It was a crisp, early autumn day. Halloween was approaching, and the front porches of old Victorian, Tudor, and Colonial mansions were covered in jack-o-lanterns, faux cobwebs, and the occasional too-creepy zombie mannequin. Ocher leaves crunched beneath my feet. I clutched my almond milk flat white and thought aloud to no one in particular: how the hell am I still in Brooklyn?
What felt like a seasonal outer-city excursion was actually a shockingly brief sojourn on the B/Q train down to Ditmas Park. A 2.5-square mile of Flatbush situated just below Prospect Park, Ditmas Park is a revelation. Convenient enough by subway for a Midtown Manhattan commute, hip enough for a spattering of delicious cafes, and removed enough to pass as Iowa City in HBO’s Girls. I loved it immediately.
Quaint, residential streets are joined by commercial corridors, each with its own B/Q stop, from Church Ave to Newkirk Ave. Cortelyou Road, smack dab in the middle, acts as a sort of Main Street for the neighborhood. Some of my favorite restaurants in the whole city lie on this one street!
Mimi’s Hummus is a tiny little Mediterranean restaurant just off the Cortelyou Rd Q that happens to serve some of the best hummus in the city. The mushroom hummus, tahini roasted cauliflower, green shakshuka, and branzino bowls are standouts. The vibe is warm, bright, and cozy, and whether you’re coming here for dinner or brunch, you’re bound to find something delicious. You can then stop by their beer shop, Cortelyou Craft Beer, for some curated ciders, craft beers, coffees, cheese, olives, charcuterie, and fresh-made bread from local pizzeria Lea.
Hop down the block past the Flatbush Food Coop and you’ll find the ultimate brunch spot: Cafe Madeline. I could sing its praises all day (in fact, I already have!) Besides serving delicious coffees and teas and a wide selection of pastries, Cafe Madeline has an enormous counter-service menu filled with some exceptional, and generously-portioned, brunch items. The brekkie bowls are warm and inviting, with quinoa, roasted veggies, sliced avo, a soft-boiled egg, and your choice of topping — halloumi, thick-cut bacon, and baked salmon can all vie for your heart. Also on the menu? Burrata grilled cheese. A lox and labneh bagel. An avocado egg biscuit (it’s cheddar-chive, in case you were wondering). I have to stop myself before this list becomes a dissertation, but you get the idea. The gluttony of choice can be a bit overwhelming, but once you quell your brunch-induced anxiety, you’re bound to have one of the more enjoyable — and affordable — brunches the city has to offer.
We at Nooklyn love a good activity bar, and one of the best neighborhood options is Sycamore, which not only is a Bar + Flower Shop (say what!), but they host a whole range of activities. Every Tuesday you can pop by for trivia night, every other Monday you can BYO vinyl and take over the DJ booth, and they have semi-monthly Art in the Bar painting nights! The bar is host to a whole range of craft beers and whiskeys — they have a mean happy hour deal — and Honeysuckle Hill hosts the gorgeous flower shop in front. Like the neighborhood it serves, it’s quaint, unique, affordable, and a offers a good time.
Ditmas Park is an amazing place to visit, but if you’re looking for a new neighborhood to call home, it is one of the best in the borough. There are a ton of amazing pre-war buildings where you can find more space and live in a vibrant, beautiful neighborhood that’s carefully tended to by its invested residents. It’s also one of most diverse neighborhoods in the country! (Check out the pocket of Ditmas Park that makes up Little Pakistan — Coney Island Ave is probably one of the best-smelling blocks in the city, a symphony of aromas wafting out of the halal restaurants.)
Since that initial October walk a few years back, I’ve gone back to Ditmas Park over and over, strolling south through Prospect Park or hopping off the Cortelyou Q. It’s gorgeous in every season, more delicious restaurants keep opening, and it feels like an oasis in the city.
Other amazing neighborhood offerings that I definitely want to mention:
Mondayoff by Plant House, for
authentic Thai food and sleek interiors for your feed
The Flatbush Food Co-op, for affordable, local groceries and community partnerships
The Farm on Adderley, for a farm-to-table sit-down meal and a stunning backyard
Cafe Tibet, for momo and spice to enjoy over the train tracks
Qathra Cafe, for some of the area’s best coffee + Mediterranean-style fare
Purple Yam, for inspired Filipino fusion
Manchego, for tapas, Spanish wine, and flamenco
Milk + Honey, for sit-down coffee and brunch
Werkstatt, for Austrian schnitzels, wursts, and surprisingly good vegetarian choices
*All photos taken by Chris Setter