It’s August (late August), and y’all know what that means: the end of the 100-day weekend, also known as summer. School either has started back or will soon, and the florid green is deepening, preparing to fade.
I spent my summer reading and working and writing and traveling a bit, and mostly learning how to navigate this city physically, emotionally and mentally. I also spent it exploring, which is my favorite thing, because it is an act of investment and self-edification and fulfillment.
With that in mind, I’d like to share a few places (mostly restaurants) that I’ve fallen in love with and that you should check out in these, our last days of summer. Or fall. Or deep in the winter. These are non-seasonal treasures. Most of them are in my neighborhood, which I am madly in love with, and which is also relatively non-touristy because it’s a bit away from the station. Not all of them, though.
1. Northern Spy Food Co.: An East/Village Alphabet City staple, this phenomenal little restaurant is elegantly designed in every way. A season- and source-conscious menu pairs with an easy-going decor to make for the kind of intimate and unpretentious experience you wish for. The best thing about Northern Spy? The Sunday Night Supper – a three-course, prix fixe meal designed by the chef, Hadley Schmitt, for the unbelievably low price of $27. I had a gorgeous balsamic apple, pear, strawberry and feta salad, jambalaya with grits, and pistachio grandmother’s cake with raspberry coulis when I went earlier this summer. Let your belly really enjoy the summer.
2. Bobwhite Supper Counter: While we’re on restaurants, Bobwhite is a beautiful Southern restaurant on Avenue C. While their fried chicken is prominent on the menu, it’s not as good as they make it out to be. Admittedly, I’ve had excellent fried chicken, being from North Carolina (Price’s…Rooster’s…Acme….), so I am hard to please. It’s the other things on the menu that are absolutely revelatory. First, they make their sweet tea with simple syrup. Yes. They’re purists. Second, their chow-chow (a Southern relish) is perfectly balanced and a bit unusual, as is their tomato chutney. Both go excellently with their pimento cheese sandwich and, wait for it, fried okra. It’s the best fried okra I’ve ever had. Sorry, Frank Stitt.
3. The Dog Park on 15th St. and 3rd Avenue: It’s just a dog park. But it’s a dog park! If you need a little four-legged therapy, this is the place to go. The dogs are friendly and so are the people. And if you don’t have a pup, and are just there to scheme on the neighborhood’s happy animals, that’s okay. You won’t be the only one.
4. Brooklyn Brine: This Gowanus brinery is just about as cool as it gets. They make whiskey sour pickles, pickled chipotle carrots, deli-style pickles, hop-pickles (brined with beer), maple-bourbon bread and butter pickles, orange and fennel pickles, and a whole host of delicious other varieties. It’s also a really friendly space; just pop in, try some pickles, leave with a couple of jars. Also hope that Jenny is there – she’s a gem, and will let you try every single one if you’re that kind of shopper.
5. Still House: This is an intricate, well-designed store on 7th near Big Gay Ice Cream and it’s sublime. Full of little items that are special and secret, Still House is a quietly epic place. Most of the things inside are also earthy, or handmade, which is nice to find in this city. 7th Street is a gold mine for this sort of thing, as is 9th.
6. Van Leeuwen: While you’re on 7th, stop into Van Leeuwan for some elevated (expensive) ice cream! With flavors like earl grey and two kinds of vegan ice cream, it’s a bit of a specialty shop. I love ice cream, though, but have trouble with “real” ice cream, so the vegan is worth it for me. Not to mention that it’s also very nicely designed. Would fit right into a little North Carolina town like Chapel Hill, which is probably why I love it so.
That’s a good jumping-off place for now. I’ll add to the list as I can. Happy adventuring!
Laissez les bon temps,