Better in Brooklyn

It’s the city’s largest borough, and for many its most romantic, with some broad boulevards, beautiful brownstones and a stunning made-for-the-movies view of Manhattan at Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

And now, Brooklyn has become a foodie and shopping haven, as restaurateurs, retailers and designers come from Manhattan and around the country to reinvigorate some of its oldest neighborhoods. Why? They’re following the affluent young professionals in search of (relative) affordability, more space, and a tree or three!

Downtown Brooklyn (aka Clinton Hill, aka the Fulton Mall area) will get yakitori from Tadashi Ono at Ganso Yaki at 515 Atlantic Avenue. This follows the debut of Livingston Manor (42 Hoyt Street) with inventive cocktails and light snacks. And Fulton Mall itself continues to see new retail, including Adidas, coming to 452 Fulton Street.

Peter Luger remains Williamsburg’s local legend, but now it has plenty of company, particularly from concepts expanding from Manhattan such as the Camlin, which offers a warm atmosphere from the team behind Ardesia in Hell’s Kitchen. Also venturing east is Erik Ramirez, a former sous chef at Eleven Madison Park among others, with Llama Inn at 50 Withers Street in Williamsburg. More casual sandwich shop Black Street is expanding from the Lower East Side to a space on Metropolitan Avenue, reports say. (In a sense, though, this is a homecoming. Black Tree’s first unit was a Brooklyn pop-up in 2012.) The restaurants aren’t just coming from elsewhere in the city: we’re even seeing a popup from San Francisco’s famed Slanted Door at the Wythe Hotel last month!

And of course, retail will follow the restaurants that have followed the rooftops. After all, Williamsburg is a short subway ride from Manhattan, allowing for a quick commute particularly for those working in all the technology firms in Union Square. Retail also is following them, including Apple, Whole Foods and J. Crew.

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In fact, Williamsburg is now so busy that restaurants are moving to Bushwick for affordable and properly sized spaces. Look for a cocktail lounge from Al Stock and Maks Pazuniak at 1237 Flushing Avenue in September. A spinoff of the Prospect Heights ramen shop Chuko is coming this month to 144 Evergreen Avenue.

They join a number of newcomers from 2014, including Bunna Café (1084 Flushing Avenue), 1 Knickerbocker (1 Knickerbocker Avenue, from former Chicago chef Steven Hubbell) and The Rookery (425 Troutman Street), among others. Look for Filipino cuisine at Manila Social Club, which has found a permanent perch at 2 Hope Street. Perhaps that’s why we’re also seeing a number of fitness facilities opening in the area, including the Bhati Space for Wellness (1099 Flushing Avenue)!

In Greenpoint, I can’t wait for the Brooklyn Barge Bar, which is expected to launch sometime around May 1. It literally will have a bar and a basic menu on a boat, with picnic tables on the land nearby. It will be a terrific experiment. But it’s just the latest in some wonderful new options, including the Catalonian tapas place El Born (651 Manhattan Avenue) and the self-explanatory Greenpoint Fish & Lobster (114 Nassau Avenue).

In Crown Heights, Franklin Avenue and environs are becoming some of the busiest dining districts in town, including Butter & Scotch (818 Franklin), a combination bakery and cocktail lounge, and Kosher burger joint Boeuf & Bun (217 Kingston Street). The new King Tai Bar evokes 1940s Miami at 1095 Bergen Street.

As important, daily needs are not being ignored: Manhattanville Coffee has come from Harlem to 167 Rogers Avenue, while Elsie’s Doughnut Shop has some interesting flavors for the traditional treat at 1031 Bergen Street. And we’re all waiting for the redevelopment of 608 Franklin Avenue into a retail and apartment complex!

One fair warning, however: the appeal of many of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods has resulted in rents rising precipitously (especially in Williamsburg). Expect next year’s busiest neighborhoods to be located in adjacent areas, especially in what’s looking to be the next big borough story: QUEENS!