Brooklyn is a borough of New York City, with 36 neighborhoods contained within it. It’s tempting to list the top places to see in Brooklyn and call it a day, but an itinerary like that would be quite exhausting. With an area of almost 100 square miles, you would spend most of the day on the subway system or in a car zigzagging between points of interest.
I find it much more rewarding to pick one of those 36 neighborhoods and explore it in depth. Recently we picked the neighborhood of Gowanus, located on the west side of Brooklyn. Bordered by more well-known neighborhoods like Red Hook, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, Gowanus is an up-and-coming neighborhood. It is named after the Gowanus canal that runs through part of it from Gowanus Bay. Its residential area has had its ups and downs over the years, and it currently ranks 31st most populated in Brooklyn, with 9,450 residents.
What drew us to this particular neighborhood was the newly opened barbeque spot, Pig Beach BBQ [480 Union Street, (917) 259-1176]. We have had some great bbq in Texas, so a place opened by award-winning pit masters boasting to bring some great bbq to Brooklyn intrigued us. Getting there on the subway was a bit harrowing, as the NYC subway system currently often has disruptions and delays. On that particular cold Sunday in December, the R train went down entirely due to electrical issues, and we had to scramble for another way to get there. We ended up taking the 2 train to the Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center stop, where most trains pass through. While the R train would have dropped us off right in the heart of Gowanus, we now had about a 15-minute walk to get there, but the walk wasn’t too bad.
Once we got to Pig Beach, after showing proof of being vaccinated, (which is required currently for all indoor dining in NYC), we lined up at the counter and ordered our ribs and brisket sandwiches. We ended up eating outside in our coats, it was around 47 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny, and certainly not crowded like the indoor seating area was. Part of their new renovations is a large outdoor seating area complete with its own outdoor bar and string lights, which looks like it would be a fantastic place to hang out in on a warm summer night.
The ribs had an amazing bark on them, which I know is the sign of a great pit master. They were a bit on the chewy side though, and I like my ribs falling off the bone, but it was good. The brisket sandwich was very good, even if it may have been meat-heavy in proportion to the brioche bun it sat on. The collard greens had a strong smokey and vinegary tang to them, very flavorful. The cornbread was sweet, like honey cornbread.
If bbq is not your thing, you might want to start the day in Cobble Hill and have brunch at the Clover Club [210 Smith Street, (718) 855-7939]. It’s a cocktail bar which is also well-known for its excellent brunch. Back on Union Street, if a glass of wine and relaxing by the fireplace sounds good (a nice winter treat), head over to Black Mountain Wine House [415 Union Street]. In the Gowanus neighborhood the nicest restaurant I spotted was Runner and Stone [285 Third Avenue, (718) 576-3360]. It is a bakery, bar and farm-to-table restaurant headed by Executive Chef Chris Pizzulli.
After lunch we walked down Union Street back towards Third Avenue, and happened to pass this lovely pottery store, Claireware Pottery [543 Union Street, (718) 875-3977]. It sells truly one-of-kind pieces at reasonable prices, and the pottery workshop is right there in the back of the store. Claire Weissberg makes the pottery, which is also sold in retail establishments such as Dish and The Left Bank Gallery.
At Union street and Fourth Avenue, make a left around the block to the L Train Vintage Store [654 Sackett Street, (718) 858-4906]. It has racks and racks of carefully selected secondhand clothing with a distinctive urban Brooklyn vibe, and unbelievable deals. I walked away with a chocolate brown suede jacket for $10. Yes, ten dollars. They have a men’s and women’s section with everything from shirts to purses and fake-fur coats.
A walk down Third Avenue heading south takes you through the rest of the Gowanus neighborhood, which for now is dominated by typical Brooklyn brownstone residences, and large stores like Whole Foods and Staples. We stopped for a slice of pie and coffee at Four and Twenty Blackbirds [439 Third Avenue, (718) 499-2917], trying to make a slice of apple pie last longer between us as we contemplated the rather long walk we had back to Atlantic Avenue and the subway. However, it had been a full and fun afternoon, and we look forward to exploring all of the neighborhoods of Brooklyn.
Date of trip: December 2021