Most people don’t come to Brooklyn to be alone. The borough, like the city it’s part of, is teeming with millions of people; the majority of us live in buildings with apartments stacked one on top of the other like so many chicken coops, and it’s so expensive to live here that it’s pretty rare to get alone time even in our own homes. But it’s precisely this type of semi-enforced communal living that gives New York its specific, addictive energy, one which people who live here grow to rely on, even to love. And yet. Despite how inspiring the city’s vitality can be, sometimes we crave solitude, an escape from the relentless pace that is life here. Like Greta Garbo before us, sometimes we just want to be alone. And even if that solitude is a mirage of sorts—after all, even when you’re alone in Brooklyn, you’re probably still surrounded by people—it’s still something we crave. Here are our favorite places to dine alone, drink alone, and just be alone in Brooklyn.
The 8 Best Places to Dine Alone in Brooklyn
What makes a restaurant a good place to dine alone? Well, ideally it should have a bar to sit at, one where you can still order a full meal. It helps if the lighting is decent, so you can read a book or a magazine—though never your phone, if you can avoid it. And because going solo is a great way to get a spot at otherwise hard-to-get-into restaurants, dining alone is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a meal at a place that ordinarily has an hour-plus wait. (Ahem, Chuko.)
A welcome addition to the previously limited and now booming Windsor Terrace dining scene, Krupa Grocery is an ideal place to enjoy any meal alone, but especially breakfast. There are so few options to have a sit-down breakfast (and, no, I don’t just mean a muffin) in the middle of the week that aren’t diners, but Krupa more than makes up for the fact that the borough’s mid-week morning meal options are so sorely lacking. Sidle up to the bar and order a plate of breakfast gnocchi and a Japanese iced coffee, which is served on tap. Bring a crossword puzzle. Strongly consider only eating alone—and only eating breakfast—for every meal for the rest of your life.
231 Prospect Park West, Windsor Terrace
Part of what you want while dining alone is reliability; you’re not going to be ordering a ton of different dishes, so you want to know that what you’re getting is going to be perfect. And perhaps there is no place more reliably perfect in Brooklyn than Frankie’s. Try the platonic ideal of a Caesar salad and what might be our favorite pasta dish in history: Frankie’s house-made cavatelli with Faicco’s hot sausage and sage-brown butter sauce. This is the kind of food you don’t want to share, and guess what? You don’t have to, because you are alone.
457 Court Street, Carroll Gardens
This beautiful Greenpoint spot (no, seriously, it’s one of the most beautiful restaurants in Brooklyn) has a lot of benefits when it comes to dining alone: It’s well-lighted for your reading needs, the food is delicious (try the pimento cheese fries and Littleneck clams) and comes in small enough portions that you can eat a couple of things without feeling like you’re overeating, the cocktails are inventive and delicious, and it has great bartenders, notably former hard-core guitarist Mike Stankovich, who is the consummate conversationalist and drink maker that was just profiled in the New York Times .
195 Franklin Street, Greenpoint
Pok Pok NY
So, we don’t know about you, but we feel most alone when we are in the middle of chaos. And is there any scene more chaotic than Pok Pok’s at dinnertime? (Yes, probably, but that’s not the point right now.) Regardless of the surrounding hubbub, Pok Pok’s generously sized bar means that even when tables aren’t available, there’s usually a solo seat at the bar, where you can inhale some ultra-spicy Thai curry soup, and scoop up some papaya salad guaranteed to make your nose run. No big deal, though! Nobody is with you to notice. Let it flow.
117 Columbia Street, Columbia Street Waterfront District
Is there another Brooklyn spot that more consistently has as long a wait as Chuko? We can’t think of one. But that’s OK, because part of the benefit of eating alone is that you might be able to cut your wait-time down to nothing, and grab a solo stool by the window, where you can sanctimoniously slurp up your miso ramen while checking out the crowds of people waiting on the sidewalk in front of you. Sometimes one isn’t the loneliest number—sometimes that number is six, as in parties of.
552 Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights
We love this out-of-the-way Greenpoint spot for its vegetable-heavy take on Mediterranean cuisine, not least because it’s possible to have a vegetarian feast comprising a few small plates (try the cauliflower, fava-and-chickpea stew, and the flatbread) without breaking the bank. Plus, this is the kind of stuff that’s made to take home as leftovers, guaranteeing a week of good office-lunches-from-home.
