It often feels as if the “BK” brand is overtaking the reality of living in Brooklyn, with esoteric ingredients and obscure-turned-hip handmade goods pushing out the less trendy, but no less popular, stores that have existed in the borough for decades.
However, old-school Brooklyn is still alive and kicking. From bakeries to dive bars and traditional delis to neighborhood restaurants, these favorites continue to do business, maintaining their honest, no-frills approach along with the attitude of sturdy resiliency.
A personal favorite is Caputo’s Bakery at 329 Court Street in Carroll Gardens. Caputo’s does those huge Italian rounds, classic sandwich cookies, and a whole wheat loaf that’s to die for.
Sunny’s Bar at 253 Conover Street in Red Hook behind Fairway is another star that won’t change and has managed to be beloved by all for exactly that. Sunny’s survived Sandy’s wind and water, and will continue to serve the boozy basics, hopefully forever.
The ongoing and resurgent popularity of some stalwarts, such as Sunny’s, is due to devoted customers, and is helped in some ways by the influx of both trendy and moneyed residents who flock to neighborhoods such as Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and Williamsburg. Vintage is now trendy, antique restored goods and atmospheres trigger nostalgia. What’s old is new again.
Stop in for service and check out Gottlieb’s, the storied glatt kosher restaurant at 325 Roebling Street in old Williamsburg. Neergaard Pharmacy, on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, does a huge volume, was open 24 hours way before Duane Reade even thought about Brooklyn and has all the specialty surgical items that hardly anyone else has and that have been used for generations.
To fully experience traditional Brooklyn, go south or east of Prospect Park. Hit Flatbush, Bensonhurst, Midwood and Crown Heights. Grab a roti at Ali’s Roti Shop on Utica. Stop in at Mermelstein’s at 351 Kingston Avenue, just south of Eastern Parkway, for classic Eastern European cooking. Find the guy who makes 18 different kinds of falafel on Avenue J and check out the Israeli appetizers across the street. See square mile after square mile of single family homes and six-story elevator buildings. The people and places that make “BKLYN” Brooklyn are generally still here, and actually attracted the famous new hip civilization to their neighborhoods.
We here at aptsandlofts.com serve all the communities and we often focus on the new. Let us know how we can help you open a shop, rent an apartment or buy a home. But part of that service is done by patronizing the stalwarts and supporting those stores and bakeries that made us want to live, work and play here in the first place.
A licensed broker and Director of Commercial Property with APTSANDLOFTS.com, responsible for developing the company’s retail presence and entry into the Brooklyn office space market. Chriswhavens@gmail.com