Brooklyn is the most populated borough in New York City, with over 2.5 million residents. In fact, if it were an independent city today, Brooklyn would rank as the fourth most populous city in the U.S., behind only the other boroughs of New York City combined, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Brooklyn has a ton of life and character, apparent when visiting it’s many unique neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has its own personality, in part influenced by the ethnic groups living there. For example, many Italian Americans reside in the neighborhoods of Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge; Bedford-Stuyvesant is one of the most famous African American communities in the city; Bushwick has a large Hispanic American population; Brooklyn’s “Chinatown” is located in Sunset Park, where they host a Chinese New Year celebration. While it may be tough to navigate this lively borough, Brooklyn local, Holly, offers some great advice to set you on your way. Check out the interview below!
THE LOCAL: Holly
WHY YOU SHOULD TRUST HER: Born and raised in the Midwest, Holly departed her hometown for Paris, France for university. Upon return stateside, she’s racked up residences on both coasts and in between, residing in Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, and Brooklyn. While she works throughout Brooklyn and Long Island, her husband, Tim, is the head chef of a Brooklyn restaurant; a preferred pastime is exploring the ceaseless options their great metropolis provides, from the tip of Manhattan to the beaches of Montauk. Brooklyn is not only one of Holly’s choicest boroughs to explore, it’s also the place she happily calls home. Read more travel tips from the Brooklyn local below!
BROOKLYN LOCAL QUICK FIVE
1. Favorite Street to Wander/Stroll in Brooklyn? Atlantic Ave from Brooklyn Bridge Park to Barclay’s Center – coffee shops, book shops, gardening shops, home shops, kids’ shops, bars, restaurants – it’s everything you could want!
2. Best Coffee Shop or Bakery? Bien Cuit, Cobble Hill. The Pain Pugliese will change your life. In Greenpoint, you must try the pastries at Bakeri. Order a drink to stay and indulge amongst shabby chic decor and French vibes.
3. Best Area to Shop Local? Court & Smith Streets between Atlantic and Hamilton; great selection of boutiques, Brooklyn-based wares, and food items. Best shop – By Brooklyn on Smith.
4. Your Recommended Saturday Night Agenda?
Pick a small area of a specific neighborhood – e.g. Crown Heights, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens – and do a crawl. For example: Red Hook – Start at Botanica for a cocktail; dinner at Brooklyn Crab; post-dinner cocktail/beer at Fort Defiance; live music at Jalopy Tavern; nightcap & impromptu dancing at Le Petite Crevette. Or Gowanus – Drinks at Threes Brewery; dinner at Pickle Shack*; indoor shuffleboard at Royal Palms; nightcap at Black Mountain Winehouse.
5. Essential Brooklyn Tip?
Just be willing to explore! Be aware of your neighborhood, of course, but just exploring the different cultures that all bump up next to each other, street after street, is how you find the best places. I’ve stumbled upon my favorite coffee shops, book stores, boutiques, etc., when I’m just wandering without agenda. I think you also get to see the most interesting aspects of neighborhoods this way, and clearly appreciate how quickly your environment changes, even within a block.
TRIPADVISOR’s TOP FIVE BROOKLYN ATTRACTIONS
1. Brooklyn Bridge – Thumbs Up! Fun to stroll or run across; great for all ages.
2. Brooklyn Heights Promenade – Thumbs Up!
Especially great early in the morning or after dark. For runners – there are an array of great runs in and around Brooklyn Heights/DUMBO that all include the Promenade. Map My Run has great options all mapped out. (P.S. DUMBO stands for ‘Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass’)
3. Food Tours (A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour, Ray’s Food and Walking Tours, etc) – Thumbs down. If you really want a tour of great local food, hit up any of Smorgasburg’s or Brooklyn Flea’s locations.
4. Brooklyn Bridge Park – Thumbs Up!
If coming in the summer, Fornino on Pier 6 has great views and excellent cocktails (they also have locations in Greenpoint and Williamsburg); Brooklyn Bridge Garden Bar on the other end (Pier 1) has a great beer and cocktail selection- plus sangria pitchers!- and beautiful views underneath the BK Bridge. Any kind of pick-up game imaginable, from sand volleyball to rugby.
HOLLY’S FAVORITE BROOKLYN RESTAURANTS
1. Pickle Shack, Gowanus – The best craft beer list ever; amazing gastropub fare. Great for dinner or just dinner drinks and snacks.*
2. Pok Pok NY, Columbia St/Waterfront – Hands-down, best thai food I’ve ever had. Pre-dinner must – Heat Ray cocktail.
3. Paulie Gee’s, Greenpoint – Brick-oven fired pizzas; atmosphere is cozy and busy, all at once. Great people watching, excellent pizza.
4. Buttermilk Channel, Carroll Gardens – Brunch is incredible, but you can’t go wrong with any meal, here. Great wine list; feels very New England meets Brooklyn. Grab a spot on their outdoor patio in the summer months!
5. Dassara, Cobble Hill – Amazing ramen, fantastic cocktail list, cozy/romantic atmosphere good for dinner with friends or with your love.
* Since we conducted this interview, Pickle Shack has permanently closed its doors. While it can’t be replaced, Brooklyn local Holly’s newest favorites are Lilia in Williamsburg and Sauvage (cocktails and fresh bistro fare) in Greenpoint.