'Bilt to last

A mix of pioneers, beloved stalwarts and hot newcomers has transformed Prospect Heights' Vanderbilt Avenue into a dining and nightlife hot spot. Take a tour of Brooklyn's newest restaurant row.

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Photographs:Jeff Gurwin and David Rosenzweig

A decade ago, Prospect Heights’ Vanderbilt Avenue was little more than an automotive speedway lined with liquor stores and barbershops. “There was nowhere to go after dark,” says Anatoly Dubinsky, owner of the pioneering Soda Bar. But since Dubinsky’s saloon opened in 2002, this street—only eight blocks long, from Atlantic Avenue to Grand Army Plaza—has blossomed into a bona fide destination. Aided by anchors such as the 22-year-old new-American 1. Garden Cafe (620 Vanderbilt Ave at Prospect Pl, 718-857-8863) and the Italian stalwart 2. Aliseo Osteria del Borgo (665 Vanderbilt Ave between Park and Prospect Pls, 718-783-3400), plus neighborhood institutions like soul-food mainstay 3. Mitchell’s Fish & Chips (617A Vanderbilt Ave between Bergen St and St. Marks Ave, 718-789-3212) and the down-home Dominican 4. Los Viejos Amigos (599 Vanderbilt Ave between Bergen and Dean Sts, 718-636-3871), Vanderbilt Avenue is attracting a clientele that once seemed impossible to lure. “Everyone’s saying Vanderbilt is going to be the next Smith Street,” says Kathryn Weatherup, whose soon-to-open bar, Weather Up, is playing no small part in putting the strip on the map. Here’s a taste of Vanderbilt’s top and upcoming destinations.

Though Franny’s is Prospect Heights’ pizza star, 5. Amorina (624 Vanderbilt Ave between Park and Prospect Pls, 718-230-3030) holds its own with mega-imaginative pies. Sample a Giallorossa, crowned with dried cherries, orange zest and crème fraîche.

A former church is being transformed into the cocktail temple 6. Weather Up (589 Vanderbilt Ave between Bergen and Dean Sts, no phone yet), kitted out with a mahogany bar and a garden. Consultant Sasha Petraske (Milk and Honey) trained the barkeeps, so when the place opens later this month, expect elegant libations matched with cool jazz and cheese plates.


Noo na

Photographs:Jeff Gurwin and David Rosenzweig

Bibimbap down to 7. Noo Na (565 Vanderbilt Ave at Pacific St, 718-398-6662), a year-old brick-and-wood eatery that sates central Brooklyn’s Korean cravings. Sip a glass of soju and dig into standards such as soon dubu, a spicy tofu-and-seafood stew.


The Old Brooklyn Parlor

Photographs:Jeff Gurwin and David Rosenzweig

Escape to a simpler era at 8. The Old Brooklyn Parlor (564 Vanderbilt Ave between Bergen and Dean Sts, no phone, oldbrooklynparlor.com), a teensy takeout spot serving java, baked goods and retro sippables since last July. The frothy egg creams are as old-school as the black-and-white photos on the walls.

Vanderbilt Avenue’s nightlife swirls around 9. Soda Bar (629 Vanderbilt Ave between Prospect Pl and St. Marks Ave, 718-230-8393), a former sundae shop where locals congregate for killer happy hours and bulging burgers. Punch up some indie rock on the jukebox, then relax in the lounge or on the summer-perfect patio.


Beast

Photographs:Jeff Gurwin and David Rosenzweig

Gargoyles hold court at pubby, gothic-themed 10. Beast (638 Bergen St at Vanderbilt Ave, 718-399-6855), where daters and celebrators gather to guzzle Blue Point Toasted Lager and munch supersize tapas such as mussels and beer-braised short ribs. Stick around after the kitchen closes for a boisterous late-night bar scene.


Barrette

Photographs:Jeff Gurwin and David Rosenzweig

Fans of scantily clad flesh will applaud 11. Barrette (601 Vanderbilt Ave at Bergen St, 718-230-5170), a new ironwork-adorned drinkery with blood-red half-moon booths and a stage for burlesque action. Order a Bordertown special (tequila and a Bud tall boy) and a challah grilled cheese, then settle in for the spectacle—or create your own.

Sate your sweet tooth at 12. Joyce Bakeshop (646 Vanderbilt Ave between Park and Prospect Pls, 718-623-7470), a snug hangout for the stroller set and keyboard clackers alike. Gooey cinnamon buns and (of course!) frosting-capped cupcakes are ideal accompaniments for fresh-brewed Gorilla Coffee.


Joyce Bakeshop

Photographs:Jeff Gurwin and David Rosenzweig

This summer, an as-yet-unnamed 13. country-western bar (603 Vanderbilt Ave at Bergen St),co-owned by Beast’s proprietor, Deb Bicknese, will plant its honky-tonk flag. Anticipate abundant whiskeys and microbrew beers, plus fried bar snacks including hush puppies.

Catch the latest sporting action or a bite at the garden-equipped 14. Plan B (626 Vanderbilt Ave between Park and Prospect Pls, no phone yet), a restaurant-bar ready to open pending a liquor license—hopefully this month. Count on four flat-screen TVs, ten tap beers, and a menu offering cheese-stuffed burgers.

Additional reporting by Zachary Feldman.

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