Brooklyn’s 11 Best Dates By Neighborhood

eddie_perrote_6.26.16

1) Rockaways: People, it is really summer. Get your bikes in gear. Meet your person with your bike anywhere in Brooklyn around 10am, then do this: cycle all the way down Bedford Avenue—through Midwood, where Brooklyn no longer looks like Brooklyn but rather stately suburban America with freestanding homes and yards—wend left along Emmons Avenue and see yet another aberration, a small Italian beach town, and finally cross Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge to enter Riis Beach (about an hour and twenty minutes in total if you begin your trip anywhere near Prospect Park).

First things first, get a beer and fish taco, play some ping pong to warm up your off-bike time, then lay on the beach, as called for. Soon, however, after canoodling on your towels and sand under the sun, and taking a brisk dip in the ocean, you will get bored. Now, here’s an important question: How well do you know each other? Kind of well? Really well? Not at all? Actually, fuck it: regardless of your answer, head over to the nude beach. It is a real party over there. Inhibitions are dropped, and you have an immediate peak into what your romantic future might hold; or you will be reminded of what it has held already. Get full body sun, and get a little buzzy buy purchasing some sand-side Rum Punch Nutcrackers in mango, peach, or pineapple for only $5.

Have you had your fill? Leave earlier than you think you should: sun stroke has likely already hit. Drink a little water, then do as the summer gods asked and end your day drinking Bud Light Limes, ordering pizza in, and watching François Ozon’s Swimming Pool (2003). It’s a dark erotic thriller, and your day has been similar.

Alternates: Skip the bikes, take an Uber that will cost you about 20 bucks a pop, or one of the several beach buses; that way you can concentrate mostly on drinking various cold things and lazing around.

2) Red Hook: Get out your bikes again—shared physical activity is exhilarating and sexy, so there is no issue—in order to get to Red Hook. That’s way better than taking an Uber, which costs money, doesn’t get your heart going, and is not fun. Red Hook, despite the fact that it is no longer a secret, because the world’s most expensive car maker, Tesla, has made it their home, is still a quiet, offbeat delight, and you can manage an entire day-into-evening there more easily than ever: start with drinks at Botanica, an ornate cocktail bar with gorgeous drinks, sip them on one of the front sidewalk tables, then think about eating. There are so many options: the seafood party that is Brooklyn Crab, the tender pulled sammys at Brooklyn Ice House, Fort Defiance, The Good Fork where I once saw Keri Russell dining and she looked better in person than on TV, and just on and on.

But if you’d rather get more romantic, there is some goddamn great film to take in at Red Hook Flicks: screening every Tuesday through the end of August, it includes cinematic dynamite: Purple Rain, Beverly Hills Cop, The LEGO Movie (this movie hits home with the adult brain in a real way, which I know because I once went with a five year old and loved it more than she did), Aliens, Reservoir Dogs, and all of it happens at my favorite pier in the entire city, Louis Valentino Park, which boasts a nice view to Lady Liberty; she will remind you that real love and freedom are the same thing.

Alternates: Spending the entire night drinking and taking in free music at Sunny’s; test your future by going pretend shopping at Ikea then feasting on meatballs; take a tour of chocolate factory Cacao Prieto.

3) Greenpoint: Ok, get off your bikes. The G train gets a lot of shit talk, but it runs totally fine. It will bring you on a respectable schedule to Greenpoint. So, good job, you got there. Head immediately to Transmitter Park—laze around on the grass, watch dogs scamper around, and toddlers cooling down in the open fountain. But before the sun falls all the way behind the Manhattan skyline across the water, it’s time for you to get a drink. Do it just two blocks away at one of Greenpoint’s O.G. bars, Pencil Factory, i.e., people watching centrale. After you’ve taken in the fashion show of Greenpoint’s old and new, go true old school Greenpoint and eat dinner at Karczema. You’re in Greenpoint, which is the closest to Poland you have ever been. So eat Borscht, dumplings, spicy goulash, and get a large boot of beer, served by ladies in traditional Dirndl, though it is Polish wear not Austrian. Finally—are you ready for this?—go to St. Vitus for metal music. This will restore your faith in any version of Greenpoint you thought was lost.

Alternates: Tour the Digester Egg Wastewater plant; Picnic in McGolrick Park; get an $8 dollar pitcher of Budweiser at Palace Cafe; drinks at Achilles Heel, of Andrew Tarlow’s food empire, where Bill Murray will likely appear.

