Prospect Heights Day Trip

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Prospect Heights, the neighborhood to the northeast of Prospect Park, offers plenty of charm for a daytripper. There’s the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket on Saturday mornings, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Museum, and a slew of small restaurants, bars and shops have been springing up over the past few years–so much so that we’re planning a separate PH dining guide sometime soon (once the weather makes eating actually pleasurable again).

This week, July 3 is Target First Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum and with so many people out of town (or stuck on the L.I.E. trying to get out of town), it’s the perfect day to explore the neighborhood, check out the current Andy Warhol exhibit, and then dine, or drink, the evening away.

9 AM Get the day off to an early start and take the 2/3 or ride your bike to to Grand Army Plaza. Grab some sweet cider and a donut, or some spicy pickles and a mushroom foccacia, at the Saturday Farmers Market, and head off for an early morning walk or bike in Prospect Park. Or, if you’re lucky the Green Pirate Juice Truck might be parked by the market and you can start the day with one of their insanely delicious and energizing juices.

11 AM After your constitutional, it’s definitely time for a hobbit-style second breakfast. Head up Eastern Parkway toward Washington Avenue, passing the Brooklyn Central Library and the Botanic Garden. Turn left on Washington, and walk up to famed and beloved neighborhood diner Tom’s Restaurant (782 Washington Ave.; 347-695-1258).

Family-owned until last summer, Tom’s remains warm, welcoming, and garishly or gloriously colorful, depending on how much you like silk floral arrangements. Classic diner specials from the egg cream to the tuna melt beckon purists, while more adventurous but still unpretentious ricotta pancakes and crab cakes are all available at reasonable prices. It’s best to get there early on a weekend morning, or you’ll find that half the neighborhood has joined you on the line curving out the door and around the corner. But don’t worry, attentive busboys bring around coffee and treats while you wait.

1 PM The densest strip of retail and restaurant action in the neighborhood can be found on Vanderbilt Avenue, two blocks away. The atmosphere is low-key, and Unnameable Books, (600 Vanderbilt Ave.; 718-789-1534) a recent transplant from just across Flatbush, rolls the week’s bargains right out onto the sidewalk.

In case you chose to skip Tom’s, some notable restaurants on and near Vanderbilt are classy newcomer The Vanderbilt (570 Vanderbilt Ave., 718-623-0570), Italian standouts Amorina (624 Vanderbilt Ave., 718-230-3030) and the more upscale Aliseo Osteria del Borgo (665 Vanderbilt Ave., 718-783-3400), gargoyle and small plates paradise Beast (638 Bergen St., 718-399-6855), and James (605 Carlton Ave., 718-942-4255). Milk Bar coffee bar (620 Carlton Ave., 718-230-0844) offers pricey drinks in biodegradable cups, and fresh sandwiches to stay or to go.

2 PM You’ll be back up here later on for the bar scene, but for now, it’s time to switch gears and head down to Eastern Parkway. If you’ve brought the kids, a stop at the Underhill Playground, (Underhill Ave. and Prospect Place, pictured above) with brightly colored statuary and mosaics from Park Slope-based found object/trash artist Julie Peppito, is mandatory. Also on the way, treat yourself a double scoop (root beer is one of their standout flavors) at the Heights branch of sustainable ice creamery Blue Marble (186 Underhill Ave., 718-399-6926) or to an afternoon brew at cool, quiet community favorite Bar Sepia (234 Underhill Ave., 718-399-6680), a block further down.

3 PM Before you head to the Brooklyn Museum for First Saturday, take a side trip, toward Classon Avenue, which is just across the neighborhood’s border with Crown Heights. Five Myles on St. John between Classon and Franklin, is a gallery and performance space. Their current exhibit, The Slave Theater, documents a now defunct movie theater on Fulton, and has been extended through July 4, by appointment only (718-783-4438). If you need an afternoon pick-me-up, Glass Shop (766 Classon, no phone), with its distressed wooden fixtures, sunny back garden, and generally joyful vibe, is a neighborhood favorite for espresso. More like snack time? Check out tiny Chavella’s (732 Classon, 718-622-3100), a Mexican restaurant that offers authentic tortas, enchiladas, and an unbeatable budget happy hour with $3 Coronas and tacos starting at $2. The fish tacos come highly recommended.

5 PM As you make your way back to the Heights proper, two stores near Classon are worth a stop. Beri Outlet (500 Prospect Place, 718-622-3494), little sister to Flatbush’s RedBeri and Dumbo’s BlueBeri clothing boutiques, offers beautiful clothing at discount prices. One block south, on Park, is the most unusual Park Delicatessen (533 Park Place, 718-789-8889), a full service skate shop, gardening store, antique shop, and flower shop all in one. A husband and wife effort, Park Delicatessen is like no other place on earth, and their summer skate jam events draw skaters from all over.

6 PM On Eastern Parkway, the landscape is dominated by an imposing Beaux-Arts building, into which someone appears to have carelessly crashed a small spaceship. Don’t panic, that’s just the Rubin Pavilion entrance to the Brooklyn Museum. This month’s First Saturday features free screenings of Fame (6 pm) and I Shot Andy Warhol (7 pm) as well hands-on screenprinting workshops, a performance from Art Battles (work from one of their featured artists, Andre Trenier pictured above), karaoke (9 pm) and Warhol’s The Factory-inspired dance party. Honestly, you could just spend the rest of your night here.

8 PM Assuming you’re not staying for the dance party, or need to fuel up to groove the night fantastic, try the Jamaican takeout at The Islands (803 Washington Ave., 718-398-3575, under a Key Food awning) and take it back to the museum steps where you can watch the fountain out front, which is one of the livelier pieces of public art in the city and worth 30 minutes on its own.

9 PM Time to hit the bars (or head back in for karaoke). On Washington, Washington Commons (748 Washington Ave., 718-230-3666) and Prospect Pond (769 Washington Ave., 718-622-1211) cater to the happy hour crowds–check out Prospect Pond’s new Tuesday party, Quilombo. Sleek Cornelius (565 Vanderbilt, 718-398-6662) has not one but TWO $1 oyster happy hours on weeknights, 5-7 and 10-close, and on Monday it’s happy hour all night long.

If you’re of the opinion that a little mystery makes your cocktail all the better, an unmarked door at 599 Vanderbilt leads into Weather Up (589 Vanderbilt, no phone), a speakeasy from the creators of Manhattan’s Milk & Honey. For the late night party, you can occasionally find one at Brooklyn Urban Sanctuary (778 Bergen Street at Grand Ave.), the headquarter of event promoters Gemini & Scorpio–though sadly there isn’t one planned for this weekend. Join their mailing list for a head’s up on their next event.

Text by Katya Schapiro, sent by Annaliese. Photos courtesy of Julie Peppito, Art Battles.

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