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Few NYC neighborhoods stir up as much controversy as Park Slope; it's equal parts beloved (New York named it the most livable neighborhood of 2010) and derided (a Gothamist commenter summed up that New York story thusly: "Park Slope has turned into nothing but a cultureless Wonder Bread community of yupster pod people"). But regardless of public opinion, there are plenty of good reasons for the neighborhood's popularity: Two of its main thoroughfares—Fifth and Seventh Avenues—are teeming with restaurants, bars and shops; it's filled with gorgeous architecture; Prospect Park is right there; and it's one of the most family-friendly neighborhoods in the city (which in itself causes controversy—witness the debate over whether children should be allowed in bars). And despite the influx of big-box stores in NYC, Park Slope has managed to remain (mostly) a neighborhood of mom-and-pop shops, adding to the feeling of community that so many residents love.
Michael Hearst, musician; cofounder, One Ring Zero
"The thing that Barbs has done is it brought the downtown jazz scene to Park Slope and put it on the map. It's probably even raised property values—I've seen listings say 'Two blocks from Barbs!' as part of their pitch. And The Bell House has been a big thing, lots of national bands play there as well. And of course Celebrate Brooklyn is huge—that is Park Slope, and it's been going on for a long time. I love that I live two blocks away from the Bandshell—when we played there, it was like, this is so cool to walk with my equipment two blocks to thousands of people."
Barbes, 376 9th St at Sixth Ave (347-422-0248, barbesbrooklyn.com) * The Bell House, 149 7th St between Second and Third Aves, Gowanus (718-643-6510, thebellhouseny.com) * Celebrate Brooklyn (at the Prospect Park Bandshell), Prospect Park West at 9th St (718-855-7882, bricartsmedia.org). June--August.
"Since Barbs opened, Colson Patisserie opened next door. I immediately became good friends with Yonatan Israel, the owner, and actually even asked if I could work there. I was like, 'This is great, I can learn how to make pastries!' He was nice enough to give me what I like to refer to as a 'vanity job,' as a barista. I'd come in one day a week and work for five hours, stand behind the counter and say hi to everyone in the neighborhood. I probably gained ten pounds working there. [Laughs] I've somehow still managed to retain my golden ticket to go behind the counter and make myself an Americano every morning and grab a croissant."
Colson Patisserie, 374 9th St at Sixth Ave (718-965-6400, colsonpastries.com)
"Park Slope seems to have a problem with names, and I think 'Brook Vin' is rather absurd, but I love that place. Terrible name! But I love their happy hour, with $5 tartines and glasses of wine. And sitting outside—I'm all about the outdoor seating."
Brook Vin, 381 Seventh Ave between 11th and 12th Sts (718-768-9463, brookvin.com)
"Red Horse Caf has been great. I think their timing has [worked out], with the Tea Lounge closing down. And Brent, who owns it [with his wife, Carolina], is a super-nice guy. They've actually been doing some shows at night—readings, film screenings, that sort of stuff. They've been super-supportive with the neighborhood."
Red Horse Caf, 497 Sixth Ave at 12th St (718-499-4973)
Erica Reitman, blogger, Fucked in Park Slope (fuckedinparkslope.com)
"The 7th Avenue Donut Shop is one of my favorite places in the world. They make homemade doughnuts that each cost, like, 75 cents. You can go and get [six] doughnuts for [$3.50]. And they are amazing, better than any Krispy Kreme you could ever have. They have all different kinds, but they're homemade there, and they're not processed, Dunkin Donuts--type doughnuts. I have no idea why they're so cheap."
The 7th Avenue Donut Shop, 324 Seventh Ave between 8th and 9th Sts (718-768-0748)
"I really love Blue Apron, which is a great sort of gourmet shop. I'm usually in the cheese section, I must confess. They always have amazing people behind the cheese counter. You can just say, 'I want a blue cheese, what would you recommend?,' and then they give you some fabulous cheese that you end up eating and loving and forgetting the name of because you didn't even know what it was to begin with. [Laughs] And they have Robicelli's Cupcakes there, which I like to pick up as well."
Blue Apron Foods, 814 Union St between Seventh and Eighth Aves (718-230-3180)
"I really like High Dive. They have popcorn there, which I like very much. It's a nice space: It's never super-duper crowded, but you still feel like there's some action, there's a little bit of a scene, and they also have an open area in front so that when it's nice out, you can sit there and people-watch. I'm a horrible drinker, I barely drink everything; I usually drink Diet Coke [Laughs]."
