Living in Brooklyn means being busy. There are new restaurants to check out, movies to see and art openings to attend. Of course, there are weekends to announce loudly that we are not doing anything at all, and don our rubber gloves, scrub our bathtubs, sort the recycling, and take out the garbage. By the end of our “do nothing” weekend, we are exhausted from chores and lack of sleep from binge-watching “Dietland.” If only there was somewhere to go where you could really relax…
Let me introduce you to Park Slope. For the lazy days of summer, there is no better neighborhood. Park Slope is synonymous with babies and brownstones, but in fact, it seems more notable for brunch, beer and bands. There are no hotspot restaurants or state of the art cocktail lounges. But what there is, I discovered after 10 hours, is something even better: time affluence. I sat in the garden of The Gate, sipping on a Watermelon beer, and didn’t think of where to go next—because there is nowhere better. Unlike other parts of Brooklyn, there is no hurry here. Just try speed walking on the sidewalks and you’ll be thwarted by double-wide strollers. Even the graffiti says to slow down, with a mural about speed limits above the Key Foods. It’s the televised Brooklyn, like in “Dietland” (which films here), where the main characters have all the time in the world to hang out at a coffee shop or sit on a park bench. I spent my time eating farm-to-table, picking through gift shops, and day drinking. Later in the evening, lying back on the grass of Prospect Park, savoring a picnic, listening to world music, I felt rich. I was actually wealthy with time, like someone slipped me a Xanax and an unscheduled day off. When the music ended, I sat up with a jolt. It was time to go back to real life.
11am, Cold Brew at Gorilla Coffee
Park Slope has a lot of great coffee shops, but Gorilla Coffee is a solid choice for a cold brew that has been steeped for 24 hours and is strong enough for even the most horrendous hangover. The staff is always incredibly friendly, and their muffins are always good too if you feel like you need something in your stomach to start your day. Their original location opened on 5th Avenue in 2002, but we’re starting on Bergen as it’s only steps away from the subway stop. Chill out in the AC while you drink, or bring it to go. It’s your day, so have it your way. Gorilla Coffee, 472 Bergen Street, Park Slope.
11:30am, Shopping: O Live Brooklyn, Gift Man, Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store and Diana Kane
I hope you have friends with summer birthdays, because Fifth Avenue is one of the best places to buy presents in Brooklyn. The avenue is lined with gift shops, including everything from unusual gifts for the most discerning tastes to the most generic hostess gifts. Is there a summer Friday and a weekend at a friend’s North Fork house in your future? There is no more useful house treat than a giant bottle of olive oil on tap. At O Live Brooklyn, the owners take olive oil seriously, and will help you select the perfect one that will probably last your hosts all summer, reminding them to invite you back. (O Live Brooklyn, 140 5th Avenue, Park Slope.) Gift Man is a great spot to buy the quintessential Brooklyn souvenirs for out-of-town friends. T-shirts, baseball caps, snowglobes, it’s like the Times Square shop you never knew you needed. (Gift Man, 176 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope.) Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store is Brooklyn’s best whimsical gift shop. If you’re looking for summer essentials like unicorn inflatable rafts, a slip ‘n’ slide or a Prosecco Pong set, they are all here. (Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store, 232 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope.) Diana Kane, home of the gold feminist t-shirt, is also the place to buy an assortment of lady pins adorned with the faces of Hillary Clinton, Patti Smith, Wonder Woman, or RBG (each for only $2.) Diana Kane, 229 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope.
1pm, Brunch at Gristmill
It may feel like a Portlandia skit, but isn’t it nice to know which farms your ingredients are from? Gristmill is as farm-to-table as you can get, with a chalkboard up front listing their vendors, and a waiter well versed in answering local and organic questions. The restaurant specializes in pizza, and you can get that for brunch (with or without a poached egg on top). Other choices include Four Star Farm everything bagels with lox and carmelized onions, decadent bourbon french toast or an acorn-fed pork sandwich. The portions are small but rich, and everything is fresh and unfussy. There’s a small patio to sit out back, or a tranquil air-conditioned space inside, if it’s too hot. Gristmill, 289 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope.
