There’s a new Fifth Avenue in town, but instead of Tiffany rings and high-end design, this neighborhood’s Fifth Avenue is stocked with vintage finds and consignment couture. Park Slope’s main street holds a handful of vintage stores with boutiques sprinkled in between making this avenue a shopper’s haven for the thrifty and lavish alike.
And the stores aren’t the only place you might find some slightly-used steals. Truly the best of both worlds, this urban suburb is one of the few neighborhoods where you’ll find the NYC version of the yard sale. Walk down any side street and you’ll find sidewalk sales and stoops crammed with giveaway goods galore. And seeing as Park Slope was once the richest neighborhood in the country (according to the 1890 census), it only seems fitting that any budget-conscious visitor leave the Slope with a souvenir from its luxurious past.
If you’re an early riser, start off your visit to Park Slope by grabbing a tea latté at the Tea Lounge (www.tealoungeny.com, 837 Union Street). Miss that place in college where you went to eat pizza bagels that mysteriously took a half hour to make by some beanie-sporting co-ed? The milkshakes took twice as long, but your late-night hunger was usually induced by an extreme case of procrastination, so you didn’t mind. At the Tea Lounge, this freshman-fifteen abetting fare has been replaced by grown-up goodies, including fantastic banana bread and delicious tea lattés made from a variety of loose-leaf (small tea latté runs for $3.50). Despite the upgrade in food, the Tea Lounge is sure to remind you of your favorite college coffee shop haunt. The mismatched sofas, exposed brick, and chalk-board menu set the mood for this lounge littered by aspiring bloggers, or at least those who dress the part.
From the Tea Lounge, head over for a stroll in Prospect Park (www.prospectpark.org). About two-thirds the size of Central Park, Prospect Park still packs a punch with a band shell, a boathouse, botanical gardens, a zoo, and a skating rink under construction. If you’re looking to be seen—head to Central Park, but if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, Prospect Park is the place to be. With its stretches of relatively un-manicured “wilderness,” a walk through Prospect Park really feels like an escape from the city. If you’re a really early riser, check out the Audobon Society’s “Morning Bird Walk” or the farmers market at the northwest corner of the park. Be sure to stroll past the Boathouse (the Audobon Society’s headquarters) and Litchfield Mansion—both vestiges of Park Slope’s opulent past.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of the park, head west to Sotto Voce for one of NYC’s best brunch deals (http://sottovocerestaurant.com, 225 7th Avenue at 4th Street). For $16.95, you’ll get brunch and unlimited mimosas, champagne, or Bloody Marys for the length of your stay (well, within reason). In addition to this unbeatable deal, this cozy restaurant is relatively walk-in friendly. Ah, the beauty of Brooklyn.
After brunch, walk on over to Fifth Avenue to let the shopping spree begin. As you stroll up Park Slope’s main drag, here’s a list of vintage stores worth a walk-through:
1. Housing Works Thrift Store (www.housingworks.org, 266 Fifth Avenue): As the name suggests, Housing Works is great for those with a shabby-chic aesthetic searching for quirky home goods. However, don’t pass over the clothing too quickly—you’ll find some high end designers (I spotted Cynthia Rowley and Theory on my trip) among the racks.
2. Prophecies Gallery (665 President Street): For those looking to trade in their old dorm furniture for something a bit more unique, Prophecies Gallery is chock full of vintage furniture. This crammed cubby is overflowing (literally…all over the sidewalk) with chests of drawers in every shape and style, ancient-looking mirrors, and a vast collection of chandeliers.
3. Guvnor’s Vintage Thrift (http://guvnorsnyc.com, 178 Fifth Avenue): I firmly believe one is never too old for costume parties. If you are also a practitioner of this belief, then Guvnor’s is the spot for all those themed-party needs. My favorite finds: an intense collection of pant suits and a charming trio of beaded bra-tops so sparkly they’d make a disco ball blush.
4. Odd Twin (www.oddtwin.com, 164 Fifth Avenue): One of the chicest vintage stores I’ve ever seen, Odd Twin’s features include: an impressive array of unicorn regalia, a picture window filled with knick-knacks that vary from the downright cute to the somewhat scary (think porcelain clowns), and a collection of 1970s/1980s nudey mags! Apparently, back in the day, telling someone you were buying Playboy for the articles wasn’t that much of a stretch—there was much more text than expected.
5. Beacon’s Closet (www.beaconscloset.com, 92 Fifth Avenue): More of a traditional thrift store, Beacon’s Closet is the spot for those patient rack-rakers out to find a gem. Be sure to check out the new and used jewelry for some cheap, but expensive-looking, finds.
If you’ve worked up an appetite from shopping and have ever wondered what it would feel like to eat-out with the Flintstone family, head back down to Union Street to check out Fort Reno BBQ (www.fort-reno.us, 669 Union Street at 4th Avenue). At Fort Reno BBQ, you order meat by the pound—that is, on their very to-the-point menu, you can order ribs, pulled pork, BBQ chicken, or fatty brisket by the ¼ pound, ½ pound, or ¾ pound, depending on the level of carnivore you are. The list of sides is also short, but each one is out-of-this world (the burnt end beans and biscuits are a must).
End your night in Park Slope at Union Hall (http://unionhallny.com/, 702 Union Street). Chances are all of those wannabe writers you saw sipping lattés at the Tea Lounge have migrated west to Union Hall by this point in the night. This large space features a library-look with a wall of bookshelves, large leather couches and a fireplace. However, in the middle of this bibliophile’s dream you’ll find two bocce ball courts for all-year-long play. Downstairs (a space that looks just like your parents’ basement with wood-paneled walls and a taxidermy-adorned bar), Union Hall hosts cheap concerts, comedians, and karaoke, so be sure to check the calendar beforehand.
While it’s true that you are more likely to see a baby bottle than a beer bottle tossed aside on the curb in Park Slope, this doesn’t mean the neighborhood is only for stroller-wielders. Park Slope is brimming with trendy restaurants that are walk-in friendly on a Friday night, cozy bars where you won’t be elbowing your neighbor, and a plethora of unique and shopper-friendly boutiques. After a day in the Slope, you’ll see why the likes of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Steve Buscemi, and *ahem* yours truly, choose to call Park Slope home.