This week, Here editors are paying homage to the New York City neighborhoods they call home. Senior Editorial Designer Chloe Scheffe shares her guide to Carroll Gardens in the heart of Brooklyn.
Carroll Gardens is the neighborhood grown ups in New York aspire to. With its quiet tree-lined streets and effortless brownstones, it’s one of the most idyllic ‘hoods in Brooklyn. But beyond its picturesque qualities, there’s a trove of culture and dining to explore here.
Almost any day spent in Carroll Gardens is a perfect day, but below you’ll find my picks for the essential Carroll Gardens experience. I won’t blame you if you want to move in after.
Chloe Scheffe’s Perfect Day in Carroll Gardens (and Slightly Beyond)
9:00 a.m. — Coffee
For me, a perfect day begins early. When I’m up and moving before the brunch rush, I’ll camp out with a book at Public Records. Though it’s better known as a late-night spot, during the day Public Records is an oasis of calm and pouring sunlight and high ceilings. So rare a find is a big open space in this part of Brooklyn that after my first visit it instantly become my go-to. Plus, the coffee is good and they have an excellent indie magazine selection curated by Import News.
If my caffeine fix must be to-go, Blue Bottle on Dean Street is my pick. (In nice weather, order the New Orleans. It’s the only sweetened iced coffee concoction that yours truly, a horrible coffee snob from Seattle, has ever loved.)
10:00 a.m. — How Do You Say ‘Pancakes’ in French?
Topping my long list of breakfast spots is Luluc, a cash-only French cafe with a lovely backyard and an authentic European front of house. Order the pancakes or French toast with a side of sausage (breakfast meat is the best meat). If modernity is more your speed, stop by East One—their menu is a bit more Scandinavian. I always recommend the duck leg hash, which might sound a little wild for the morning, but it’s just perfect.
11:30 a.m. — Go Antique
I’m a big proponent of “walking it off” after a meal, and this general area (Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights) is excellent for both consignment shopping and antiquing. Start at Yesterday’s News, then work your way north to Buffalo Exchange on Boerum Place and Consignment Brooklyn on Atlantic Avenue. Once you’re on Atlantic, there’s a string of antique shops between Hoyt Street and Bond Street—starting with Horseman and ending with Wynne—that you shouldn’t miss. Each is a subtly different shade of eccentric. All are delightful.
2:00 p.m. — Sandwiches!
For an easy-going lunch, stop by Mile End Delicatessen. They’ve got bagels, sandwiches, salads, soups, pierogies, fries, pickles, and, you guessed it, chopped liver. Everything on the menu is good, and there’s a handy walk-up window for to-go orders. Bonus: all their sandwiches can be made on a gluten-free bread that, while not a true facsimile of great bread, is not offensive in any way. (This gluten-free thing is only the latest in a series of food-related quagmires I’ve found myself in this year. Pray for me.)
3:00 p.m. — Bike or Book
I believe there are two kinds of travelers: Actives and Sedentaries. I am a Sedentary by nature, but on my perfect day I’m striving to be an Active. Whatever the case with you, you have my allegiance and compassion, and therefore I’m making recommendations for all.
For Actives: Grab the nearby ferry to Governer’s Island and cycle around it. The ferry costs a few dollars and the island is both picturesque and fairly flat. Best of all, there are CitiBike stations all over it, so you won’t have to haul your own bicycle over. I can’t recommend an afternoon spent this way enough—it’s a marvelous thing to take in the splendor of lower Manhattan without actually having to be there.
For Sedentaries: Stroll to Books Are Magic, the neighborhood’s most charming bookstore by a mile. The selection is solid, the vibe is both contemporary and cozy, and their programming is nonstop amazing. If sports are more your thing, try the secret soccer bar in the back of Goose Barnacle, a menswear store on Atlantic. I don’t know if they’re doing the speakeasy thing on purpose, but I’m here for it. I also don’t really care about soccer, but this bar is spot on for a drink in the daytime.
7:30 p.m. — Dinner Rolls
If you’ve heard of Carroll Gardens, you’ve probably heard of Lucali. Let’s get this out of the way first: If you’re going to eat at Lucali, you’re going to wait in line. To vastly improve the quality of the line experience, arm yourself with a loaf of lard bread—a baguette with salami and provolone baked in—from Mazzola Bakery. Mazzola is a no-nonsense place two blocks from Lucali and all the bread, but especially the lard bread, is delicious.
My favorite casual-but-sort-of-fancy dinner place is Grand Army for modern American fare and inventive cocktails that rotate every season. It’s a bit out of the way, but still an easy walk from Carroll Gardens proper, and well worth it. If you go here, you must order the bread and butter. It may sound like nothing special, but I urge you to take this recommendation very seriously. If you’re feeling altogether more adventurous, Ugly Baby serves up authentic, spicy Thai. The coconut rice is, literally, sweet relief.
For dessert, Van Leeuwen serves fancy shmancy ice cream until 11 p.m. I usually order the honeycomb or the vegan mint chip (they make it with coconut milk, which adds some needed nuance to a super classic flavor).
9:00 p.m. — Drinks and more drinks
I love June. Not only does it have the most beautiful interior on Court Street, but the cocktails are fabulous and understated, and in terms of wine, they specialize in natural options. Its atmosphere is difficult to describe well. Let’s just say this is the place I will forever want to duck into in case of a sudden downpour.
A truly classic alternative is Long Island Bar, on Henry Street. The chrome and neon diner exterior is a bit terrifying, but the atmosphere inside is elevated retro. The booths along the windows are the most coveted seats (get there on the early side to snag one), but a stool at the bar is great too. My drink of choice here is the Gimlet.
12:00 p.m. — Late Night Pizza
Ward off a hangover with a slice from Brooklyn Pizza Market. It’s not the dollar-slice stuff you might be picturing—imagine instead something gourmet but accessible, with thick, crispy, nicely bubbled crust. The official hours are noon to “very late.” I think they just stay open ‘til the pizza is gone.
The Carroll Gardens Essentials
Where to Stay in Carroll Gardens:
Look for Airbnbs along Smith Street for the best access to trains. South of the BQE is Red Hook, which is landlocked. It has its charms, but in terms of convenience, proceed at your own risk.
What to Read Before a Carroll Gardens Visit:
10:04 by Ben Lerner. I am admittedly going through a real Lerner phase, but this book is also objectively outstanding. Much of it takes place in this part of Brooklyn—his characters walk on Atlantic Avenue, throughout Boerum Hill, on Henry Street, and on the Promenade (one of the absolute best places to view Manhattan at night). I’m able to feel pure, unironic sentimentality about where I live now that I have great writing about it.
Know Before You Go to Carroll Gardens:
Carroll Gardens is really walkable. No need to rent a car or pay for rides within the area. If you need to get into Manhattan, hop on the F train—it’s a straight shot anywhere you need to go, all the way up to Central Park.