BROOKLYN Neighborhoods: M-Z Manhattan Beach to Windsor Terrace
First developed as a summer resort in the late 1800s, Manhattan Beach was converted to a residential neighborhood by the WWI era. Today this strip of land at the east end of the Coney Island peninsula is home to a large Jewish and Russian community, and includes some of the priciest real estate in New York. Most of the houses are single-family units (many of them approaching the "mini-mansion" category), and except for a few businesses on Oriental Avenue, the main strip, there's little shopping here.
But with its back to Sheepshead Bay and its front facing the Atlantic Ocean, this is one place to come if you really want to feel you've left the city behind. The chief draw, of course, is Manhattan Beach itself, a 40-acre park right on the Atlantic. Catch rays, cool off, and take in the views of Breezy Point, over in the Rockaway Peninsula, from the concrete promenade.
While you're enjoying the scenery, you may be curious to know what the cluster of buildings are that occupy some choice real estate at the east end of Manhattan Beach. That's Kingsborough Community College, a part of the CUNY (City University of New York) system and the only community college serving Brooklyn's 2-1/2 million residents. (To give you an idea of Kingsborough's mission, at last count the students here hailed from more than 150 countries, and spoke approximately 95 different languages.)
The College sits on a 71-acre spit of land overlooking Sheepshead Bay, Jamaica Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. At the turn of the last century, two big hotels at this spot competed directly with the better-known resorts of Newport and Long Island's East End. Today, fortunately, the public can still enjoy this property by way of the free "Summer Saturdays" outdoor concert series held every summer at Kingsborough's Rainbow Bandshell. Jazz, salsa, and pop are some of the genres represented, but with a location like this you'll be glad to sit under the stars and listen to just about anything.
Transportation: B or Q train to Brighton Beach; transfer to the B1 bus (which starts in Bay Ridge). Or, B or the Q to Sheepshead Bay, transfer to the B49 bus. Take either bus to Manhattan Beach/Oriental Ave.
Quick—what Brooklyn neighborhood boasts the final miles of Flatbush Avenue and the borough's only ranger station? If you guessed Marine Park, you've clearly done your urban exploring. This small residential neighborhood sits in Brooklyn's southeast corner, at the west end of Jamaica Bay, and includes a 798-acre park of the same name.
In addition to courts and fields for soccer, tennis, baseball, bocce, and basketball, the park has a golf course and a model airport. Best of all, it also plays home to the Salt Marsh Nature Center, one of ten "Urban Park Ranger Nature Centers" in New York City—and the only one in Brooklyn. The Nature Center is a remarkable facility offering walking tours and workshops meant to familiarize you with one of the last surviving salt marshes in this area, a remarkably preserved ecosystem where visitors can see ducks, geese, cormorants, sandpipers, pheasants, herons, egrets, red-winged blackbirds, and ospreys in their native habitat. Rabbits are common here, too, and if you come here early in the summer and you might see female horseshoe crabs crawling ashore to lay their eggs.
The Nature Center building is open from 11 am to 5 pm every day except Wednesday. The adjoining grounds (including the nature trail) are open from dawn to dusk.
Brennan & Carr is famed for its roast beef sandwiches. Like diners? Big portions and dependable burgers and curly fries have given Kings Plaza Diner a devoted fan base for decades.
Transportation: 2/5 to Brooklyn College/Flatbush Avenue stop, followed by the B41 and Q35 buses down Flatbush; or Q to Avenue U, followed by the B3 bus east.
The name Midwood comes from the Dutch midwout, for "middle woods," which is presumably how this area looked when first settled by Europeans in 1652. The woods may have been paved over, but over the decades Midwood grew into a major middle-class enclave, with block after block of tree-lined residential streets. Long principally home to Orthodox Jews, Midwood has recently drawn large numbers of Russians, Chinese, Haitians, Pakistanis, and Guyanese, among others.
