Contributed by @kirsten_al
I used to be one of those people who disliked Brooklyn. Ashamedly, I had no air tight reasons for this as I had never even been to Brooklyn. It was a simple prejudice. That prejudice is what led me during my first two visits to New York City to nearly steer clear of Brooklyn all together. I walked the Brooklyn Bridge. It seemed a must since the bridge is a landmark in and of itself, and for an architecture and history buff like myself, somewhat of a mecca. The Brooklyn side of the bridge that sits in the borough is as far as I got.
On my third trip to NYC, accompanied by my best friend, and at the behest of another friend – I finally had to put my Brooklyn prejudice to the test. That visit took me to the Dumbo area of town and started knocking down some walls that, as it turns out, were weak to begin with. We ate at Grimaldi’s Pizza on Old Fulton Street. I was surprised to find it lived up to the hype, even with an hour wait. After tasting NYC style pizza in Manhattan, Grimaldi’s still became my favorite pizza of the five boroughs. The atmosphere is part dive bar, part kitschy Little Italy and the owner greets customers in person. There is even a poster on the wall of The Godfather. The flavor of their thin crust pizza, made with just the right amount of fresh mozzarella is as good as what you’d find in Rome (my best friend attested to this since she’s actually been there).
After pizza, while walking the riverfront, I enjoyed coffee ice cream from the aptly named Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and it rocked my world. It was creamy, rich in flavor and tasted homemade in that way which cannot entirely be described. You just have to try it to understand. To conclude our night in Dumbo, we took in the glittering Manhattan skyline from the beach at Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park. I couldn’t deny standing on the beach that Brooklyn wasn’t so bad after all. The view was incredible, glittering and expansive, including two of New York City’s many bridges. Of course, I still wasn’t willing to concede a love of Brooklyn. Even then.
During my fourth trip to New York City, I actually stayed in Brooklyn; overnight and for a week. And survived, barely. If you’ve ever tried getting home from Manhattan via subway at two in the morning on a weekend, you’ll understand why I added “barely”. My last morning in New York, I attended the Brooklyn Flea Market on Lafayette Street. It will go in my top five favorite flea markets in the country for its diversity of wares and many incredible homemade food stands, as I’ve become quite the seasoned flea market shopper. After trying a sip of the Apple Ginger Soda from the aptly named Brooklyn Soda Works, I had an epiphany: “I’ve fallen in love with Brooklyn”. I never saw it coming. I’d wanted to dislike Brooklyn thinking I had no room in my heart for love of any borough outside Manhattan. Such is true with so much of life though; it’s the things that sneak up on us which are most special. When we look to fall in love with people or places, sometimes we’re let down. I’m glad I gave Brooklyn a try. I cannot imagine it will ever replace Manhattan in my heart, but I’ve found there is room for both. They are after all, different – yet, both great.
If you find yourself in BK, as the locals say, I recommend the following places as additional examples of why I no longer hate Brooklyn. For brunch, Tom’s Restaurant on Washington Avenue is a must. Prepare yourself to wait in line, but also to receive free coffee, cookies or fruit while doing so. The vanilla egg cream made me a believer. For beer, burgers and bocce ball, Union Hall on Union Street has class oozing out of its pores; it surprised me in the most pleasant way. There’s a sort of English gentleman’s club feel to the place that’s still relevant to a Brooklyn bar. It also has a concert venue downstairs. For art, the Brooklyn Museum is a must. In my opinion, it doesn’t compare to the MET but it will win you over in smaller ways. It’s known for good visiting shows and has a painting of Niagara Falls the size of an entire wall that’s mesmerizing. While I was there, they were hosting an Andy Warhol retrospective that was the best I’ve ever seen. Lastly, a stroll along the Prospect Park Loop is fabulous even on a rainy day!