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Things to Do

What to do and eat in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Few neighborhoods see their reputations change as much and as quickly as Crown Heights has in the last couple of decades.

For years, this vibrant neighborhood was most closely associated with rising crime rates and a three-day riot in 1991, fueled by racial tensions between Hasidic Jews and African-American and West Indian residents. Today, it's among the most in-demand neighborhoods in the city's most in-demand borough -- and even as it undergoes the often tense and always complicated process of gentrification, it remains diverse and has held on to plenty of its cultural history, especially in the food department.

Stroll along Eastern Parkway and you can slip down cross streets to find authentic West Indian food (and, on Labor Day Weekend, the colorful West Indian Day Parade along "de Parkway"), or kosher bakeries (and barbecue joints), and yes, hip new restaurants -- many of which nod to the neighborhood's history.

Here's how to spend a day in Crown Heights.

Breakfast at Lincoln Station

Start your day off right by biting into
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

Start your day off right by biting into an egg sandwich, with added bacon, at Lincoln Station (409 Lincoln Place) -- just over the Washington Avenue border that separates Crown Heights from Prospect Heights. This cafe manages to elevate the classic New York bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, serving it with some salsa rosa, perfectly cooked fried eggs and a pillowy bun. Good news for late risers: Lincoln Station (which also has great lunch options) serves breakfast until 4 p.m.

Visit the Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum, at 200 Eastern Pkwy., straddles
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Rob Kim

The Brooklyn Museum, at 200 Eastern Pkwy., straddles several neighborhoods, but it looms large over the western border of Crown Heights and a sliver of its land is technically in the neighborhood, so it's worth a visit when you're in this neck of the woods. If nothing else, take a moment to appreciate the lovely old architecture and the contrast of a new glass atrium in front of it. It's not the only museum in the neighborhood -- walk down Eastern Parkway and you'll find the Jewish Children's Museum, at 792 Eastern Pkwy., which is also home to kosher bakery Chocolatte.

Hang out at Berg'n

Berg'n, located at 899 Bergen St., has a
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

Berg'n, located at 899 Bergen St., has a coffee bar, an actual bar, four food options and pinball machines. It's open all day long -- so whatever time it is, if you hit a lull in your day, it will be there to receive you with open arms and long communal tables. (Unless it's Monday, then you're out of luck.) Berg'n is a spin-off of Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea, and it offers up food from Mighty Quinn's, Landhaus, Bread and Salt and Lumpia Shack.

Eat Caribbean food at The Islands

You'll notice a theme in the Crown Heights
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

You'll notice a theme in the Crown Heights dining scene: Caribbean and West Indian food. Even as the neighborhood changes, this cuisine hangs on -- at places with hole-in-the-wall vibes like The Islands (where you have to climb a steep set of ladderlike stairs to find a seat in a loft suspended above the tiny kitchen) or Gloria's on Nostrand Avenue, and at spots offering more updated takes on the genre, like Glady's on Franklin Avenue or The Food Sermon on Rogers Avenue.

If you want a filling lunch, The Islands, at 803 Washington Ave., is hard to beat. It might be tough to find a spot to sit during lunch, but the jerk chicken and other dishes will be spicy enough to keep you warm outside, even in this weather. And you'll have more seating options soon -- in typical Brooklyn fashion, the Key Food building that's home to The Islands is slated to be turned into condos, and the restaurant plans to move down the road to a bigger place.

Get some caffeine at Breukelen Coffee House

After a heavy lunch, you might need a
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

After a heavy lunch, you might need a little jolt of energy -- so head to Breukelen Coffee House, located at 764 Franklin Ave. Crown Heights has a ridiculous number of coffee shops these days (DNAinfo pegged it at "at least 17" shops, and that was back in 2015) but Breukelen is one of the longer-lasting coffee houses. It opened its doors -- and in doing so started a little rivalry with another shop across the street -- in 2009. Co-owner Frank Warren was serving up coffee with a smile during a recent visit, while patrons worked on laptops or struck up conversations with one another. The shop also hosts community events.

Shop for quirky gifts at Owl and Thistle General Store

If you want to buy a gift with
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

If you want to buy a gift with some New York character, Owl and Thistle General Store, at 833 Franklin Ave., has you covered. From plush pigeons and yellow taxis to dish towels featuring New York street scenes, the shop is full of Brooklyn-made goods and also offers sewing and crafting classes in a cozy setting.