3pm, Peep some brownstones
Even if you live in Brooklyn, it’s easy to forget how beautiful brownstones can be. Spend some time walking up towards Prospect Park on any of the wide streets below 1st and you will get an eyeful. On 8th Avenue, admire the stately mansions, like 117 8th Avenue (at Carroll Street) which was the residence of the inventor of Chiclet gum. If you were to walk all the way down to Lincoln Place, you’d see the grand Montauk Club, a Victorian Gothic private club that still caters to members with brunches and cocktail hours. Just walking around the block will give you a taste of the neighborhood’s grandeur.
4pm, Eat frozen yogurt at Culture
After the long walk in the summer heat, it’s time for a frozen treat. Culture specializes in yogurt: frozen and non-frozen, both full of live probiotics. Everything is made from organic milk and quality ingredients and strained on-site, so you can feel good about eating it. The artisanal flavors and toppings change daily with flavors like Nutella, lychee, pina colada or strawberry for the tasting. I’m a fan of the tart plain with a sprinkling of fresh fruit, which puckers your lips and is best eaten while sitting on a park bench in Washington Park, directly across the street. Culture, 331 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope.
4:30pm, Happy Hour: The Gate & Barbès
The lazy days of summer are memorable for day drinking. Park Slope isn’t known for having the hottest cocktail lounges, but instead, there are classic bars that have been serving up craft beer since the late ‘90s. Order up a Hell or High Watermelon beer at The Gate and take a coveted seat in the garden out back. There will always be someone reading a book, a tween child accompanying their parents, and a few dogs to pet. It’s exactly the place where you could run into old friends or make new ones by the afternoon’s end. (The Gate, 321 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope.) If the summer humidity is just too much for you, a great indoor option is Barbès, a bar and performance space that often has early jazz shows around happy hour time. The narrow space and tin ceilings offer a warm environment, a dream of Brooklyn through the lens of Paris, where everyone wears berets and smells like clove cigarettes, while a lonesome saxophone serenades. Barbès, 376 9th Street, Park Slope.
7pm, See a show in Prospect Park
There is no better way to spend a hot summer night than at an outdoor concert, and a show at the Prospect Park Bandshell is one of those summertime memories that will sustain you long into winter. The free lineup at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn this summer is stellar, but no matter who’s playing, it will always be interesting and mind-expanding. The night that we went, the renowned modern classical Kronos Quartet took the stage with the Malian band Trio Da Kali for a night of music that transcended categories. The free concerts usually start at 7:30pm, which gives you time to get in there, find a seat (or put down a blanket), and order up the picnic fixin’s. In the old days, you used to have to bring in your supplies (or pick them up at a place like Gather, which is the best picnic option close to the park, but it closes at 5pm on weekends). But if you aren’t the type of person to think ahead, Celebrate Brooklyn has done the planning for you. With vendors selling everything from perogies to pork sandwiches, you can wait in a reasonably short line for great food and beverages.
9pm, Nightcap at Brookvin
You’ve watched the sun go down, and you are now lying on a blanket. You’ve chilled so much that you are minutes away from the astral plane. The music is slowing and you’ve been in the Slope for ten hours. This staycation could come to an end right now if you wish, but if you’re the type of person who can’t go to sleep before ten, there is a bar close by for a nightcap. Brookvin is a wine bar, the closest bar to the bandshell, but also a pleasant place with a romantic garden. There is a chilled rosé already open, and a killer cheese plate ready to be placed on the table. The six-minute walk from the park will be worth it, I promise. And after that, sleep will come. Brookvin, 381 Seventh Ave., Park Slope
Start at the 2/3 Bergen Street Subway or 4/5/B/D/N/Q/R at Barclays Center.