If you like to shop, Midwood is a neighborhood you need to visit. (The Q train will get you here from Manhattan's Union Square in little more than a half hour.) The busy strips like Coney Island Avenue, Avenue J, and Avenue M abound in every kind of business you can imagine: clothing and accessories, department and "variety" stores, Judaica, jewelry, and gifts, not to mention markets selling delicacies from dozens of different ethnic cuisines (kosher and otherwise). The Yellow Door has specialized in upscale gifts for more than forty years. If you're looking for childrens' clothes, both Diva and Tuesday's Child offer impeccable designer duds for little people.
DiFara's Pizza is almost universally beloved for its thin-crust product. Looking for hummus and shawarma sandwiches a cut above the street-cart standard? The well-regarded (and kosher!) Olympic Pita serves up Middle Eastern with an Israeli twist.
Transportation: Q train to Avenue J.
Mill Basin is one of several smaller residential neighborhoods adjoining Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn's southeast corner. The land here remained mostly rural until the late 1800s, when dredging and development made this an industrial center until after World War II. In the 1950s bungalows started popping up in large numbers, many of which have since been replaced by detached single-family houses.
The Mill Basin Draw Bridge, supporting six lanes of the Belt Parkway over the body of water known as Mill Basin, is one landmark here, and so is the Mill Basin Kosher Deli, long celebrated for the quality of its pastrami, potato pancakes, salads, knishes and strudels—former residents are said to return here decades later to recapture the tastes of their youth.
But, in addition to its culinary delicacies, the Mill Basin Kosher Deli is also an art museum! The owner has turned the walls of his restaurant into a gallery space dedicated to the works (including some originals) of Erte, the great 20th-century Art Deco designer and illustrator, as well as to Marc Chagall, Alphonse Mucha, and Roy Lichtenstein. Come nosh and enjoy some terrific pictures.
Transportation: 2 train to Flatbush Avenue; transfer to B41 bus (Bergen Beach/Veterans Hwy) to Ralph Avenue and Avenue N; B47 bus to Avenue N and Ralph Avenue, or B3 bus to Ave U and Mill Avenue.
Like its neighbor Fort Greene, Park Slope is known for its historic brownstone architecture and vibrant cultural life. Add an idyllic 520-acre park and a hopping nightlife scene to the mix, and you have the formula for one of the most sought-after places to live in all of New York City.
For a newcomer, it might be useful to know that "the Slope" (as its denizens like to call it) is bisected by several long avenues running north-south. Of these, 5th and 7th Avenues are thriving commercial strips, whereas 6th and 8th Avenues are much more residential. Not surprisingly, real estate only gets pricier the closer you get to the park, and the major historic attractions tend to be clustered in the neighborhood's northeast corner, on and around Grand Army Plaza.
At the heart of Brooklyn sits a group of civic institutions with roots stretching back to the late 19th century. They're all located conveniently near one another (you can visit them all on foot in one afternoon), but visitors should be aware that on weekends between noon and 6 pm a free trolley service ferries visitors between Grand Army Plaza, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and destinations inside Prospect Park. (See under "Prospect Heights," below, for information on the Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Museum.)
Let's begin at the majestic Grand Army Plaza, which the landscape designers Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead laid out in the 1870s as a formal entryway into their masterwork, Prospect Park. The oval Plaza's most prominent feature is the massive granite arch at its center: New York's answer to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument (left), which was dedicated in 1892 as a memorial to the defenders of the Union in the Civil War. (The west pier of the Monument honors the Army, while the east pier salutes the Navy.)
(It's worth adding that once a week, the Plaza is also the site of one of New York City's largest open-air green markets. Farmers pull up here every Saturday with hundreds of varieties of farm-fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, baked goods, and more.)
Vaux and Olmstead completed Prospect Park in 1873, and nearly ever since Brooklynites have liked to boast that their park is the place where the designers learned from the "mistakes" made in one of their previous creations, Manhattan's Central Park. Whatever the merits of that claim, there's no denying that Prospect Park is a wonder—more than 500 acres of greenery encompassing rolling hills, an epic meadow, a lake, and Brooklyn's sole remaining forest. Recent restoration projects have returned smaller sections of the park to their native state, which makes for excellent bird-watching, among other benefits—for instance, patient viewers can often see egrets and herons in the two pools downhill from the park's 9th Street entrance.
