Prospect Lefferts Gardens: What to do in the rapidly changing parkside neighborhood

By Shaye Weaver

So much is written about the beauty and trendiness of Park Slope, but you never hear much about its neighbor across the park — the equally beautiful, if not more authentic, Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

The Flatbush neighborhood, which is defined by Prospect Park to the west, Crown Heights to the north and Brownsville to the east, has a large West Indian population whose influence can be found at many of its restaurants and small shops, especially down always-bustling Flatbush Avenue.

Despite the rich cultural diversity and strong desire for community among its residents, it was only a matter of time that the neighborhood that borders one of the city's greatest parks would face the effects of gentrification. "PLG" (as some call it) is rapidly changing. In just two years, a slew of new shops, restaurants and cafes have opened along Flatbush Avenue — many of them catering directly to the residents of new apartment buildings springing up around the stretch.

We visited some of the neighborhood's mainstays as well as the newer shops. While it's impossible to list every worthy establishment, we've curated a list of places you should definitely visit should you be in the neighborhood.

Start your day off at PLG Coffee House and Tavern

Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Head on over to Rogers Avenue, where you'll find this little gem stocked with mouth-watering bites. PLG Coffee House and Tavern (499 Rogers Ave.) stays true to its name -- it caters to the coffee house crowd, families, young adults and four-legged best friends alike. Paired with the imaginative and colorful art that decorates its walls, the cafe is a great place to enjoy a cup of joe with one of its delicious breakfast sandwiches. Don't leave without trying an egg and cheese biscuit with bacon and avocado -- it's a taste to behold. Wash it down with a good cold brew and take in the chill atmosphere.

Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

The egg and cheese breakfast sandwich with bacon on a biscuit.

Enjoy a leafy walk through the neighborhood

Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

The old homes in Prospect Lefferts Gardens are beautiful. Row upon row of stately brownstones line the streets in much of the neighborhood. Other homes are quaint and have gardens that would put suburbanites to shame.


Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Homes in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

See some serious block pride on Lefferts Avenue

Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

You think your street is pretty? The block of Lefferts Avenue between Rogers and Beford avenues is a lesson in what it means to take pride in one's home and neighborhood. Home after home is beautified with colorful plantings and even the sidewalk itself is lined with planters (some made out of old telephone boxes, a baby carriage and an amp) disregarding boundary lines. If you're lucky, you'll run into a resident who will proudly tell you that the block won the Love Your Block grant and has won the 2018 Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Greenest Block contest (out of 160 blocks that applied).

Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

A baby carriage serves as a planter on Lefferts Avenue.

Go shopping, starting at Greenlight Bookstore

Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Head over to Flatbush Avenue, where you'll find the majority of the neighborhood's retail, from West Indian shops to this bookstore (632 Flatbush Ave.). Greenlight is the newest of three locations in Brooklyn. The community-minded shop offers your typical fiction and non-fiction bestsellers and new arrivals but also has a section for those who want to read up on New York City and Brooklyn.

Find multicultural beauty goods at Tafari Tribe

Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Just a few blocks away from the bookstore is Tafari Tribe, a shop that specializes in fashion, household products and accessories from East Indian, West African, South American and Caribbean cultures with an overall pan-African perspective. If you haven't already stopped into one of the neighborhood's cultural shops, don't miss this one.

Pick up an 'awesome' trinket

Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

You shouldn't have to leave the neighborhood to get cool balloons, a funny card and an awesome gift for someone, according to Vanessa Raptopoulos, the owner of Awesome Brooklyn (617 Flatbush Ave.). The tiny shop is chock full of quirky items, including "woke af" mugs, delicately scented candles, Beyonce, Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Biggie saints candles, flower garden kits and jewelry Raptopoulos designs herself.

The PLG local felt like it'd be the perfect spot to open her store because it's got a very neighborhood-y feel, and she was right. Neighbors stop by to chat so much that Raptopoulos's daughter is on a first-name basis with the neighborhood's dogs and kids, she said.

"I really try for our store to cater to our community by selling stuff that people around here make and of course selling (cooler) stuff that people around here would like," she told amNewYork. "My store feels very much like a really happy neighborhood spot."

Take a breather in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden (1000 Washington Ave.), opened in 1910, is 52 acres of escape from the borough's urban sprawl. Within it are a number of separate gardens such as the Discovery Garden (pictured), Cranford Rose Garden, the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden (which features a red torii gate), and the cherry tree plot, which blooms for a short moment each spring. Be sure to find your way to the small (but intriguing) bonsai museum, as well.

Explore Prospect Park

Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Prospect Park is 526 acres of beautiful, lush green that is yours to explore. From skating at LeFrak Center rink to paddle boating in its lake, there's a lot you could do given a few hours there. If you want a nice walk, check out the boathouse (pictured), the ornately carved bridges, the Lefferts Historic House (below) and many of the park's water bodies that run throughout it. The park definitely rivals Central Park as the city's best. You decide.

Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

The Lefferts Historic House at Prospect Park.

Get schooled on soul food at The Food Sermon

Photo Credit: Nicholas Doyle

Now that you've worked up an appetite, head over to The Food Sermon, technically in Crown Heights (355 Rogers Ave.), for an authentic take on Caribbean-inspired food in bowl form, including the jerk chicken bowl, the lamb bowl, the tofu veggie bowl and the island bowl, which you create by choosing the meat, rice, sauce and veggies. Locals love this place, so you know it's good.

Treat yourself to pie

Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

No matter when you go to Pels Pie Co. (446 Rogers Ave., open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.), there will be freshly baked pies ready and waiting for you. Using locally-sourced ingredients, Alison Pels and her staff bake the fresh butter crust pies every day to create a rotating, seasonal menu, which means you can go several times and never have the same pie twice (unless you want to). Don't miss out on the fig buttermilk slice. Employees told us "it tastes like fall," so we had to taste for ourselves, and yes, it's legit. Otherwise, flavors like chocolate, apple crumble with elderberry, pecan and others are ready for the taking. Slices are $4 and full pies are $30.

The cozy shop, which has a long bar, hanging plants and a cute backyard area, is a nice place to stop for a snack, dessert, brunch (9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends) and even happy hour. From 7 to 9 p.m. daily, you can get $1 off any beer or wine. If you're not feeling like pie, check out its cheddar biscuits, which are easily the most popular non-pie item there.

Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

The fig buttermilk pie and a cold glass of milk.

For a night out, head to the Zombie House

Photo Credit: The Zombie House

This tiki rum bar at 734 Flatbush Ave. keeps in mind that going out can get expensive, so the spot allows you to bring in your own food, keeps drink prices on the lower side ($12 and under) and offers late night snacks like jerky, Totino's pizza rolls and even S'mores Pop-Tarts. The cocktails have great names -- "Jungle Birds Sing Brian McKnight in the Trap," "Bend in the River" and "Big Punisher." Pictured is the "Jaspora." The bar has trivia nights and comedy shows, too, if you're looking for structured fun.