Dostoevsky said "judge a society by how it treats its criminals." Or something like that. Park Slope's criminal element runs rather shallow, but the "most livable neighborhood in New York" does offer a smattering of bars whose restrooms are covered in art, screeds and scrawls that sum up the brownstone laden experience: hipsterism, yuppiedom, the stroller life, the Manhattan inferiority complex and the lurking question of whether the neighborhood qualifies as "real" Brooklyn. Take a look.
"Yuppies Save the planet: STOP BREEDING!"
Tea Lounge, 837 Union St
The lines are drawn: you're either a parent or you're not. The former - post-hipster thirty and fortysomethings who fled Manhattan for stainless steel appliances and backyards - has swarmed the neighborhood in the last decade. The latter mostly just observes their nesting neighbors with an odd peculiarity. The two meet on the stretch of Union St. that rises toward Prospect Park between 6th and 7th Avenues. The block's centerpiece is the Park Slope Food Coop
, a 27-year old grocery commune that requires it members - conscious foodies of all stripes - to don orange vests and work monthly shifts in exchange for the opportunity to buy Anjou pears, organic maple syrup and Japanese oysters in a half shell. Across the street, Tea Lounge
, a low key tea, coffee and, yes, craft beer joint also caters to both sides of the Slope spectrum: tattooed bloggers and sleep-deprived thesis writers on one end and young parents and their toddling spawn, who come for a weekly kids' sing along, on the other. The above words of advice were likely carved after a fourth helping of "The Wheels on the Bus."
The Gate, 321 5th Ave
A trip downstairs to the Gate's
basement bathrooms presents a quandary that has plagued bar going man since the dawn of time: what to do about the single space restroom that features both urinal and toilet with no division between the two? If the bathroom is empty, does one lock the door? Does it depend on the business being transacted? And if you walk in on someone with his trousers around his ankles, what then? Excuse yourself and wait outside? Head directly to the urinal and let 'er rip? Go out to Fifth Ave., run toward the nearest living thing and kill it? In an unscientific survey, a slight majority favored an unlocked door policy, leaving the rest to fate. That is, if you believe in fate.
"Have Sharpie, No Ideas."
Mission Dolores, 249 4th Ave
With a felt pen comes great responsibility. Mission Dolores
and neighboring Rock Shop
have helped bring life to Fourth Avenue, the slowly developing industrial strip that Borough President Marty Markowitz envisions as a tree-lined "Brooklyn Boulevard."
This scribe captures feeling of both the youngish crowd migrating to the lower slope/Gowanus area and the shiny new businesses and half empty condo buildings sprouting up on Fourth Avenue: "We're here. Now what?"
"Take the Chowda"
Black Sheep Pub, 428 Bergen St
With a couple of tables, a handful of decent drafts on tap and a solid jukebox, Black Sheep Pub
eschews the sleek frills and trappings of Park Slope's fancy beer bar scene. It is a simple bar; people go there to drink. The "get down to business" spirit isn't limited to beer consumption.
"No. Brooklyn does not like you."
Prospect Park isn't a bar per se, but anyone who's slipped a flask or sixer in their picnic basket can attest that the green space is indeed Brooklyn's largest - and most diverse - outdoor drinking venue. Poets, joggers, West Indian-American Day parade
goers, drum circle hippies, college sunbathers, Hasidic Jews, bums; the porta-john overlooking the Long Meadow from Prospect Park's northeast corner serves a wide cross-section park visitors. But not everyone is ready to hold hands and go tumbling barefoot through the grass together. Graffiti is usually anonymous; in this case it's also hard to identify the intended recipient. Is it a meme to the carpetbaggers who've taken over neighborhoods surrounding the park? To Jamaican nannies that hog up all the benches? Or to people who walk in the Prospect Park West bike lane
Jackie's Fifth Amendment, 404 5th Ave
Jackie's Fifth Amendment don't need no bathroom art. Jackie's Fifth Amendment serves the surliest, straight shootin'-est, Coors Light drinkin'-est clientele this side of the Gowanus. Highway road crew straight from the overnight shift? Check. Grizzled army vet drinking coffee and perusing the pony bets? Check. Silver haired bartendress who can stroke a baby with one hand and cut you with the other? Check. You don't like it? Get the fug out.
"Oil = Food = Sex = Money = Fun"
Commonwealth, 497 5th Ave
, there's a time to stroke your beard, a time to compare tattoo sleeves. A time to slurp local suds for six dollars a pop, a time to test inebriated eyesight at the optician's eye chart. A time to play DJ on the well stocked jukebox, a time to check the hour, date and temperature on the Ho Chi Minh themed electronic calendar. A time to peruse the latest issues of The Week
(sadly, not The L
) and, of course, a time to profoundly tackle the international socio-political landscape.
"Everything will be O.K! / Fuck Y'all"
Buttermilk, 577 5th Ave
Just a few blocks away, happy hour at Buttermilk
means most of the beers on tap at Commonwealth for half the price. The penance for cheap, delicious brew is bad music. The after work soundtrack consists largely of "mash-ups" punishable by death in certain third world countries. Girl Talk's "Whiter Shade of Pale"
-Lil Jon-Blackstreet-The Band piece, Beastie Boys versus the Police, some garbage over Cat Stevens; the mix and mash of performers involved in just about every track seem as incompatible as the melting pot of people who inhabit this area of the South Slope. Residents across the Slope can take comfort in these words of reassurance carved above Buttermilk's unisex toilet. Sure the oxford stroller set
can be obnoxious, the tragically hip pretentious and the drunken mulletheaded women outside of Ginger's
scary. Yet everything will be aces if we keep ourselves properly lubricated with booze. If not, well... what this guy said.