As if the opportunities for walking, cycling, running, blading and just plain snoozing weren't enough, Prospect Park also holds a wealth of places that deserve a visit in their own right. The Prospect Park Zoo sits on 12 acres here and houses more than 100 species in state-of-the-art exhibits, recreating terrain as varied as tropical rain forest and Antarctic penguin habitat. The nearby Audobon Center at the Boathouse (left) brings visitors closer to nature with interactive exhibits and birdwatching walks. Pedal boats, the Tennis Center and the Wollman Skating Rink offer more possibilities for recreation, and kids can ride the historic 1912 Carousel from April through October.
(And just in case all this green space leaves you feeling the need to get indoors, the Pavilion, Park Slope's sole movie theatre, sits directly opposite the Prospect Park's southwest entrance, at 14th Street and Prospect Park West.)
The constantly-changing restaurant row along 5th Avenue in Park Slope makes this area worth any number of repeat visits; following are some of the best of the old guard and more recent arrivals.
Appetizers alone make Bogota Bistro worth a look: their piquant beef and pork empanadas are so tasty you may forget about ordering an entree, and the fresh fruit mojitos and caipirinhas are some of the best drinks to be had anywhere in the 'hood. Stone Gate Cafe, at the corner of 5th and 3rd Street, has an outstanding brunch, plus loads of outdoor seating in warmer weather. A few blocks to the south, Coco Roco may be less flashy than some of its newer neighbors, but their Peruvian chicken in green sauce is a gold standard for both take-out and sit-down dinners.
If you want to get in touch with your inner Austin Powers, the Chip Shop offers solid fish and chips along with a lot of other quintessentially British fare; a recently-added next-door annex rounds out the menu with some fiery curries as well.
Just up the hill, on a quiet, tree-lined block of 11th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, the excellent Applewood offers a more sedate dining experience than most of 5th Avenue's boisterous bistros. Seek it out for brunch, when they serve divine (and potentially life-shortening) grits. Bar Minnow, at 7th Avenue and 9th Street, is an exceptionally comfortable seafood bistro.
The 5th Avenue fun doesn't stop with restaurants! Bar hounds will find the stretch between Flatbush and 9th Streets a sort of miracle mile, with a watering hole for every need. Skinny rock n' rollers suck down the suds at the venerable O'Connors, at 5th just off of Flatbush, and Luna, Loki, and Great Lakes all pull in a young and attractive hipster crowd. Special honors are also due to The Gate, at the corner of 5th and 3rd Street, both for its extensive menu of better beers and its outdoor deck, the perfect place to while away a sunny weekend afternoon. (The Gate also welcomes four-footed friends, which counts for a lot in the pet-friendly Slope.)
Southpaw, one of New York's most inviting rock clubs, has taken up residence on 5th Avenue across the street from a supermarket. Regardless of who's playing (or spinning), you can head in and easily become mesmerized by the hundreds of old LP covers decorating the walls from top to bottom. And if the crowd upstairs is a little more packed than you're comfortable with, a swanky downstairs lounge space provides plenty of elbow room.
Gingers and Excelsior are two 5th Avenue joints catering to gays and lesbians, although the relaxed vibe at each means that straight folks will feel comfortable too. (Excelsior also draws raves for its jukebox.) Down on 4th Avenue, Cattyshack serves up two stories of fun for gals looking to get down, with everything from loud to lounge.
Finally, for non-alcoholic beverages and a relaxed environment, the spacious Ozzie's is the virtual definition of a comfy neighborhood coffeeshop.
Transportation: the F train to 7th Avenue puts you smack in the middle of the Slope. But to reach the neighborhood's northern end, you can also take the B or Q to 7th Avenue, or the 2/3 to Grand Army Plaza. For quick access to the 5th Avenue scene, meanwhile, consider taking the R to Pacific, Union, or 9th Streets, and walking one block uphill.
