Romance is not just a feeling, but a mood. If you want to your loved one to feel wined and dined, or better yet, say “yes,” you’ll need to move beyond your casual Brooklyn eatery. A special occasion, say, like an 11-year wedding anniversary or just an extra special date night, calls for a place that pulls out all the stops. Dumbo, even with the throngs of tourists, is that place.
Dumbo (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is a neighborhood of legend among developers. Abandoned blocks were bought up by forward-thinking builders with dollar signs in their eyes, and rented specifically to artists to build up the new Soho. A plan like this would be laughed out of a Hollywood script, but in real life it worked better than anyone dreamed. The neighborhood is now the most expensive place to live in Brooklyn, even with the clanging of the subways overhead and the uneven Belgian block streets tripping pedestrians as they cross. Residents avoid “Instagram Alley” aka Washington Street, where influencers are literally lying in the street taking photographs with a background of the Manhattan Bridge framing the Empire State Building. There are exclusive social clubs, Miami club restaurants, and astronomical lines for pizza.
But when you go out of your way to avoid the throngs, Dumbo and Vinegar Hill are like a movie set of New York City. For this latest 10 Hours In, we’ll take in rooftop vineyards, quiet cafes where you never wait for brunch, Off-Broadway plays, and undiscovered bars, all in front of a backdrop of a dazzling skyline. Dumbo is a neighborhood that wants to show off for you; why not let it?
Related: Catch the last weekend of Photoville
1pm, Light brunch at Cafe Gitane
You may have fond memories of brunching at Cafe Gitane’s Mott Street location, where off-duty models tuck into avocado toast, and the coveted sidewalk tables are harder to come by than front row at Fashion Week. As of this summer, Cafe Gitane has opened a Vinegar Hill location, which is every bit as charming, but without the scene. On one of the most darling corners in Brooklyn (next to Vinegar Hill House), we were seated promptly amongst a large group of visiting Parisians in vintage Boys N the Hood t-shirts, two well-traveled elderly artists, a couple possibly on a ‘morning after’ breakfast date, and one small dog. The crowd was as perfectly balanced and interesting as the food: organic, baked egg sandwich on a brioche; orange blossom waffles; and the city’s best avocado toast. Because there’s an early dinner planned for this neighborhood jaunt, you may want to simply have a croissant, chased down by two or three strong cappuccinos to get you ready for the day (and propel you out of this cozy cafe where, otherwise, you may be tempted to stay). Cafe Gitane, 70 Hudson Ave., Vinegar Hill.
2:30pm Hammock hang at Rooftop Reds
Rooftop bars are not usually known for their “chill vibes,” but more for bottle service and doormen. Rooftops Reds is the exception to the rule. Yes, you’ll need a reservation, but it’s because of security in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, not because of any intimidation tactics. Arrive at “the world’s first commercially viable rooftop vineyard” between 12-5pm within that afternoon reservation window. Once there, you’ll check in with the friendly security guard, scan your barcode that was sent to you via email, and you’ll be in the Navy Yard. Circle through to Building 275, and take the stairs all the way to the roof. This adventure is worth it: a rooftop vineyard, complete with rosé on tap, cornhole games, and hammocks. Order drinks and sit on the swinging wooden chair with your loved one, soaking in the unparalleled view of Brooklyn. Talking points: Which building did writer, Jonathan Ames, call “the most phallic building in Brooklyn?” (Answer: The Williamsburgh Savings Bank.) With your feet in the astroturf and great music on the sound system, this really is a secret oasis. Rooftop Reds, 299 Sands St., Building 275, Brooklyn Navy Yard.
4pm Pull up a chair at Kings County Distillery
Guess what? Did you know that you don’t have to sit through a tour to drink at Kings County Distillery? This beautiful bar room at The Gatehouse Tasting Room at the edge of the Navy Yard is a study in “rusticity.” The decor is faded mansion meets wellness Instagram feed. Peeling paint reveals exposed bricks, and streams of sunlight reflect hanging plants. A spiral staircase leads down to the bathrooms. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a Civil War-era haunted house, and not part of the largest distillery which was founded in 2010. The bar serves up actual drinks (not just tasting flights), but you’ll be remiss if you don’t try the whiskey. We ordered the Watermelon Punch, a combination of whiskey, melon juice, purple basil syrup and soda water, which was a refreshing reprieve from the heat outside. But in colder weather, a hot toddy might be in order. And yes, beer and wine is also available. The Gatehouse Tasting Room, Kings County Distillery, 299 Sands St., Building 121, Brooklyn Navy Yard.
