A Day in Brooklyn Heights

Life in Brooklyn Heights can sometimes be hard, especially if you have just missed that celebrity sighting at the Starbucks on Montague Street (sigh/yawn/sigh). Or if the antique street lamp in front of your Greek Revival home just temporarily went out. Or you may have just narrowly missed you chance to see a movie at the legendary — now closed — Brooklyn Heights Cinema. These trivial hardships, of course, stand in majestic juxtaposition to the endless blocks of glorious historic architecture, ranging from Second Empire and Classical Revival to the prototypical brownstone. There are around 600 pre-Civil War homes in Brooklyn Heights too. And then of course there’s the Brooklyn Promenade, yes, the one that allows Manhattan to see itself and know its beauty. The Promenade is where you should head to if you’re in the mood to take in some of the most romantic skyline views in the entire New York City. But for most, apart from the neighborhood amenities and conveniences and its proximity to Manhattan, it’s really the history that brings people here. You just need to remind yourself that this is the neighborhood that once housed the offices of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the likes of Truman Capote and John Roebling, the designer of the Brooklyn Bridge. Not too shabby.
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Adam Yauch Park

There are many public places and parks to get your morning jog going or practice your yoga. But Adam Yauch Park (yes, that’s that same Adam Yauch of Beastie Boys fame) may be the most quiet and serene in the Heights. Even your journey to the park makes you feel like you’re escaping the city as it’s tucked under the BQE. In fact, the park blends right into the overpass as you make the bend on Columbia Place. But the park is quaint and covered with foliage. Even with the cars passing above, you get awash by the sense of calm.

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Vineapple

All the exercise has ignited your hunger. And there’s one of the newer breakfast spots that you’ve heard is a pleasant escape from the “Smorgasburg"-type eateries in Brooklyn. You walk into Vineapple and you feel like you just walked into someone’s house. There’s a laid back atmosphere and plenty of room to stretch and go through your emails on one of the communal tables. The menu isn’t overwhelming, but the coffee, highlighted by the Stumptown brews, is the biggest draw.

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Willowtown Takeaway Shop

Beware: lunchtime is the busiest in Brooklyn Heights. It’s best to look for the under-the-radar eateries like Willowtown Takeaway Shop, located a block from Adam Yauch Park on Columbia Place. The general store is one part of two-part beat on the block. There’s the sit-down restaurant called “Iris Cafe, Store No. 9,” known in the nabe for its gourmet home-style cooking. But you are at “Store No. 7,” which could really be described as a fine-dining bodega. For instance, there’s a deli in the back selling sandwiches and you could find locally made chocolates at the register. But the menu includes all local organic products such as granola and the famed avocado toast. Don’t pass up on the meatball hero, if the mood strikes you.

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WeWork Brooklyn Heights

The literary journey has perked your creative senses to the point you start thinking of renting a studio for your own writing explorations and musings. Even in the affluent Brooklyn Heights, you find an affordable choice at the WeWork Brooklyn Heights. The co-working giant occupies the top four floors at 195 Montague Street. Catering to artists and startups, the rapidly growing space has exploded in the city, and their Brooklyn Heights location has a fully loaded kitchen, laid-back atmosphere and three months free if you decide to sign up.

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Brooklyn Promenade

Now that you are truly awake, you can’t pass up the chance to walk through the Brooklyn Promenade on your way to breakfast. This may be the most touristy part of the neighborhood, but it remains a legitimate marve… anytime you step on the wide boardwalk. After a yoga session, the walk on the Promenade will open your senses with the sounds of the cars passing beneath, the wind blowing on your face and the views of the mammoth skyline filling your eye. Like much of Brooklyn Heights, the place is crawling with original vintage work, from the benches to the lamps to the stones lining the walkways. Not to mention, this was the setting for one of the most iconic images on film, immortalized in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall.”

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Montague Street

With all the resplendent architecture to take in, it’s easy to overlook Montague Street, the beating heart of Brooklyn Heights. As a resident, of course, you know that this strip from Pierrepont Place to Court Street is one of the most underrated shopping districts in all of Brooklyn. You begin your stroll from Columbus Park near Borough Hall and walk west. On the strip, you encounter the Brooklyn Historical Society, and a slew of eateries. You approach one of the most beloved shops in the area: Housing Work Thrift Shop, and pass by many Asian restaurants and bars, and you land at J. McLaughlin, a legendary clothing store that has been on Montague for nearly 50 years.

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Walking tour of the former homes of the great writers

The one thing you will surely have noticed while spending time in Brooklyn Heights is that you could walk around for hours… without getting bored. That’s what history, seeping through, seems to be able to do to you. Today, you are taking it up a notch. At lunch, you have create quite an impressive list for your own personal walking tour of the former homes of the great writers. Your first stop is the former home of H.P. Lovecraft at 169 Clinton Street. From there, you make your way to The Bohemian Boarding House at 7 Middagh Street. The building, adorned with a wonderful gingerbread facade, was once a creative collective that included editor George Davis, writer Carson McCullers, and poet W.H. Auden. Many other creative and celebrities have been a guest there in the past, including Aaron Copeland, Leonard Bernstein, Richard Wright, and Salvador Dali. You move to the famed Willow Street to discover the former home of Truman Capote at 70 Willow Street. Only a few blocks down you will find the Death of the Salesman author Arthur Miller’s old home at 155 Willow Street. The tour doesn’t end there, as you decide to turn onto Remsen Street to catch a glimpse of Norman Mailer’s one-time studio at 20 Remsen Street. Finalize your author craving by visiting Henry Miller’s home at 91 Remsen.

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Heights Casino

Now that you have set your creative future, things could get stressful. I can’t think of a better way to fend off the stress but joining the legendary Heights Casino. Built in 1904, the Flemish Revival-style sports club that will make you feel like you have stepped into a different era, but with state-of-the-art facilities. Perfect your squash on their six international single courts and a hardball doubles court. There are also two indoor tennis courts, and the sleek fitness center goes without saying.

A Night in Brooklyn Heights

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Heights Cafe

Stomach rumbles, so you ponder your wonderful choices for dinner. For a few moments, you consider Friend of a Farmer, and end up settling on a local favorite, Heights Cafe. The restaurant, granted, is a tourist attraction due to its proximity to the Promenade. The cafe is a local hangout spot with cheerful demeanor. The menu is along the lines of The Cheesecake Factory’s, but executed really well… like the minted raspberry soup for example. The service is beyond accommodating, making the experience utterly memorable.

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Floyd NY

Enough of the bourgeois pleasures… Vive la France!... it’s time you just unwind and let lose. Conveniently enough, right next door to your decadent French oasis is the perfect bar to make that happen. Floyd NY is laid back and unpretentious. More importantly, you get to play bocce ball indoors. The coolness factors of Floyd NY’s also include its cheap beer, a Ms. Pacman arcade game, and an amazing jukebox. Not a bad way to end the evening, not at all.

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Le Boudoir

Your productive and eventful day has awarded you with a special treat. Through the grapevine, of course, you have heard about the secret French cocktail bar on Atlantic Avenue. But you finally have the address for Le Boudoir. Located in the basement at 135 Atlantic (right above Chez Moi), the Marie Antoinette-inspired bar is small… but incredible. The Rococo-style architecture is a homage to the ill-famed queen’s former chambers, and features red velvet-lined couches throughout. The bathrooms are even designed as exact replicas of Antoinette’s powder room. The real connoisseur, though, tonight you are here to take in the live piano player and have a drink of Sazerac.

Words by Arte Vincent

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JENNIFER RHODES
JENNIFER RHODES
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