Immigrants from the Caribbean have left their mark on Prospect Heights, Park Slope's quieter neighbor; particularly down around Washington Avenue, it's common to hear island rhythms in people's voices and in the music that seems to waft from all over. The culture celebrates itself every Labor Day with the spectacular West Indian Day Parade, which runs along Eastern Parkway from Crown Heights to Grand Army Plaza. The Parade turns this entire area into one of the biggest parties in the city (approximately a million people turn out each year, by recent counts), and if you've never been, you owe it to yourself to see the extravagant (and racy) costumes and floats at least once.
Though relatively small in size, Prospect Heights plays host to several standard-bearer Brooklyn institutions. One of these is the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the 52-acre marvel that gives visitors an uncanny feeling of being far removed from any urban environment. Highlights include the Discovery Garden, ideal for smaller children, and the serene Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, which plays host to ducks, herons, turtles, and koi fish for most of the year. The Botanical Garden's annual Cherry Blossom Festival, held in late April or early May, is a spectacular showcase for not only the pond but all the grounds here, and a month later the "June is Roses Month" celebration foregrounds the Cranford Rose Garden's 5,000 bushes just as they reach full bloom. The Steinhardt Conservatory, housing more than 8,000 indoor plants, makes the Botanical Garden equally worth visiting in the colder months, too.
And by the way, the Botanical Garden's Japanese Garden also houses Celebrity Path, Brooklyn's "Walk of Fame" in which the names of over 135 local luminaries (among them Walt Whitman, Jackie Robinson, Barbra Streisand, and Woodys Allen and Guthrie) are inscribed in brass on leaf-shaped flagstones.
Mere yards from the Botanical Garden, the mighty Beaux-Art building presiding over the juncture of Flatbush and Eastern Parkway is the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Take a moment to admire the dramatic glass pavilion that forms the Museum's front entrance before heading in and losing yourself in major collections of ancient Egyptian art, African art, and American painting and sculpture, to name just three of the Museum's most celebrated collections. Special exhibitions change several times a year, and frequently make the Museum a must-visit: recent hits have included shows of Jean-Michel Basquiat, William Wegman, and that recurring favorite, Claude Monet.
One great way to experience the Brooklyn Museum is at its Target First Saturdays, on the first Saturday of each month from 5 to 11 pm, when throngs of visitors enjoy free admission to a variety of art programs, live entertainment—and dancing! (But be aware that the First Saturdays series is so successful that some of its programs now require tickets, and ticket lines sometimes form 30 minutes prior to distribution.)
Head uphill on Eastern Parkway from the Brooklyn Museum and you'll quickly arrive right back at Grand Army Plaza (the approximate border between Prospect Heights and Park Slope, in case you're keeping track). That stately building on the Plaza's east side is the Central Library of the Brooklyn Public Library. Opened in 1941, the Central Library is the nerve center of a library system with 60 branches, catering to approximately 1.5 million visitors each year. Feel free to stop in and explore the multitude of services, or simply pause outside and take note of how the Library's architecture was created to resemble an open book, with the spine on Grand Army Plaza and the building's two wings opening like pages onto Eastern Parkway and Flatbush Avenue.
Prospect Heights is graced by several businesses with a friendly neighborhood character. Anyone needing refuge from the clamor of Flatbush Avenue, for instance, should duck into Heights Coffee, an elegant and laptop-friendly oasis that serves up superior java and baked goods. Up on Vanderbilt Avenue, both Beast and Cafe Gamin make for dependable brunch choices.
The epitome of this small-town feel, though, has to be Tom's Restaurant, open since 1936 and one of the friendliest places to eat anywhere in the city. (The owners greet their guests as though they were long-lost relatives; if you have to wait for a table, you'll be treated to free coffee, cookies, and orange slices.) All of Tom's breakfast choices are excellent, and the portions are so ample that you may end up skipping lunch. For something other than eggs or French toast, crab cakes are a good bet, and every item on the menu can be washed down with an egg cream or an eye-opening cherry-lime rickey. (Note that Tom's is open for breakfast and lunch only, and is closed Sundays.)
Transportation: B or Q to 7th Avenue; 2 or 3 to Bergen St.; 2, 3, 4 to Grand Army Plaza.
