Ditmas Park may not seem like a place to get excited about. You may not even know where to find it on a map. But we assure you that the small neighborhood in Flatbush is an ideal place to spend a day in Brooklyn. Step off the Q train at Beverly Road and you’ll wonder if you’re in South Brooklyn or the Virginia suburbs. Instead of the usual brownstones, Ditmas Park is made up of historic Victorian homes with perfectly manicured lawns and towering elm trees. Most of the homes were built at the beginning of the 20th century, many by prominent architects like John Petit and Benjamin Driesler. For a long time, the neighborhood lacked desirable restaurants and retail variety, but an influx of young creative types is changing that. Cortelyou Road, which many consider the heart of Ditmas Park, now offers several highly reviewed restaurants, bars, and coffee shops.
Start your day off at the eastern end of Courtelyou with an early lunch (or brunch, if you get there before 11 a.m.) at The Farm on Adderley. The restaurant opened in 2006 and quickly became a destination. With the exception of some grains from South Carolina, coffee from Massachusetts, and soy and dairy from Vermont, the menu is created from locally-sourced products from eastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York. If it’s not too hot out, ask for a table in the garden, where you’ll feel like you’re sitting on a private porch deck instead of outside a restaurant. The portobello sandwich served on a baguette with mozzarella, arugula, red onions, and a tangy sundried tomato pesto is divine. The large cut fries with curry mayo are dangerously good, so if you’re looking for a healthier, but equally delicious, side, opt for the sauteed sugar snap peas with guanciale (fancy bacon) & spring onion.
Hop across the road for some shopping at Market, which — surprise! — is a market, a tiny, upscale one at that. But don’t be intimidate by the small space. The managers are super friendly. “If you have any questions, just ask,” said one of the women behind the counter a seconds minutes after we walked in. “We’re just gossiping about that show ‘Hoarders.’ Have you seen it? It’s crazy!” The store offers treats made by a multitude of local purveyors: chocolate bars from Mast Brothers, pickles from both Brooklyn Brine and McClure’s, and salsa from the Brooklyn Salsa Company, just to name a few.
Spend a couple hours of your afternoon strolling through the neighborhood, a landmarked historic district, admiring the Victorian homes and the architectural diversity. You’ll find Colonial Revivals, Tudors, Federal-style, Japanese, and even Swiss Chalet-styles, most with wide and inviting porches.
We had to resist the urge to climb onto several porch swings and hammocks. If you walk south from Cortelyou, you’ll come across Newkirk Avenue, where you can visit author and artist Kris Waldherr in her studio and gallery, which she opens to the public every Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. But if you walk north from Cortelyou, you’ll find the prettier houses of the neighborhood. With quiet streets that have Anglophile names like Westminster, Stratford, and Marlborough, it’s easy to feel transported to the colonial south.
When hunger strikes, head back to Cortelyou. For a rustic, homespun meal, stop by The Castello Plan, a tapas and wine bar by the same owners as Market (which is right next door). They serve up elegant small plates like sunflower potatoes with chives and dill and duck confit with granny smith apples. If you’re in the mood for Asian cuisine, chef and owner Romy Dorotan of Purple Yam makes delicious Filipino-inspired dishes. The New York Times restaurant critic raved about the sisig, a meat salad of chopped pig cheeks, ears, and snout served in a chili lime dressing, and the Village Voice praised the tender chicken adobo stew.
Sycamore — flower shop by day, bar by night — is the place to go for after dinner drinks (or all night long drinks, if you prefer). Owned by the same folks as The Farm on Adderley, Sycamore has a warm ambiance and a large back garden with a bar where they feature a different brewery on tap each week. They boast an impressive bourbon menu and they feature a whiskey of the day, always a good conversation starter. If that doesn’t work, woo your date with the $10 beer and bouquet deal. Who could resist that? Plus, every Saturday at 9 p.m., a different band takes to the stage in Sycamore’s basement.
(Sycamore image by Flatbushnelson via Flickr)
This post updated Spring 2012