4) Coney Island: Like the classic feelings you have about your date—love, lust, mild antipathy—Brooklyn doesn’t get more classic than Coney Island. But Coney Island is not the Cyclone alone; its wonders are so much weirder, and filled with alcohol than that. Take the F, N, or Q train to the last stop. It will take a minute, so, if you’re just getting to know each other, why not engage in at least 8 of the New York Times 36 questions. You’ll be one quarter in love by the time you reach Coney Island. Then, instantly, head to the oddest, mildly creepy, and therefore best bar in the neighborhood, the Coney Island Freak Bar, and walk in at will to the ongoing Freak Show in the same building.

Afterward, you could get physically uncomfortable by actually riding The Cyclone, because it is something you have to do once in your life. Regardless, do this before, not after, eating the best pizza in town at Totonno’s, family owned since 1924, which feels it, settled into itself as it is. This is no grab and go slice. This is full-on sit-down feasting. Post-dinner, go sit on the beach. Take a roadie and discuss your future. JK. Never do that! You will scare your date off. But just tell them how lovely their eyes looked 30 minutes ago, while eating that cheese slice.

Alternates: The frozen drink wonder, Margarita Island; Cyclones Baseball at MCU Park; eating Russian food to-go from a local Russian bodega, and drinking one brown paper bag Russian beer on Brighton Beach.

5) Bushwick: Rapidly, Bushwick has become, more or less, Williamsburg—and by that I mean the place where the best new creative spaces, restaurants, and bars are opening. In any iteration, a trip here will leave you well-fed and entertained. But a few highlights are worthy of an afternoon-to-evening date. First, Syndicated—Bushwick’s answer to Nitehawk, located centrally off the Morgan Avenue L. Go there for a Saturday matinee. Eat and drink while you’re at it, as the movie gods originally intended (ask ex-Borough President, Marty Markowitz).

Afterward, leave while it’s still light outside and thrift. Urban Jungle is near by. You wanted your new boyfriend to get a denim jacket, right? Tell him that, and then pick one out on his behalf. Make him pick out a thing for you; if you hate it, don’t worry. Either way, it’s a sign of the strength of your relationship, and therefore helpful. And since your day so far has been pretty tame, you should end your night an eight minute walk from there at House of Yes. You might not be lucky enough to arrive on a sex party night (though try to), but they’re always up to something that will make you drop your inhibitions, drink and eat stuff, and be entertained.

Alternates: Post movie drink at Christopher Walken worthy lounge at Three Diamond Door, or Boobie Trap; Karaoke at Pine Box Rock Shop; live music at Silent Barn.

6) Neighborhoods Surrounding Prospect Park: There is not much use in denying that the main attraction around the neighborhoods of Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Crown Heights, and Windsor Terrace is, yes, Prospect Park. I’d venture to say it is the city’s very finest park. Start your weekend there early—say noon—and bring some pre-batched cocktails, your favorite weekend periodical, and Kettle Chips. Also, bring a frisbee, which will allow you to connect during a physical activity—exciting—and will help you laugh, due to how good or bad you are at this simple game, and remove the pressure of conversation.

For a change of pace, walk to the Boat House, which is gorgeous. Go inside, and look at the giant snake kept inside on the second floor. Ok, you’ve done enough at the park, time to leave for the purposes of eating and drinking. Head down Washington Avenue where many delights await: first, the Bearded Lady. Sit inside or out, the place is very good looking, airy, and makes a beautiful alcoholic slushy. Drink it slowly because your next stop is El Atoradero and it is the best Mexican food around so there might be a wait. If there is, no worries; sit at the bar, it’s always the best option anyway, and order chips and guacamole, two cheap beers, and a fantastic burrito, vegetarian or meat-heavy. What a day it’s been: physical activity, animal viewing, and mexican food. You won’t forget a romantic menagerie like that any time soon.

Alternates: Take a class at Brooklyn Brainery (make your own moss balls on July 6!); eat Caribbean at Glady’s in Crown Heights; Go to Twin Peaks night at Butter & Scotch (next Tuesday!).

7) Williamsburg: Williamsburg may seem played out, but, really, what made it great in the the 90s—creative people and fun places to drink—still does. Start early with a beer at Soft Spot. The bar has a pleasing curve, and there’s a great back yard. Even though it’s located on the circus that is Bedford Avenue, it manages to stay hidden in plain sight. Ok, that was refreshing. You’ve had a good chat or broken the first or second date tension, so time for interactive diversion.

Go to the quirky and wonderful City Reliquary Museum, just a little walk away on Metropolitan Avenue. Its exhibits trace the history of New York’s five boroughs, and have lots of strange ephemera, like an irradiated dime, and rotating exhibits with things like Pez dispensers. You can do that thing with your date where you gain intimacy by not talking about yourselves but rather something in front of you, together, and there is plenty to look at.