PROSPECT LEFFERTS GARDENS
Located just east of Prospect Park, Prospect Lefferts Gardens owes it name to several nearby institutions—Prospect Park, the Lefferts family homestead, and the Botanical Garden. The neighborhood was the site of the Lefferts family farm for more than 200 years; with rapid urbanization following the spread of mass transit early in the 1900s, the 1783 Lefferts homestead was moved into the park in 1918, and the adjacent area was restricted by covenant to single-family houses.
As a result, the freestanding row houses and mansions here display an attractive range of architectural styles. Join a walking tour of Lefferts Manor (the historic district created here by the covenant mentioned above) and you'll take in Tudors, shingled Victorians, and stately brown- and limestones with gardens and gas lamps out front. (The Municipal Art Society sponsors walking tours of the area, and the Lefferts Manor Association offers a self-guided tour.)
Outside of the historic district, Prospect Lefferts Gardens has traditionally been a Caribbean-American enclave, although newcomers attracted by relatively lower rents have been "discovering" the neighborhood more recently.
Even Manhattan bloggers are starting to spread the word about Ali's Roti Shop, where the standout snack is the Trinidadian "doubles," chickpea curry on soft, puffy bread. Down the road, Peppa's Jerk Chicken Restaurant is reliable Jamaican takeout, especially the jerk chicken with rice and peas.
Transportation: Q to Prospect Park; 2 and 5 to Sterling Street or Winthrop Street stops.
PROSPECT PARK SOUTH
The quiet residential enclave of Prospect Park South came into being in the late 1800s, at the behest of a developer whose motto was rus in urb, or "country in the city." That translated into a number of large, stately homes, many of which qualify as mansions. Consequently, the neighborhood was designated as a historic district by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1979.
Transportation: Q train to Church Avenue or Beverley Road.
Once a burly, bustling waterfront district, home to tens of thousands of longshoremen (and dozens of bars), Red Hook went into a serious tailspin in the '60s and '70s after the rise of container shipping took most of its livelihood to more competitive ports. In more recent years, however, the usual assortment of artists and other urban pioneers have reclaimed many of the spaces here, with the result that Red Hook, like a lot of formerly derelict Brooklyn locales, is becoming downright trendy.
The best reasons to visit have to do with Red Hook's light and space, which you can experience directly at two public-access locations. The Beard Street Pier has the dual attractions of a warehouse dating from the Civil War era (which hosts a terrific artists' festival every spring), and an adjacent boat basin where you can see the occasional tugboat and some picturesque wrecks close-up. Stand on the Pier's west side and you'll feel as if you could reach out and touch the Statue of Liberty. Over on the Red Hook peninsula's east side, the Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier is an artful little stamp of green that also serves as both a popular fishing spot and a canoe and kayak launch.
Step into Red Hook Park on any weekend from spring through the early fall and you may get caught up in the intense soccer matches being played here by local hombres from Central and South America. But even if you're not into the futbol, it's worth coming down for the culinary treats offered on the sidelines, where a number of vendors cater to this community. The meat tacos here never disappoint, and the fresh mango on a stick, garnished with lime and salt, is out of this world.
Brick-oven pizza and more than a dozen home brews are reason enough to visit the Liberty Heights Tap Room, but factor in the upstairs roof deck (a great place to while away the hours from afternoon into evening) and you've got one of the most beguiling spots in all of Brooklyn. Look west from the roof deck towards the Manhattan skyline and you might even see the Queen Mary 2 as it heaves into port at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, which opened in April 2006 (a welcome step in the Red Hook waterfront's resurgence.)
Ofcourse a huge draw in IKEA-BROOKLYN - between a plethora of buses and ferries serving this home improvement haven, there's no excuse not to make a trip here!
Several fun independent businesses are another reason to check out Red Hook. Stop in at the homey Baked for the cut-above coffee and hot cocoa, or delve into their inspired brownies, scones, and specialty cakes. LeNells is a pet-friendly neighborhood liquor store that purportedly stocks the widest selection of bourbons in the whole city, from $10 to $300 a bottle. Main Street Ephemera stocks just what its name promises: vintage costume jewelry, lurid old paperbacks and movie posters, and other treasures waiting for you to discover them.