Slurp oysters at Mayfield's happy hour

What's better than a happy hour? A happy
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

What's better than a happy hour? A happy hour with dollar oysters. Sit at the bar at Mayfield (688 Franklin Ave.), a popular New American restaurant, and order up a dozen bivalves. Wash it down with a discounted drink -- a rotating $3 beer (on a recent visit, it was Labatt Blue), a $4 house draft, a $5 well drink or a $6 house wine.

Eat Neapolitan-style pizza at Barboncino

Neapolitan-style pizzas -- small pies cooked quickly in
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

Neapolitan-style pizzas -- small pies cooked quickly in hot ovens -- seem to be on a mission to take over a city best known for slice joints, at least in foodie circles. Barboncino, at 781 Franklin Ave., does the genre well, with a lightly blistered crust, bright tomato sauce, just enough mozzarella and a touch of basil. If you want some heat, add a little of the chili oil, the modern version of those giant red pepper shakers you'd find at your local slice joint. If you're not feeling pizza for dinner, consider the aforementioned Food Sermon -- though note it will be closed from Dec. 16 through Jan. 15 for the holiday season -- for modern but accessible island cuisine, or Catfish for Cajun food.

Get some dessert and booze at Butter & Scotch

You don't need to wait for your birthday
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

You don't need to wait for your birthday to enjoy a slice of birthday cake thanks to Butter & Scotch, a bar-meets-bakery at 818 Franklin Ave. where you can class up your childhood favorite by selecting the "Make it Sparkle" option -- which pairs a glass of Champagne with your three-layer, sprinkle-covered cake. If you're more in the mood for chocolate, order the Hotline Bling Cake: dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate frosting, salted caramel sauce and gold glitter. Pair that with bubbly to make it a Champagne Papi. If you prefer to drink your dessert, check out the selection of boozy milkshakes, which are closer to composed cocktails than spiked desserts.

Walk it off on Eastern Parkway

Once a year, the parkway comes alive on
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

Once a year, the parkway comes alive on Labor Day weekend with the colorful floats and costumes of the West Indian Day Parade. But normally, it's a bit quieter. Walk off all that food with a stroll down the tree-lined pedestrian path (or a bike ride in the bike lane) in the middle of the busy street.

Get your tiki on with cocktails at Super Power

Head over to Nostrand Avenue, which you'll notice
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

Head over to Nostrand Avenue, which you'll notice is a little less jam-packed with bars and restaurants than Franklin Avenue. Still, it's changing quickly, and there are already plenty of gems -- like Super Power, at 722 Nostrand Ave., a relatively new tiki bar serving up delicious (and, at $10, affordable) rum cocktails.

In another example of how the neighborhood's Caribbean influence looms large, it's actually the second tiki bar on Nostrand Avenue (King Tai is the other). The lighting is pleasingly dim, the vibe is warm and friendly, the service is superlative and the drinks are well-made and lovingly presented.

Grab a John the Beachcomber -- which is also available supersized to share -- or a simple but sweet Galangal Daiquiri. But the Slow Reveal, pictured, is the most Instagram-worthy, thanks to its pineapple serving vessel.

If you're more into beer than cocktails, check out Covenhoven instead.

Insider tips

Crown Heights is a pretty big neighborhood, and
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

Crown Heights is a pretty big neighborhood, and it is well-served by public transit. While you can walk between all the places listed here, some are closer to different subway stops than others. The neighborhood is served by the 2 and 3 trains at Eastern Parkway Brooklyn Museum and at Franklin Avenue, where you can also grab the 4 or 5. The 3 also stops at Nostrand Avenue, and further east at the Kingston Avenue and Utica Avenue/Crown Heights stops. The 2 and 5 trains have stops at President Street. The A and C trains also run along Atlantic Avenue, just over the Bed-Stuy border.

If you keep kosher, Crown Heights has many options -- including Izzy's Smokehouse, a kosher barbecue joint. Just note it's closed on Fridays and Saturdays for Shabbat.

The boundaries of Crown Heights and Prospect Heights have been much debated, but the general rule is the middle of Washington Avenue. The western side is Prospect Heights; the eastern side, Crown Heights.


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