Carroll Gardens/ Cobble Hill

An insider’s guide to moving in Brooklyn: Carroll Gardens

Photo by Rachel DeLetto
Down the rabbit hole! Photo by Rachel DeLetto

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Moving, be it from out of state or while you’re already living here, can be a real pain. What makes Brooklyn’s neighborhoods different from each other, aside from different levels of being expensive? We’ve got people who’ve lived all over this borough and are more than happy to share their insider neighborhood knowledge with you. Today we take a trip to land of food and more food, Carroll Gardens and the Columbia Street Waterfront District.

Neighborhood Boundaries
Carroll Gardens: Bergen Street to W 9th Street/Gowanus Expressway and Hicks Street to Hoyt Street; Columbia Waterfront: Atlantic Avenue to Hamilton Avenue/Van Brunt Street to BQE

Subway Stop(s)
F/G Carroll Street

Describe the neighborhood to someone new
Carroll Gardens is a (light)blue collar mix of young professionals who have yet to trade in weeknight bar crawls for stroller pushing, old guard Italian post-mafioso, and new emigre French families. Smith Street was the beginning of the “New Brooklyn” food frontier  when Saul opened in 1999 and continues to attract the buzziest restaurateurs—including Nightingale 9 (345 Smith Street) and Battersby (255 Smith Street)—along Court and Smith Streets. The stretch of blocks between the Bergen and Carroll train stops offers a dense concentration of bars ranging from historic, to divey, to speakeasysexy cocktail date spots,  rustic wine bars, and rowdy sports crowds, all with little pretension and copious character.

Columbia Street Waterfront District is a new real estate-agent created area that was until very recently just run down, mostly characterless apartment buildings miles from any trains stranded in a narrow strip between the BQE and shipyards. Now it has Pok Pok (127 Columbia Street) and its sister Whiskey Soda Lounge (115 Columbia Street), Calexico (122 Union Street), and some bangin’ pizza, like Beyonce fav Lucali (575 Henry Street). A bonus for Lucali? It’s BYOB. The B61 bus makes it slightly more accessible with convenient stops near the 4/5 at Borough Hall, A/C/E/F/R at Jay Street-MetroTech, F/G at Smith and 9th Street, and also down into Red Hook and Prospect Park.

Photo by Rachel DeLetto
Tie up your schooner bike and have a few drink at the Yacht Club. Photo by Rachel DeLetto

Main attractions
Smith Street is constantly buzzing with inebriated foot traffic with a bar every other storefront. Best bets for cheap casual drinking with friends on any given night (or day) are Gowanus Yacht Club (323 Smith Street) for 2 for $5 crap cans in the warm months, or Bar Great Harry (280 Smith Street) for good tunes, rotating craft beers on tap, and cheap, stiff, non mixology-inspired drinks.

If the parents are in town and bankrolling, or it’s an anniversary or something requiring stepping up your dating game, Clover Club (210 Smith Street), Frankies Spuntino (457 Court Street), Buttermilk Channel (524 Court Street), and Battersby are all highly acclaimed (by media and Instagrammers alike) options that will impress your parents/date by showing off your impeccable taste and distracting from the tough questions with food porn.

Step into the portal. Photo by Rachel DeLetto
Step into the portal. Photo by Rachel DeLetto

On most occasions, when you’re paying for your own meal, Line Bagels (476 Smith Street) does cheap, quality bagels and breakfast sandwiches, with convenient online ordering for those days when pants are not an option. El Nuevo Portal‘s (217 Smith Street) old school Latin American food  is dirt cheap and comes in huge portions good for any meal of the day, but the Cuban Sandwich ($4.50) is huge and has been known to slay the most harrowing of hangovers. HopHap (204 Smith Street) is your basic Americanized Thai, done well. The early bird special is a great deal at $6.95 for soup or salad, spring roll or dumpling, and entree with $2 beer 4pm-7pm daily.

