing house) are going toe to toe with Richard Meier on Prospect Park. Uncertainty radiates outward from Gehry’s Atlantic Yards site, which may be why prices on Eastern Parkway—on the other side of the neighborhood—are spiking.
Richard Meier on Prospect Park
One Grand Army Plaza
Nothing will shape the future of Eastern Parkway like Meier’s 114-condominium glass tower (pictured below), priced at around $1,000 per square foot, not including balconies. Strictly for gentrifiers. Corcoran (718-230-7905).
35 Underhill Ave.
Washington Avenue, formerly home to nail salons and Jamaican patty joints, is now the nexus of condo conversions. So far, 17 of the 39 condos here are in contract. Aguayo & Huebener (718-622-9300).
735 Dean St.
A giant duplex co-op is still available in this beautiful 1880 firehouse, converted with stainless-steel trappings. Aguayo & Huebener.
647 and 649 Washington Ave.
At the lower end of the new developments, this seven-floor, sixteen-unit building still has duplex studios listed for $439,000 and three three-bedroom, two-bath condos listed for $699,000. Bergen Basin (718-763-4110).