Ok, time time for a hybrid activity-plus-drinking stop. Have a shot and a free hot dog while playing Skee Ball at Full Circle Bar. You can’t do that for too, too long, but you’ve become even closer through the medium of prior diverting activity, so it’s finally time to get intimate at Nitehawk. There is simply no trip to Williamsburg, date or not, that should happen without Nitehawk. But you are on a date, and it’s going pretty well, so canoodle in comfy seats, order beers and tots, enjoy the bespoke pre-film reel, and feel that love.

Alternates: Picnic and day-time drink at McCarren Park; Beer garden sit at Biba and look out over the East River to that other place, Manhattan; take in a night of music at National Sawdust; Dance and DJ sets at Output.

8) Sunset Park: Make this one an immediately-after-work date. Start with activity, as The Dude would want it, at Melody Lanes. Bowl and drink light pilsners for at least two hours, then mosey over to the adorable bar, talk to the bartender, and drink a little more—maybe even share a burger as a pre-dinner snack, if you choose.

Afterward, walk to Sea Witch Tavern—which has excellent sandwiches, including the Wienerschnitzel variety. Sit in the back yard and have another beer while you eat it. Even better: the walk there will bring you along the entire length of Green-Wood Cemetery, which is gorgeous and you should poke in and out of it as you walk. This will make you think about mortality, and whether or not you should be spending your precious time on Earth with the person you’re walking next to. Don’t worry if the answer is no—either way, this walk will precipitate Truth.

Alternates: Explore the Culinary Delights at Industry City; have a boozy picnic inside the eponymous Sunset Park; browse good vinyl at Permanent Records.

9) DUMBO/Brooklyn Bridge Park: Since approximately 2010, this park has grown almost exponentially into a full-on public circus. At first, there were simple movie-in-the-park nights, framed by a glowing Manhattan Skyline and Manhattan Bridge. But now, that is peanuts compared to the flurry of ferry service, gourmet concessions, volleyball and handball courts, and landscaped terrain that you can explore. So, just give into it and have fun.

Maybe smoke a joint beforehand? Walk around the green, green manicured grass and marvel at the European tourists who can’t get enough of this place. It is, basically, a fashion show for European streetwear. Then, feed yourself: go the sweet route with Ample Hills, or the savory route with No. 7 sub. Then, do something crazy. Play a sport: handball, just try it! Or basketball. Join in one of the games already going. I did this recently and, you know what? People don’t hate you for it. Afterward, you’ll have a nice social, athletic interaction to discuss. And, about that movie series—Movies with a View, it still happens every Thursday, and you should attend it. This will allow you to lay down next to each other, and look at the movie that is, simultaneously, a composite of the giant city in the distance, the water, the film itself, and your love, on a blanket.

Alternates: Bike there and sun tan for hours; Take a turn on Jane’s Carousel; walk to Vinegar Hill and eat something delicious at Vinegar Hill House.

10) Day trip into Queens: Guess what: Queens is not Brooklyn, but it’s also not too far away. So, do this: start the day by riding your bikes up to Long Island City, and Socrates Sculpture Park. It is a gem. It’s summer time, so there will be more than a dozen weird, inspiring, singular sculptures built and installed from emerging artists around the relatively small park. Ok, you’re hungry after taking in those good-lucking constructions. Go to the Arepas Grill a ten minute walk away. Those are top quality meat- and veggie-packed pockets, and they’re affordable.

Afterward, get more art and culture at The Noguchi Museum. Isamu Noguchi was famous for making minimal sculptures and a handsome three-legged table. It’s a gorgeous space. But now that you’ve been cultural, reward yourself with drinks. Here’s the thing about Long Island City and those museums, they aran’t really near a train. So that’s why you’ve biked, which you should now hop back on and have a pre dinner drink at Dutch Kills. It’s dark and old fashioned and romantic in there, and the drinks are as good as ever, from Milk & Honey alums. You could end your date right there, but, if you’d like, take a seven minute walk to Court Square Diner and end the night with breakfast.

11) Governors Island: This one is simple: Ride your bike to Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park and hop the ferry to Governors Island. Of note: This is not a day-one date. There is a lot of down time on Governors Island (unless there is a giant music festival happening there). Oh! Did you pack a picnic? That’s very important. Because you can spend hours just laying around, drinking, and taking in the sites. When you get bored, you can take a 30 minute tour of Castle Williams, “the best preserved circular fortification in the nation” or, alternately, look at Fort Jay, a classic military star-shaped fort. But, really, the point of this trip is just to get away from it all, without actually going that far away, and to spend some real quiet together time, while drinking rosé. So, remember, not a first date. But if you’re already with the one you love, this place could—and, literally will—bring you closer than ever. Bike back home, and cook a nice dinner together. After all those days and months and years of dating out on the town, you’ve earned the privilege of being domestic.

Illustration by Eddie Perrote

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