95 Commercial Street, Greenpoint
We love eating at the bar at The Pines even when we’re with someone else, but it’s particularly lovely when we’re alone, because—depending on your seat—you get a prime view of the magic happening in the kitchen. A companion of ours once noted that he’s never seen a more smoothly run kitchen than that of John Poiarkoff, and we have to agree; Poiarkoff and his sous-chefs move about with balletic precision and grace, all in the service of turning out some of the finest and most inventive cuisine in Brooklyn. Plus, the bartenders at The Pines are uniformly friendly and smart, and lovely to talk to while you sip on a cocktail (try the Chilean Monk, like an updated Pisco Sour) and eat some of the excellent food (we love the squid and shishito pepper dish, as well as anything involving lamb and pasta).
284 3rd Avenue, Gowanus
There are the places you go alone because you want to try them once for the experience, without definite plans of going back again. Fort Defiance is not that type of place. Rather, this is the kind of spot where you want to be a regular; the kind of spot you never feel lonely in, even when you’re flying solo. The staff are all friendly and talkative, but will leave you to your own thoughts if that’s what you want. And the food is the kind of perfectly calibrated yet simple fare which—when done right—is what you could go on eating forever. And here, it’s done right: So go by yourself to Red Hook one day, get the grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, and revel in the simple joy of eating—and being—alone.
365 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook
The 5 Best Places to Drink Alone
Look, we have nothing against the idea of drinking alone at home. We don’t think it necessarily indicates a problem—we really don’t! And yet, can we recommend that the next time you think about knocking back a drink or two while you’re alone at home, you instead decide to head out to one of these great bars? They range from super-affordable to borderline treat-yourself-ish, but they all have in common a convivial atmosphere, wherein you’re just as likely to strike up a conversation with a fellow patron as you are with the bartenders. And, of course, you always have the option of just hanging out, sipping bourbon while reading a book. That’s a fully legitimate way to while away a few hours. We know this from years of personal experience.
Whenever we’re in a special treat-our-selves mood (because, gosh darn it, we deserve good things!) and think, “Damn, we’re wonderful, we deserve a nice cocktail and some oysters,” this is our spot. It’s a place we go when we’re alone, not in hopes of striking up a conversation with a bartender or other patrons, but to enjoy a good drink, the adorable backyard (with individual seats, not benches that would make us feel like an asshole to sit on by ourselves), and the pleasure of our own company—which, duh, is all we really need. Plus those oysters, naturally.
1037 Flushing Avenue, Bushwick
Black Mountain Wine House
Among the many lovely things that this wine bar offers is a charming little outdoor seating area, where patrons can enjoy being outside now that it’s finally spring again! (In the winter, the bar’s fireplace is an excellent place to sit by yourself, basking in a warmth that has nothing to do with body heat.) There are over 30 types of wine available by the glass, which is particularly nice if you’re alone—plenty of options, with no pressure to buy a whole bottle.
415 Union Street, Carroll Gardens
Montero’s Bar and Grill
This long-time Atlantic Avenue dive bar is ideal for ducking in alone, if for no other reason than it’s not one of those grungy, dirty dives full of crusty regulars that make you feel like you don’t belong, and that you never, ever will. (Which, well, there’s a definite appeal to those places too, but maybe more so when you’re with a crowd.) Anyway, Montero’s is family-owned and -run, and so you’ll always feel welcome. Plus, if you’re there at the right time, you’ll have the opportunity to do karaoke solo, which, if you ask us, is the best way to do karaoke. No, really! You’ll be fearless this way. You’ll sing the songs you’d never sing in front of friends. May we suggest “I Started a Joke” by the Bee Gees? You can thank us later.
73 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn Heights
Post No Bills
This just might be the best place to stop for a low-key, after-work drink in all Brooklyn. Not only are the bartenders super friendly, but since it isn’t that busy early in the evenings, they’re always seemingly interested in chatting, which is great when you’re itching to get some blabbing about work off your chest. (Whether or not they actually care about how our day was, we can’t say for sure, but, either way, we appreciate them asking.) The drinks are also super-cheap, so leave that friendly bartender a fat tip for listening to you bitch about your boss.
