Below the Bar in Ditmas Park


Add Sycamore to your list of Ditmas Park spots to visit. This cozy space, which opened last September, is part flower shop, part bar and — most surprising, if you’re not in the neighborhood, or up on the music blogs — part intimate music venue.

On weekend nights and some Wednesdays and Thursdays, Sycamore hosts eclectic live music performances in its newly soundproofed basement. (They began doing shows in late March.) Jessica Dessner, neighborhood resident and sister to members of The National, books them. The small space seats about 50 on wooden benches and is ambiance-filled, thanks to candles and flowers from upstairs — which is partly why seeing a show there is special.

“I’ve always adored band banter, especially when it extends into the crowd, but the stuff that’s been going down at Sycamore is on a whole other level,” said Dessner. “Artists and audience members have been connecting in some surprising ways. Recently, a female guest briefly emerged from a make-out session in the back of the room to help Nick Krgovich (of NO KIDS) do a Sade cover.”

Sycamore has hosted a wide range of performers, from Chris Brokaw and David Lerner (formerly of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists), to Pedro Soler, a Flamenco guitarist from the south of France, to the Havels, a husband and wife team from the Czech Republic. Some upcoming shows are Buke and Gass, a male/female duo from Brooklyn who play a Buke, which is a 6-string bass ukulele, electrified, and a Gass, a guitar/bass hybrid, this Friday, June 5. Ólöf Arnalds, the Icelandic singer who performed with Bjork and the Dirty Projectors at Housing Works last month, and at Sycamore with friend Davíð Þór Jónsson, above, returns June 10. (A full listing is on the site.)

For those who’ve never ventured there, the leafy Victorian Flatbush neighborhood is located on the south side of Prospect Park, just off the Q Train. “It’s diverse, it’s not totally gentrified,” said Allison Jonas, who owns Sycamore with her husband Gary Jonas and Justin Israelson. The faces on the street — young, old, white, black, Pakistani, Tibetan, and Mexican, to name a few — make this a technicolor pocket of Brooklyn.

Jonas says the local character is what makes Ditmas Park so great. She likens it to a small town, where residents and business owners want to see their community succeed and businesses survive.

The Jonases, to their credit, helped put Ditmas Park on the map for many New Yorkers when they openend their first endeavor, The Farm on Adderley, a few doors down on Cortelyou Road with chef Tom Kearney. Soon, they noticed a demand for bar seats.

“We figured the neighborhood was ready,” said Jonas, while she prepared orange slices at the bar. “We came to look at this space and it had such a great garden.”

The backyard garden is another of the many perks at Sycamore. On weekends they host barbecues with local celebrity grillers (like The Farm’s pickle maker, Linus Graybill), but everyone is welcome to bring, and throw on, their own food.

Dessner summed up Sycamore’s varied attractions: “The fact that we can just roll down the block for gorgeous flowers, ‘a bigger selection of bourbon than most bars in Kentucky’ (as the band Vandaveer said), and a little song and dance, is semi-utopian.”

Sent by Nicole. Text by Georgia Kral. Photos from top by _cck_ on Flickr, sarahana, and Georgia Kral. Got any favorite spots in Ditmas Park? Tell us below.

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