Get baked at Caputo's. Photo by Rachel DeLetto
Get baked at Caputo’s. Photo by Rachel DeLetto

For a massive sandwich (breakfast and/or lunch) worth the (reasonable) price tag, Court Street Grocers (485 Court Street) is the best in town, possibly all of Brooklyn. For those weeks where the money runs out way before pay day, Caputo’s Bake Shop (329 Court Street) makes the best Italian bread around and at $1.90, grab a hunk of cheese and an avocado and you’ve got a whole day worth of delicious diy sammies.

For late night munchies, go with South Brooklyn Pizza in Buschenshank (320 Court Street) or Smith Finest Deli (285 Smith Street), which is open 24 hours, and for brunch Abeline‘s (442 Court Street) hangover cocktails (mimosas and bloodies) are gigantic and strong ($8). Or try Dassara (271 Smith Street), home of the ramen burger, (Smith b/t Sackett & Degraw), but also the $12 Beer+Bun+Ramen Monday nights after 9pm . Try the goat ramen, it’s the business.

B61 Bar (187 Columbia Street), named for the bus route, is a bright, spacious bar serving huge margaritas to the Columbia Street Sunday Football crowd and folks waiting for a table at Pok Pok.

Shopping:  You are never more than a few blocks from a quality cheese and cured meats selection in this hood. Check out old school Italian specialty shops like D’Amico Coffee (309 Court Street). But proximity to Trader Joe’s (130 Court Street) is one of the top benefits of this neighborhood. However, avoid weekends like you would avoid Rock Center around the holidays, and don’t buy your produce at TJs. There are various produce shops along Court Street (K&Y Fruit & Veggie, 291 Court Street, for example) that sell vegetables for half the price of Union Market and higher quality than TJs and Met Foods. Stinky Brooklyn (215 Smith Street) for cheese and charcuterie for the occasional wine party (which you can get in bulk at Smith & Vine, 268 Smith Street, from the $12 and under table).

Best cheap thing(s) to do
Walk west down Union Street to Columbia, hang a right and walk all the way down until the path leads you into the magical new land of Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 (soon to have its own Titanic-inspired Great Lawn). If you’re with a date, there are secret little garden alcoves off to the right just past the kiddie water park and before the volleyball courts. You’re welcome.

Your best happy hour can be found at Bar Great Harry, which goes weekdays from 2pm-7pm and gets you 2 for $5 happy hour (rack, taps, bottles, cans). It’s also has free wifi, is dog friendly and has pinball machines in back. Pretty much the greatest bar ever.

Oh the old-timey wonders contained in Jalopy. via Facebook
Oh the old-timey wonders contained in Jalopy. via Facebook

Hidden Gem
Jalopy Theatre (315 Columbia Street): Jalopy is a divey neighborhood bar way out on the edge of Red Hook. By day, a vintage instrument repair shop and music school, by night they bring the bluegrass-country vibe to Brooklyn with entertainment ranging from Bayou music festivals to banjo lessons to Cajun cooking classes. This place plucks our heart strings.

The Rub
Smith Street can occasionally get a bit bro-ish and scene-y on Friday nights. So much temptation to spend money you shouldn’t be spending. The only trains are the F/G, which for reasons only known to the transit gods, are often out of service on the weekends, so living in this neighborhood can exacerbate the Brooklyncentrism. Also the trains are on Smith, so some areas are a bit of a trek to the subway.

Safety (1 being a crime-ridden Hellhole, 10 being Mayberry)
8 – On Smith and Court Streets it is very populous and well lit. It can get dark and remote further from the trains, more caution is advised near the Gowanus Houses and closer to the BQE underpass.

What do people say when you tell them you live there?
“Oh! My grandparents lived there when they first came through Ellis Island from Italy back in the day!”

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  1. paulie

    carroll gardens goes to warren on the north end, and degraw west of court st. (not bergern, thats cobble hill)

    court st grocers rules! also, court st pastry OWNS caputos. and esposito pork shop = best italian meats of my life

  2. beezy

    No mention of Wing Bar ($9 pitchers of cheap beer, 100% of the time. and legit wings) or Zombie Hut (Scorpion Bowls are no joke)?? for shame, for shame.

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