Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer Weekend Guide: Gowanus

Posted By on Fri, Jul 12, 2013 at 12:24 PM

  • Photo via American Colossus

A couple weeks back, we brought you the complete guide to whiling away a summer weekend down in Red Hook. We hope you actually took our advice, and ate borderline vomitorium-necessitating amounts of food while you were there. So much so that you're ready to repeat the whole thing again, in a different water-adjacent neighborhood?

Good, because this weekend we're (and by "we're" I guess I mean "you're") going to Gowanus. It may be on the banks of a smellier, less prestigious body of water than Red Hook (and supposedly on its way to being consumed by neighboring Park Slope and transformed into "Parkwanus," a term even more grossly uncalled for than "staycation"), but all the more reason to enjoy the neighborhood now as it is, which is a low-key, often underrated place to grab a few beers, some mint-bourbon-chocolate pie (more on this later), and maybe even indulge a little 90's nostalgia.

  • Photo via Flickr/Dave Cook

As with Red Hook, or really any time you're trying to get to know a new neighborhood or city, the main event here is food. Lots of it. First and foremost, there's The Pines, which a couple weeks back we gave the honor of having the neighborhood's signature dish, in this case hot, buttery bread from nearby Runner & Stone, served alongside a simple, perfectly executed menu that changes daily. The area's also become something of a hotbed for the exploding (and totally welcome) barbecue trend. There's Fletcher's, which has a solid lunch deal if you happen to be hungry earlier in the day, and there's also the newly opened, instantly beloved neighborhood branch of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, where we'd suggest you go late in the day and knock yourself out with a "Big Ass Pork Plate" and a flight (or two) of beer.

Of course, it tends to feel a little blasphemous to hang out in a waterfront neighborhood without eating at least some shellfish, even if the thought of actually consuming sea life from the Gowanus itself is a little, uh, dubious. For this, there's Littleneck, which has all the clams, oysters, lobster rolls and chowder you could want in a local seafood joint, alongside more creative options like a Full Belly Ipswich Clam Roll, and mussels with thai basil and curry. They've also got a homemade pie of the day, but for pie, it's worth re-locating down the street to Four & Twenty Blackbirds. Their menu changes seasonally, but there are always certain staples you can count on, like The Derby (that chocolate-mint-bourbon thing we were talking about earlier), and salted caramel apple (or salty honey custard).

The Pines, 284 Third Ave.
Runner & Stone, 285 Third Ave.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, 604 Union St.
Fletcher's, 433 3rd Ave.
Littleneck, 288 3rd Ave.
Four & Twenty Blackbirds, 439, 3rd Ave.

  • Photo via Gowanus Lounge

Wholesome Activities
A lot of Gowanus' charm comes from its architecture, and the ability to stroll between massive brick buildings, speculating about the people who spent time there back when factories were a big deal, and Brooklyn was a real hub for beer manufacturing. Maybe nothing represents this better than the Old American Can Factory, originally built in 1885 and lovingly restored in the past 10 years as a home for small, creative companies. Since people here are generally in their offices working, it doesn't exactly work to wander around poking your head into different studios. It is, however, the home of Rooftop Films, who still use the building's roof as one of their screening venues, giving you a place to sit, watch a movie you wouldn't see anywhere else, and let all the barbecue you just ate slowly absorb itself into your system.

Unfortunately, Proteus Gowanus, one of the neighborhood's best galleries, has already closed its doors for the summer, but there's also Littlefield, a reliably lovely (and naturally lit) place to browse work by hyper-local artists. And then there's the canal itself. Even if you're not bold enough to sign up for one of the canoeing trips the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club hosts every weekend, you can still take a lower stakes walk around the waterway. It'll work fine if you improvise it, but since the canal became a Superfund site, the EPA has come up with a pretty great walking tour of the area, which should take you a little over an hour (and presumably help you work your appetite up for more pie and barbecue).

Rooftop Films, 232 3rd Ave.
Littlefield, 622 Degraw St.
Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club

  • Aaah!

Technically, the first of these is a daytime event. But "nightlife" just sounds a little better than "partying," I think. Anyway, for a summer-specific activity, the area go-to is Mister Sunday, in which the team from Mister Saturday Night turn the Gowanus Grove (formerly known as BKLYN Yard) into a chill afternoon-to-early-evening dance party.

And, while the neighborhood is probably never going to be a Williamsburg-caliber hotbed of venues (RIP, Southpaw), it is the home of the Bell House, one of those venues so seminal it's often the sole reason lazy Manhattanites bother making the trek out into Brooklyn. More immediately, they've got a free screening of Point Break going on tonight, which seems as perfect a way to spend a Friday night as we've heard in a long, long while. On the 26th, though, The Muffs are playing. The Muffs! I guess I can't speak for everyone, but working on the assumption that all of you, like me, have been vaguely wanting to see these guys live for the better part of the past 20 years, this is a pretty big moment. Also, it's only $15, so even if you're not quite that worked up about it, this is a pretty low-risk, high-reward proposition.

Gowanus Grove, 400 Carroll St.
Mister Sunday
The Bell House, 149 7th St.

  • Photo via FindNY

The neighborhood's real strength, if you ask me. The sprawling (at least for New York) layout of the area means that a way higher-than-usual percentage of the bars have huge outdoor areas, making it especially good for warm-weather bar hopping. And there are enough of them to suit every specific drinking need. For low-key beers, a loose, dog-friendly pet policy, and a dark, cool place to take a break from the heat, there's Lowlands. "Joiners" will be into the Sunday night trivia (and BYO-food policy) at Pacific Standard, and for the more cocktail-oriented there's Lavender Lake, which has a completely perfect gin-and-lavender concoction called the River's Edge that should be any visitor's first priority. And then there's the Zombie Hut. Again, something I'm not sure everyone is equally vehement about, but I feel pretty strongly that fruity, absurdly decorated, overpoweringly strong tiki drinks are sorely underrepresented in Brooklyn's bar culture. Which means you have to be efficient, I'm pretty sure? And there aren't a whole lot of things more efficient than this place's cornerstone beverage, The Zombie Bowl, a four person drink so intense—the straws are filled with 151—it'll sate any and all tropical drinking needs for, oh, a good year or so. Or at least until the next time you come back to Gowanus.

Lowlands, 543 3rd Ave.
Lavendar Lake, 383 Carroll St.
Zombie Hut, 273 Smith St.
Pacific Standard, 82 4th Ave.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

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About The Author

Virginia K. Smith

Virginia K. Smith

Virginia K. Smith is the Assistant Editor at The L Magazine and a Bushwick resident. Her profile picture was taken at Summerscreen, because she is a real team player.

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