Flatbush Avenue

Skipping that Caribbean vacation this year? Let this Brooklyn walk transport you to the tropics.

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  • Peppa's Jerk Chicken

  • Peppa's Jerk Chicken

  • Peppa's Jerk Chicken

  • Drummer's Grove

  • Drummer's Grove

  • Flatbush-Caton Market

  • Flatbush-Caton Market

  • Flatbush-Caton Market

  • Flatbush-Caton Market

  • Flatbush-Caton Market

  • Flatbush-Caton Market

  • Flatbush-Caton Market

  • Flatbush Reformed Church

  • Flatbush Reformed Church

  • Erasmus Hall High School

Peppa's Jerk Chicken

Start: Parkside Ave at Ocean Ave
End: Glenwood Rd at Flatbush Ave
Distance: 2.1 miles
Time: 3 hours

1 Emerge from the Parkside Ave Q station and follow your nose to Peppa’s Jerk Chicken (738 Flatbush Ave between Parkside and Woodruff Aves, Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn; 347-406-2515). You have a lot of eating ahead of you, so stick with a small order ($5) of the house specialty, but make sure to ask for at least one “festival”—these semisweet, deep-fried rolls are $1 apiece. Don’t forget to squeeze some hot sauce into your takeaway tray.

2 Peppa’s doesn’t have tables, so turn around and head for Prospect Park. You’ll be at the southeastern gate, where, on Sundays at Drummer’s Grove, vendors sell mangoes, incense and books about Marcus Garvey. This isn’t your college’s hippie drum circle: The interaction between Trinidadian pannists, West African djembe players and Rastafarians banging out Nyabinghi rhythms is an ethnomusicologist’s dissertation waiting to happen.

3 With its pastel-green paint job, you can’t miss Flatbush-Caton Market (794--814 Flatbush Ave at Caton Ave; 718-941-1425, flatbushcatonmarket.com). Inside the indoor bazaar you’ll find flags, T-shirts and belt buckles representing various island nations, plus Panama and Guyana. Karlene Robinson of Golden 7 Music Enterprise, a kiosk selling CDs for $15, keeps the sound system hot with Haitian compass by Tabou Combo, chutney soca by Trinidad’s Karma, and dancehall vet Buju Banton’s new one, Rasta Got Soul.

4 After devouring your Peppa’s fare, you’re going to want to learn how to re-create the food at home. Best Farm Market (818 Flatbush Ave at Caton Ave, 718-462-1806) stocks J.F. Mills’s “quick and easy” festival mix for $2.49, and Caribbean Choice brand jerk seasoning for $3.99.

5 Don’t eat meat? Detour onto Church Avenue, Brooklyn’s ground zero for Ital food, the strict natural diet kept by Rastafarians. Walk past the ruins of the late, great Veggie Castle to Strictly Vegetarian (2268 Church Ave between Bedford and Flatbush Aves, 718-284-2543), where the friendly staff will cram as much soy chunks, rice, collard greens, curry tofu and lo mein as its small ($6), medium ($8) and large ($10) Styrofoam containers can handle. Wash it all down with a $2 cup of homemade sorrel.

6 Now that you’re familiar with new Flatbush, take a moment to explore the neighborhood’s history. Buildings under 100 years old are the exception here, but the oldest of them all is Flatbush Reformed Church (890 Flatbush Ave at Church Ave; 718-284-5140, flatbushreformedchurch.org), which dates to 1654. The castlelike complex across the street is Erasmus Hall High School (911 Flatbush Ave), alma mater of Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond and one of the first secondary schools in North America (it opened in 1787, though the main building was built in 1904).

7 For such a lively thoroughfare, Flatbush is remarkably devoid of drinking establishments. Which makes a stop at Foundation Bar and Lounge (1254 Flatbush Ave at Newkirk Ave, 718-693-5425) all the more crucial. A board above the bar advertises drinks with names like “Blow Job,” “Back Shot” and “Choke a Bitch”; everyone here seems content with $5 Guinness bottles, though.

8 Believed to have escaped from a shipment at JFK Airport in the ’60s, the wild Quaker parrots of Brooklyn College (2900 Bedford Ave) actually predate the Caribbean immigration wave that began in the ’70s. While the fluorescent green fowl have been spotted virtually boroughwide, Steve Baldwin of BrooklynParrots.com says the institute’s soccer field is the likeliest location for an encounter. Those who wish to skip obtaining a guest pass at the school’s front entrance can simply walk along Campus Road to 22nd Street. “Here, you’re on public property and can often see the parrots foraging on the field or perching on the fence,” Baldwin says.

9 If you’re still hungry, experiment with Haitian food at tiny Yo Yo Fritaille (2811 Glenwood Rd at Kenilworth Pl, 718-724-1844). There’s no menu and the staff speaks little English, but point at what looks good and say a number, and you’ll score yourself that dollar amount’s worth of such delicacies as marinade (tasty chicken-flavored fritters) or griot (fried pork confits).

10 Need a ride back to the park? So-called dollar vans are nearly as ubiquitous in Central Brooklyn—and on Flatbush in particular—as cabs in midtown. Having long since outlived their name, the controversial jitneys (check your guy’s plates to make sure he’s licensed by the TLC—wild-driving renegades abound!) now cost as much as a bus ride. Unlike the MTA, though, they’ll drop you wherever you want, so long as your destination is on the same street where you got in.

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