Transportation: Though less isolated than it used to be, Red Hook is still somewhat cut off from the mainstream of NYC mass transit. Intrepid urban explorers can get there by taking the F or G train to the Smith/9th Street station and catching the B77 bus, which drops passengers off on Van Brunt, Red Hook's main drag (and also directly in front of the Liberty Heights Tap Room, above). The B61 bus will also take you directly to the heart of the commercial strip along Van Brunt Street.
Sheepshead Bay is named for a body of water that separates mainland Brooklyn from the Coney Island peninsula. A picturesque footbridge connects Sheepshead Bay with Manhattan Beach, also known as the eastern end of Coney Island.
Inland, the neighborhood tends to be quiet, residential, and heavily Russian, a reflection of the immigrants who arrived here in recent decades. Along the bay itself, however, Emmons Avenue runs past an array of seafood restaurants, nightclubs, and yacht clubs. Barkers outside many of these establishments will try to lure you in; feel free to take them up or just keep walking to where you can admire the motley fishing fleet moored out in the Bay.
One of the most prominent establishments on Emmons Avenue is the Brooklyn institution once billed as the largest restaurant in the world. Today Lundy's seats approximately 1,000 people—and still gets crowded! As you might expect from the location, seafood is Lundy's big draw; oyster platters come in single, double, and triple (!) tiers, and baked stuffed sole is a house specialty.
Local lore: Sheepshead Bay is named for the sheepshead, a supposedly edible fish with an unfortunate name that was once common in these waters.
Transportation: Q train to Avenue U, Neck Road or Sheepshead Bay stops (the last is closest to the water).
If there's ever a contest for the best-kept secret among New York City parks, Sunset Park may well take the prize. Extending from 5th Avenue in the west and 8th Avenue in the east between 41st and 45th Streets, this verdant hilltop square offers panoramic vistas of lower Manhattan and northern New Jersey from its long grassy slope. Discover the park for the first time, see the million-dollar views, and you may well wonder why you've never been here before.
Sunset Park the neighborhood is home to two thriving immigrant communities. Fifth Avenue in the Forties and Fifties is the commercial center for Mexicans and other Latin Americans; visitors looking for Mexican food a little more authentic than what they get in a lot of higher-end Mexican restaurants should investigate the taquerias along 5th in the Forties, in particular Tacos Matamoros, at 44th and 5th.
The area east of here, along 8th Avenue from roughly 42nd to 62nd Streets, is the center of Brooklyn's flourishing Chinatown. 8th Avenue is lined with Chinese groceries, Buddhist temples, CD and DVD stores, bakeries, and, best of all, restaurants. One of the latter, Diamond on 8, at 60th St., excels at dim sum.
Odd as it may sound, a second major outdoor destination forms Sunset Park's southern border—a graveyard, no less, the most storied in New York City. But there's nothing morbid about wanting to visit Green-wood Cemetery; for one thing, among the roughly 560,000 people buried here are such notables as Leonard Bernstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lola Montez, Boss Tweed, Edward R. Murrow, and Margaret Sanger—and that's only the start!
In addition to holding so many famous gravesites, Green-wood occupies 478 acres of rolling hills and lawns, with panoramic views of lower Manhattan and New York Harbor all the way across to New Jersey. (Battle Hill, the highest point in Brooklyn, lies within the cemetery's grounds.) Green-wood Cemetery also offers one of the best spots for viewing fall foliage in the entire city; some visitors have commented that it's like being in the Adirondacks, for the price of a subway token. (Bear in mind, though, that Green-wood is still a working cemetery that averages at least half a dozen burials and/or cremations per day, so visitors need to respect the privacies of individual mourners and funeral parties.)
And finally: Honeymooners fans, we haven't forgotten you! In 1988 the New York City Transit Authority's Fifth Avenue Bus Depot in Sunset Park was renamed "The Jackie Gleason Bus Depot" in honor of the immortal Brooklynite who played the bus driver Ralph Kramden. The depot is located on 5th Avenue and 39th St., next to the New York City Subway's 36th-38th Street Yard.