High Dive, 243 Fifth Ave between Carroll St and Garfield Pl (718-788-0401)
Eugene Mirman, comedian/host of Tearing the Veil of Maya
"Al Di L is so inexpensive for its quality—in another city or place, everything would just be doubled. That's one thing; and also, it's incredibly good. It has an incredible atmosphere. I try different stuff—the creamy salt cod, and the cuttlefish is a really good dish."
al di l, 248 Fifth Ave at Carroll St (718-783-4565, aldilatrattoria.com)
"Commonwealth has a great atmosphere, and I also love Ray, who's the owner. He used to be a bartender at Great Lakes, and eventually opened Commonwealth. I knew him from Great Lakes. And their jukebox is amazing—it's all mixes that Ray made, so there's just tons of great stuff there. And they make a very good dark and stormy—it's just ginger beer and rum."
Commonwealth, 497 Fifth Ave at 12th St (718-768-2040, commonwealthbar.com)
"Union Hall has a wonderful atmosphere, and downstairs, the venue is just very good for a show, in terms of how it's set up. Sometimes I worry when there's a bar in a room for a show, but there it doesn't end up being disturbing at all. It's sort of random; sometimes I won't be there for a few weeks, and sometimes I'll go in a few times in a week. I went to those meetings [when neighbors tried to shut the bar down due to excessive noise], and there was one woman who insisted that she had an illness that was triggered by noise that could kill her. It was just so extreme! Literally, if that was true, it was unclear why she was living in New York City, because it would be genuinely dangerous."
, 702 Union St at Fifth Ave (718-638-4400, unionhallny.com)
"I do love Blue Ribbon. I don't know if they're open quite as late as they used to be—when friends would come in from out of town, we'd often end up going there late at night, and it was wonderful, and it remains wonderful. Sometimes, if I'm with a bunch of people after a show, we'll head there. One of the things that's great about it is the bone-marrow thing."
Blue Ribbon Brooklyn, 280 Fifth Ave between Garfield Pl and 1st St (718-840-0404, blueribbonrestaurants.com)
Daniel Goldstein, cofounder, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
"I live near Blue Sky Bakery, which is a fantastic place. I go out of my way to stop there—the muffins are very good. I go to Luscious Food on occasion, and on [Fridays], they have a sing-along for kids, but I haven't been yet."
Blue Sky Bakery, 53 Fifth Ave between Bergen St and St. Marks Pl, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-783-4123) * Luscious Food, 59 Fifth Ave between Bergen St and St. Marks Pl, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-398-5800, lusciousbrooklyn.com)
"We're Park Slope Food Co-op members. My wife was a member, and in every household [belonging to the Co-op], all the adults have to be members. That's how I reluctantly became a member. But I really do like shopping there—it's a much better place to shop than any of the local groceries. What frustrates me is that there's this real caricature of this place that, from my experience, really is not true. It's great, there's great products, and they're cheaper than at any grocery. For a lot of people, that's the main reason they go. And there's a community that develops around it, which is nice."
Park Slope Food Co-op, 782 Union St between Sixth and Seventh Aves, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-622-0560, foodcoop.com)
"We eat at home almost all the time. But we go to Cubana Cafe on occasion—it's good food and relatively affordable, it's a good deal. [My wife] likes the Cuban sandwich."
Cubana Cafe, 80 Sixth Ave at St. Marks Pl, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-398-9818)
"Probably my greatest vice is BKLYN Larder. I don't know how they feel about this, but it's great just to go and look at their stock. But their gelato is incredibly good, and they make it there. The chocolate gelato is amazing, and this summer they had numerous sorbetto flavors like watermelon, blueberry, [red] plum; so they don't use any outrageous flavors. It's a very friendly staff as well, and helpful."
Bklyn Larder, 228 Flatbush Ave between Bergen St and 6th Ave, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-783-1250, bklynlarder.com)
"I get my hair cut at Rapunzel Rapunzel. It's a pretty affordable haircut. Rose owns the place, and it's always a fun time getting your hair cut by her."
Rapunzel Rapunzel, 158 Fifth Ave between DeGraw and Douglass Sts, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-857-2855)