5pm Time for some shopping and gramming
Now that you have a buzz on, it’s time to do some shopping. Hopefully the walk from the Navy Yard sobers you up a little. Otherwise, you’re bound to spend all your money at Front General Store, where racks of vintage Grateful Dead t-shirts sit next to an array of Mrs. Roper muumuus. This carefully curated aesthetic directs you towards the trends. Dad hats, bandanas, and brass mugs vie for your attention. Front General Store, 143 Front St., Dumbo. Next, recharge at Powerhouse Arena, a great neighborhood bookstore that carries all of the items on your “to read” list, but also enough interesting discoveries to keep you there for a while. When we were there, we sat and read BoJack Horseman: The Art Before The Horse cover to cover. Powerhouse Arena, 28 Adams St., Dumbo. There is a reason why tourists waving cameras flock to the end of Washington Street. It’s impossible to take a bad photo here, so no one will judge you if you have to do it. It’s cheesy, certainly, but this photo may end up a family heirloom, or at least, your next profile picture. At the end of Washington Street. If you’d rather avoid the gram, you could hit The Brooklyn Historical Society DUMBO for an interesting exhibit and gift shop about the borough. If the museum is already closed (6pm is closing time), spend some time walking around this mall—the roof is open for exploring, if the tourists will let you through. The Brooklyn Historical Society DUMBO, 55 Water Street, Dumbo, $10 suggested admission.
6pm Wine and dine at Celestine
Head now to Celestine, which just may be the most romantic restaurant in Brooklyn. It’s trying so hard, it’s impossible not to fall for its charm. If you can score a patio table for two, at the edge of the East River, where the waves are within a rock’s throw, it will be a night to remember. The skyline is incredible of course, but when the sun starts to set behind the buildings during magic hour, you may just stand up and yell, “Are you kidding me?” The Middle Eastern menu lends itself to shared plates, like the house-made flatbread, luscious pistachio feta spread, or the grilled octopus. We also shared the Pennsylvania Chicken which was like chicken three ways, and would be too much poultry for one person. If you are really hungry, there is a four-course family style option ($75) that comes with two starters, two dinners, mezze and dessert. By this time, the crickets are chirping and the skyline is lit up like a birthday cake. We shared a chocolate pot de creme, and in the movie version of this night, one of us would choke on a diamond ring hidden inside. Whether gazing at each other, or Manhattan’s lights, love will be in the air for your partner or, at the very least, for this city. Celestine, 1 John St., Dumbo.
7:30pm See a show at St Ann’s Warehouse
After dinner, follow the path in front of Celestine through Brooklyn Bridge Park, where the vastness of the skyline is even more beautiful after dark. You’ll see the glass box of Jane’s Carousel shimmering, and then you’ll find St. Ann’s Warehouse, an avant-garde theater that is the cultural jewel of the neighborhood. From September 27th through November 11th, you can score tickets for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!,” a wartime classic with peppy music. This may seem an odd choice for the theater, but it’s safe to say this will be a different spin on the musical classic. Expect it to be stripped down, and according to The New York Times, to explore “the darker psychological truths of a community circling the wagons against an outsider.” Also, there will be a seven-piece band and bowls of chili to be shared with the audience. Tickets start at $26. St. Ann’s Warehouse, 45 Water St., Dumbo.
10pm, One last drink and view
There will be so much to discuss after the performance, and you’ll probably want to talk about it over one last drink. Buzz Bar, the patio behind Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, always has a table with a view but it closes at 10pm. As an end to a perfectly enchanted evening, you may want to hit up 1 Rooftop Garden and Bar where a $20 fee (just for the menfolk; ladies are free!) will get you some more skyline views and overpriced drinks. In theory, I am opposed to paying an entrance fee, but the doorman explained that so many people just go up to take photos and not buy anything, that they are now have to charge. Is it worth it? The view is mesmerizing, and if you can get a table, you will feel like a Master of the Universe. For the ultra special date night, it might be nice. Otherwise, skip the scene and just sit in the park. It’s just as romantic, and much more private. 1 Rooftop Garden + Bar, 1 Brooklyn Bridge Park, Dumbo.