253 Bushwick Avenue, Williamsburg
Spirits not that high? Need a nice dose of good vibes? Cain’s Tavern is a little ball of happiness. Not like the unobtainable bullshit brand of happiness they sell at Disney World or on infomercials or whatever, but real live neighborhood niceness. Not only is Cain’s cozy, with nice bartenders and one of the best jukeboxes ever, but every time we see the “Leave a Friend a Drink” board, we just smile. Go there alone and leave a friend a drink and have a drink yourself and feel good about the world for once in your damned life.
36 Wilson Avenue, Bushwick
4 Great Places to be Alone in Brooklyn
When you live in the type of place where even your own home is usually occupied with at least one other person (seriously, though, is there any other city where it’s common for people in their 30s to have roommates that are not their romantic partners?), “being alone” is usually a state of mind more than it is a state of being. However, there are a few places in Brooklyn where you can actually find some sort of solitude and peace. Oh, sure, you might run across a few other people at these places, but, for the most part, you’ll be alone in the best possible way, and thus be able to do all the things and think all the thoughts that you can’t when you’re surrounded by people. So go to these places and contemplate your own mortality, or other equally important things, like why your roommates refuse to ever wash their dishes.
Dead Horse Bay
Our sister publication Brooklyn Magazine once called this spot “Brooklyn’s best secret beach,” and we stand by that assessment. First, as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area way out in southeastern Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay is kind of a pain in the ass to reach, so you know it’s not going to be crowded. Like, it’s located next to a place that is named “Barren Island.” Barren. Island. No lie. Second, seeing as how Dead Horse Bay is literally named for how badly it used to smell (like a dead horse! because of the formerly nearby horse-rendering plants) and how it used to function as a makeshift landfill, it still doesn’t draw your average beach-goer. But that’s their loss. You should definitely head out there by yourself, and take in the watery landscape, as well as the long stretch of beach littered with decades of detritus, most notably the remains of thousands upon thousands of old glass bottles, including beautiful, colorful old apothecary bottles that will look just great perched on a shelf in your home. And the best part is, you are almost guaranteed to be alone during your wanderings. Except for maybe a ghost horse or two.
Dead Horse Bay, Gateway National Recreation Area
There’s a part in Paul Beatty’s excellent new novel The Sellout in which the main character thinks about how “lots of people claim to get their best ideas in water. The shower. Floating in the pool. Waiting for a wave. Something about the negative ions, white noise, and being in isolation.” And while that’s undoubtedly true, we also think that people can get great ideas just by looking at water, and there’s few places in Brooklyn that are more lovely to do just that than Valentino Pier in Red Hook. Just make sure to do two things while you’re there: Catch the sunset, which is particularly gorgeous, and avoid getting too close to the post-IKEA crowds, which will surely ruin any benefits being on Valentino Pier has granted you.
Valentino Pier can be found at Coffey and Ferris streets, Red Hook
Wait, wait, we’re serious! We know you’re thinking, “Prospect Park? That place gets jammed.” And this is true. It does. And then it becomes terrible in that Central-Park-on-the-weekend kind of way, which is terrible indeed. But if you’re not in Prospect Park during peak visiting hours (or even if you are, just avoid the Grand Army Plaza area and the Loop), it is a veritable treasure trove of places to get lost. Head to the Ravine and feel like you’re in the middle of some undiscovered forest. Or go to the lovely, rambling Vale of Cashmere and think to yourself, “Why is it called the Vale of Cashmere? What does that even mean?” And then remember that you read right here that the name is a reference to the 1817 Thomas Moore poem “Lalla Roohk, an Oriental Romance” and think of how lovely it is to be alone, and wandering through a poem brought to verdant life.
For a map of Prospect Park, visit prospectpark.org
Narrows Botanical Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is gorgeous and sprawling and a perfectly fine place to lose yourself for a few hours, but it’s also the obvious place to suggest and we’d hate to be obvious, wouldn’t we? All of which is to say, go be alone by heading to Bay Ridge for your public garden fix, because the Narrows Botanical Garden is a hidden gem full of butterflies, turtles, and vibrant, glorious flowers. It’s staffed completely by volunteers, and the care they put into the spot is evident and appreciated. Make sure to stop and sit for a spell by the zen garden. It’s the perfect place to contemplate why you should maybe move to Bay Ridge, which has this garden and far more affordable rent than where you live. Oh, is that just us? OK, then.
7200-7398 Shore Road, Bay Ridge