Whoop, whoop, friends! bumble here! All 5 New York City boroughs have their charms, and of course the storybook settings of Manhattan feel familiar even before you set foot on the platform at Grand Central, thanks to classic movies like West Side Story, Annie Hall, or Saturday Night Fever. But when Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing hit the screen (big or small, it doesn't really matter), this bee fell in love. Thing is, Brooklyn has a cool that really IS effortless. It comes from the clash of interesting people doing the thing that's right for them, and not really caring what anybody else thinks.
So, understandably, I was super excited to see the Brooklyn spectacle for myself, and soak up some of that cool while I was at it. As usual, I kept my ear to the ground (bees don't really have ears - it's just an expression) and tried to find a few places off the beaten track for you all to enjoy. So strap on those skinny jeans and let's get to it.
Just a stone's throw from Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Ital Kitchen (named for the ital food tradition and philosophy of life promoted by followers of Rastafari), is like home. Walking into the cozy room, you feel like this is a place that's been lived in, and where everyone is welcome.
Colourful walls and furniture set a happy tone to match the happy food the chef releases into the world from a small but powerful kitchen not quite out of sight in back. Our first night in Brooklyn is off to a great start with a simple veggie broth with a perfect balance of heat and seasoning, and the aroma of fresh cilantro. We just want to order it all over again. As the night goes on, we'll end up saying this about every dish.
Next comes mains: Red Stepper is a stew of veggie steak chopped with peppers and onions in a mushroom sauce. The flavours are mind-blowing, with notes of ginger, allspice, and black pepper, perfectly blended so nothing dominates but everything comes through. The texture of the veggie steak is just the right amount of chewy and the peppers and onions are sweet and caramelized. I never want it to end.
The Ital Veggie Jerk Chicken was another standout. I used to think jerk was all about heat. Chef Mickey's jerk sauce will have you rethinking everything you think you know about jerk. Sweet, savoury, fruity, and for sure, spicy, but again with the perfect balancing act. Problem is, you'll be spoiled for any other by the end of the meal. Baked Sweet Plaintains felt like part side and part dessert, but who cared? We sure didn't.
On top of all this glorious food, the staff were wonderful and took great care of us. This place really does feel like a home away from home, and any future Brooklyn trip will have Ital Kitchen on the itinerary. No question.
Just go. Order anything at all. You won't be disappointed.
1032 Union St., Brooklyn, NY 11225
Clinton Hill is a great Brooklyn neighbourhood for lots of reasons, but one of them has to be the pleasure of being within walking distance of Clementine Bakery. If you're a vegan, you know how exciting it is to walk into a vegan bakery. Like, where everything is vegan. It's a pretty awesome feeling. For you non-vegans, just try to imagine that nearly every bakery has maybe 1 or 2 things you can eat, then all of a sudden you walk into one where you can have all the things. Pretty great, amirite?
It's around 10:00am but all we can think of is how amazing the cakes look. Breakfast cake ok? It's a holiday, so normal rules don't apply. We decide on Triple Chocolate and Pumpkin Spice. Both are ridiculous. We are reduced to grunting at each other across the table and jealously guarding our slices in case anyone nearby should get any ideas. I'm sure we've all had cakes where the baker cheaped-out on the icing. The texture is no good, or it tastes a bit fake, or its sickly sweet with no real flavour. No skimping here - just icing perfection, and the cake is moist and just light enough. We're in heaven and I realize I could write about cake forever.
But Clementine Bakery is about more than just cake. (Is there anything else? you ask.) We come back later in the day for lunch and end up devouring an absolutely delicious soup and salad, and sharing an unforgettable smokey roasted yam and spinach sandwich. We resolve to sell everything and move to Clinton Hill at that point. Just an FYI - they offer decadent double-chocolate brownies on a take-out basis. Dangerous.
Thankfully, Brooklyn is great for walking. If we were planets, Clementine Bakery would be our sun. Know what I'm sayin'?
395 Classon Ave (corner of Greene Ave), Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, NY 11238
Konditori Swedish Espresso Bar
Nestled just around the corner from Bedford Av train station, Konditori is the perfect place for a mid-morning coffee stop. The vibe is super relaxed and the staff are friendly and efficient. Great espresso and some creative muffins, scones, and pastries to tempt you. We had a savoury kale and tomato scone that knocked our proverbial socks off.
A nice cozy space and an eclectic soundtrack round out this great spot - and the barista even took the time to Shazam a song we loved but didn't know. Tells you what you need to know right there.
Konditori has a bunch of other locations - the East Village one is on the slate for our next trip to NYC. Which will be soon, if our dreams come true!
167 North 7th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Spoonbill & Sugartown, Booksellers
With more 'bee time' on my hands (not hands of course, but work with me, here), I've had more chance to explore the life of the mind, and get to crack some of those books I've always meant to read. It shouldn't be a luxury, but somehow, it is. As any reader knows, NYC is a book-lover's paradise (I could fill a novel about Strand Books haha). But back to BK. Brooklyn has some gems of bookstores, and Spoonbill & Sugartown is one I would proudly hang around my neck as a pendant. Ok not practical, but you get the idea.
You can tell the minute you walk in to their Bedford Ave location that it's special. It has that curated feel of people who know and love and care about books, without feeling like a monument or an art gallery. Just thoughtful displays and striking combinations and some great staff picks. Coming into a place like this, you realize how much fluff clogs the shelves of your average mainstream bookshop. This is nothing but the good stuff. If it had an espresso machine, I'd probably still be there.
Be warned that you'll need serious restraint. A bit like going into a casino having agreed with yourself that you're only going to spend fifty bucks, no matter what. Otherwise, things could get crazy. We kept our cool and escaped with only 3 additions to our book pile: a book of poems by Kim Gordon, founder of Sonic Youth, Black Power 50, an amazing exhibition catalog out of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and novelist W. G. Sebald's quirky and beautiful The Rings of Saturn.
If you love great writing, whether it's novels, poetry, or philosophy, or great art and photography books, you really need to add Spoonbill & Sugartown to your trip plan. And do check out their other store on Montrose if you can.
218 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Juice Generation is a true oasis.
One you'll want to take advantage of after a few hours of walking, browsing, walking some more, reading or people-watching in Prospect Park. Like the old saying goes, "You can't fly without fuel," and so we stopped in to JG for a juice boost and a few minutes to reset.
A couple of Vital Shots (ginger, lemon, cayenne) and a Hella Good Greens açaí bowl later, we felt like we could take on the world (or at least the city) again. But not before we just chilled for a few more minutes gazing into the living green wall at the back of the store.
Juice Generation really recharged our batteries - and we love that they've been independently owned and operated in NYC since 1999.
210 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249, USA
Well, there you have it, peeps - a few Brooklyn standouts for your consideration. Next time, we'll be hitting some night spots, so stay tuned for more on that in the future. Whatever you do, take care of each other, and safe travels!