Summer is waning, the daylight hours are getting shorter, but a good lazy Sunday is timeless. In that spirit, here’s another installment of Perfect Summer Sundays, the profile series in which we bring you a local personality from the borough who shares how they like to spend a Sunday in their neighborhood. Gone are the empty brags of having “been to Bushwick,” or the misguided attempts to hang out where all the locals do. This way, you can get a sense of the neighborhood from someone who actually lives there, and then try it yourself!
This week, we’re headed to Kensington with Colleen A. F. Venable, author and designer of graphic novels for all ages. Today, Venable sits down with Brokelyn to talk shop about why she loves living in a relatively un-yuppiefied area south of Prospect Park, even though it means walking a mile or so to get to her destination spots. “Friends don’t understand why I love Kensington,” Venable tells us. “They say it’s ‘too quiet.’ All houses, barely any bars or stores, and it’s a long train ride from the city. But in my mind, Kensington’s a heart with real people! Nobody’s fake. It also helps that my rent is 1/3 the price of a trendy neighborhood.”
Venable starts her morning the way most of us end our nights: with pizza.
“As an adult, I had to learn to stop eating cold pizza for breakfast. Now I eat warm pizza—delicious, warm breakfast pizza with eggs, ham, leeks, and gruyere at Le Paddock (1235 Prospect Avenue). It’s called the Flammenkuech. The staff there is so wonderful, they never mind that I’ve never come close to pronouncing its name.”
All those carbs ought to give you a hefty dose of energy for one of Venable’s favorite daytime adventures: the Ocean Parkway bike path, “or as I call it, the Guide to Getting to Coney Island for People with No Sense of Direction.”
Venable picks this trail for its history, its diversity and its dreamy scenery; spend a hazy-eyed morning taking it all in. “It was the first bike trail ever built in New York,” she tells us. “It goes the length of Ocean Parkway, and has some of the best people watching: old men playing life-long chess matches at the built-in tables, adorable dogs running with their owners, groups of kids all taking turns on a single bike. Best of all, the trail ends on the boardwalk overlooking the water.”
Venable’s pick for a midday pick-me-up is some folks’ idea of an evening come-down: booze! Specifically, hard cider at The Adirondack (1241 Prospect Avenue). “Is it bad that when I think midday snack, my first thought was hard cider? Oh, well. I friggin’ adore that place. Along with great draft selections, The Adirondack also has super-tasty bacon cheddar soft pretzels ($4.50), fancy mixed olives ($4), and a simple grilled cheese ($6). Best bar in the neighborhood.”
And just in case you get a little too buzzed to rally for the afternoon, Venable’s got the perfect spot to sober up: Greenwood Cemetery (500 25th Street). “Years ago, I was around there and saw a flash of green fly by my head. My first thought was, Oh, god, some kids spray-painted a pigeon. But as it turns out, I was just catching my first glimpse of the cemetery’s parakeets! There are hundreds of wild neon-green parakeets that live among the tombstones.”
Most of us would prefer to spend our waking hours among the living, but Venable assures us it’s not a morbid experience. “There’s gorgeous architecture. And walking trails, and a stunning landscape, with the added twist of the birds. Absolutely worth the train ride, or even one of their guided night tours.”
If the Greenwood scenery doesn’t suffice, there’s plenty flora and fauna to be found in Windsor Terrace. In fact, you can even take some of it home with you. “I love David Shannon Florist & Nursery (3380 Fort Hamilton Parkway),” says Venable. “Lovely big greenhouse, cheap prices. Feels like another world when you’re inside. Sean Casey Animal Rescue Pet Store (153 E 3rd St) has 80+ pound tortoises wandering in and out of the shop! And all the money spent there goes to an amazing cause.”
Wind down from the long day’s journey with an Italian dinner-to-go from Piccoli Take-Out (157 Prospect Park South). “Get any dish with maialona: sweet white onions, spicy and sweet Italian sausage mixed in. Mmm. Half of it eaten sitting on a picnic blanket looking out at the lake in Prospect Park, and half saved for home because, man, they give you a lot!”
For all her recommendations, Venable admits she still wants to keep one neighborhood gem for herself. “I have a secret writing spot. It’s not a conventional place to work, but the environment is warm and inviting and the staff so great, even when you just sit there for hours staring off into space because you forgot how sentences work. I can’t tell you the name. But just know that it exists… and if you find it, I’ll buy you a bacon cheese pretzel.”
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