Transportation: N and R to 36th St., 45th St., 53rd, and 59th Streets. For Brooklyn's Chinatown, N to 8th Ave. (at 62nd St.).
Situated directly opposite Manhattan's Lower East Side and East Village, Williamsburg, in northern Brooklyn, has a long history of greeting refugees from across the East River. Back in the very early 1900s, the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge allowed thousands of New Yorkers to flee the squalid tenements of the Lower East Side for something better (which ended up making the neighborhood, at one point, the most densely settled in the city). Nearly a hundred years later, rising rents in Manhattan sent another population—artists, musicians, and hordes of other young people—this way, kicking off a resurgence that shows no signs of slowing.
At the time of the Bridge's opening, in 1903, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world (a title it had to cede to the Bear Mountain Bridge, upstate, in 1924) at 7,308 feet. Today the bridge supports eight lanes of roadway in addition to the J, M, and Z subway lines. A walkway lets pedestrians stroll across the East River in grand style; the walk is recommended whether you're arriving from or returning to Manhattan.
Frequently known as the "south side," the area at the base of the Bridge is largely Dominican and Puerto Rican. South of there, the district often referred to as South Williamsburg is still home to an enormous community of Hasidic Jews belonging to the Satmar sect, readily identifiable by their traditional dress.
Williamsburg's "north side," meanwhile, all but exploded as a nightlife hub around the turn of the millennium. Artists and other hipsters priced out of Manhattan started moving here in the '90s, and in their wake an enormous music scene sprung up in the blocks around Bedford Avenue, anchored by clubs like Galapagos, Northsix, and Pete's Candy Store. (Out-of-towners can count on seeing solid rock acts at these venues nearly any night of the week.) Catering to a variety of tastes, nearby bars like The Levee (southern), Vera Cruz (Mexican), Stain (wine), and Metropolitan (gay) keep the party going every weekend.
A few blocks north and west, at Wythe Ave. and North 11 St., a different kind of drinking environment opens to the public one night a week—that's the Brooklyn Brewery, in business since 1987 and now one of the top 30 breweries in the U.S. The Brewery operates out of an old foundry building, dating from the 1860s, where tours are offered every Saturday from 1 to 4 pm, and the tasting room is open on Friday nights from 6 to 10. You can't go wrong with any of the Brooklyn Brewery's offerings, but we're partial to the Pennant Pale Ale '55 and, in summer, the refreshing Brooklyner Weisse Beer—on your way out, stop by the Brewery Store and take some home with you! (Just remember not to open it on the subway.)
Calling all carnivores! Down on Broadway, near the entrance to the Bridge, the Peter Luger Steakhouse still reliably does what it's done in this location since 1887: steak. Steak as thick as a phone book, served with the trademark house sauce. Bring cash, because Peter Luger doesn't accept credit cards (although you can apply for an actual Peter Luger credit card on the premises).
Transportation: L train to Bedford Ave., or, for the south side, J, M, or Z to Marcy Ave.
Bordered on the north by Prospect Park and on the south by Green-wood Cemetery, the mostly residential Windsor Terrace neighborhood has been home to salt-of-the-earth Irish- and Italian-American families for generations. More recently, though, young professionals who have been priced out of adjacent Park Slope have started settling into its brick row houses and small wood-frame homes.
Though it tends to be a quiet neighborhood, Windsor Terrace's working-class character has made it a prime backdrop for filmmakers over the years. First and foremost, the 1975 Al Pacino classic Dog Day Afternoon was shot on Prospect Park West between 17th and 18th Streets. ("Attica! Attica!") Some 20 years later the movie Smoke, starring Harvey Keitel and a host of other uber-New Yorkers, was filmed at the Western Union at 16th St. and Prospect Park West.
Looking for the last word in no-nonsense drinking establishments? Farrell's Bar & Grill, on Prospect Park West and 16th St., opened in 1933, only started serving women in the '70s, and added stools even later. The cops, firemen, and construction workers who form the regular clientele go for Budweiser in 32-ounce Styrofoam cups, so whatever you do, don't order an Apple Martini.
Transportation: F train to 15th Street/Prospect Park or Fort Hamilton Parkway.