Like most people who visit New York City, my first visit left me in a trance. I felt like I had barely enough time to scratch the surface of what has been dubbed, “The Greatest City on Earth.” If you’re like me and from a smaller town, the hustle and bustle of Manhattan is alluring and wonderful, but also a little overwhelming. After spending a few days basking in the splendor of Central Park and staking out just about every famous site in Midtown and Lower Manhattan, I felt like it was my duty to explore what the other boroughs had to offer.
While it is probably a little less glamorous by the standards of most people, Brooklyn is literally packed full of its own mystique and charm. I had the good fortune to stay with a friend in the fabled neighborhood of Park Slope for a few nights during my visit, and she showed me a time I will not soon forget. Park Slope is indeed a fantastic place, but we spent the majority of our time in the section of Brooklyn right next door: Prospect Heights.
This area of New York City is really making itself known of late. Classic Brooklyn brownstones are abundant here, and tree-lined residential streets make for peaceful strolls on sunny afternoons. An eclectic mix of long time local residents, young families, and a smattering of artists and students make the scene in this area something you have to experience to believe. The restaurants are out of this world. The bars are interesting and largely affordable. And the sheer amount of outdoor space is something almost anyone can appreciate.
It seems that most of my visits to new cities revolve around one thing: Food. Whether trying outrageous international cuisine or taking off in search of the best Americana fare, my growling belly leads me in all sorts of interesting directions. Fortunately for me, Prospect Heights is practically flooded with tantalizing food options. The first place I tried was Udom Thai on Washington Avenue. For the money I don’t know if I’ve ever tasted better Thai food. I highly recommend the Spicy Basil Noodle dish, which at lunch time is a mere $6 a plate. Another excellent spot is a tucked away Italian joint known as Amorina, located at 624 Vanderbilt Avenue. Their pizza is delicious, but I suggest you drop in for weekend brunch, which is fairly priced and offers a unique Italian perspective on classic brunch fare.
The bar scene in Prospect Heights has a few staples which must be experienced, although there are new drinking venues popping up all the time. Some of the best I visited include Bar Sepia on Underhill Avenue, a dimly lit, low-key watering hole that plays soothing music at just the right volume. Also on my list of favorites is Soda, which is nearly across the street from the aforementioned Amorina on Vanderbilt. Here the beer enthusiast will find a decent selection of draft beers that rise above the drab corporate brews that dominate so many bars’ offerings. In addition, the jukebox will satisfy fans of all styles of music, especially those with a taste for underground rock of the 1990’s variety.
Probably the most attractive aspect of Prospect Heights is its proximity to world-famous Prospect Park. The entrance to the park is marked by the extravagant Grand Army Plaza, complete with a magnificent fountain and constantly encircled by taxi cabs winding their ways to different parts of the city. It’s a perfect spot to find a bench and engage in some prime people watching. Better still, the park itself is gorgeous. During the spring and summer months, this Frederick Law Olmsted-designed green space will transfix any visitor with its gently rolling hills and quaint walking paths.
Next time you get a chance to visit New York City, don’t forget to spend some time exploring Brooklyn. Prospect Heights is easily accessible by several subway lines, including the 2, 3, Q and B trains. You won’t find better food, booze, or outdoor activities anywhere in the city. Take it from me: This is a neighborhood unlike any other in the world.