Image source: Flickr - David Berkowitz
Brooklyn—specifically, Williamsburg—is New York City’s
cradle for all things hip and au courant,
to hear the New York Times tell it.
Über-cool shops, restaurants and watering holes are opening up seemingly every
week, and the Style pages are flush with photos of bright young things who are
“influencers” and “tastemakers” in this great city. What you don’t see, though,
are the other ‘hoods that are home to countless enclaves, the unflashy, humble,
hardworking cultural groups who provide a different set of touch points that truly
make New York City the diverse place that it is. Here’s a look at a small (small) part of this kaleidoscopic
There is a huge resurgence in this neighborhood, home to a
large population of Orthodox Jews and people of Caribbean descent (from
Jamaica, Haiti and other islands). Gentrification on the border closer to
Prospect Heights brings with it restaurants, bars and shops, all falling in
line with Brooklyn’s current hipness, yet still contributing to the
neighborhood’s charms. Don’t miss Crown Heights’s claim to fame, the annual,
raucous West Indian American Day Parade—with its noisy, colorful regalia—which marches
down Eastern Parkway every summer. A sort-of Carnival, it brings out the
neighborhood’s vast population to join in the revelry, complete with feathers,
dancers and lots of color. Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and
Brooklyn Museum are all within walking distance, providing an ample dose of
institutional culture should you need it.
The staggering number of signs in Russian should not
intimidate or stop you from visiting this enclave, which bears the nickname
Little Odessa. The area is steps from that more iconic New York beach—Coney
Island—so by proxy, it’s an area worth exploring. The food alone is a
staggering panoply of flavors, with spots slinging shashliks (shish kebabs) and
garlicky chicken tabaka, as well as anything pickled. Swing by Brighton Bazaar,
a behemoth of a grocery store, which is also basically a DIY-flavor-passport,
dishing out hundreds of dishes as varied as blinis to sausages. Of course,
don’t forget the beach itself, one of the best in the City.
Home to a growing Mexican population and Brooklyn’s very own
Chinatown, Sunset Park is a thriving neighborhood on the borough’s west side,
minutes from Park Slope and Gowanus. The namesake park boasts some of the best
views of Manhattan, Staten Island and New Jersey (believe it!) but more than
that, it’s a vibrant area with tons to do, see and eat. Diverse pan-Asian
restaurants and Latin American spots line the main drag, offering authentic
flavors at reasonable prices. Step into La Fe for its Puerto Rican mofongo or
Ba Xuyen for arguably the city’s best banh mi sandwich. If you’re feeling like a
macabre stroll, Green-Wood Cemetery is a hilly reprieve from city bustle while
also an interesting lesson in New York history (Boss Tweed and abolitionist
Henry Ward Beecher are laid to rest here).
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Raised in Southern California, Joseph left the temperate climes of the OC for the chilly winters of Chicago, where he earned his degree in magazine journalism. Along the way, he developed an impenetrable layer of blubber, thanks to the city's deep dish pizza and hot dogs. In recent years, he has edited an online travel magazine, helped produce two international TBEX conferences, and has written about fashion, food, wine, and travel for various online publications. Currently, Joseph is Assistant Editor at Wine Enthusiast Magazine, where he geeks out on his interests regularly. Read Joseph's blog at Pith + Moment or follow him on Twitter.
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