Neighborhood Guide To Carroll Gardens

Yahoo Food’s Editor-in-Chief Kerry Diamond is the quintessential multi-tasker, and one of the few people whose byline you can barely fit into a tweet. Founder of Cherry Bombe (the biannual magazine – the latest issue just came out last week – that celebrates women in food), Diamond also divides her time between the restaurants she owns – Wilma Jean, Nightingale 9 and Smith Canteen.

Though she makes us feel slightly unproductive, she’s also one of our favorite people (a preference we’ve quickly learned is very, very common amongst – well – everybody). It’s why we plugged her for a day in the life in her neighborhood – Carroll Gardens, and if you’re not somewhat of a Brooklyn convert after reading it, we don’t know what to tell you…

Kerry Diamond’s Guide To Carroll Gardens

Maybe it’s because of Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers, but I think everyone wants to live in a neighborhood that feels like a neighborhood, even here in New York. I feel fortunate every day because I found that when I moved to Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn.

Living in Brooklyn never crossed my mind, but one Saturday my friend Laura Brown and I went to a birthday party for Kristina O’Neill [editor of WSJ Magazine] when we all worked at Harper’s Bazaar. The get-together was at a small bar in Carroll Gardens and I fell in love with the area immediately. It was charming and the people seemed friendly, but it still felt like part of the city. That was ten years ago and I’ve lived here happily ever since. So thank you, Kristina.

Carroll Gardens is easily one of the nicest neighborhoods in New York, which I feel qualified to say. I’m a native New Yorker, I moved around a lot as a child and young adult, and I’ve lived in three different boroughs. If I didn’t have to go to Manhattan for work (the Cherry Bombe office is in Tribeca and the Yahoo office is in Times Square, right near the mangy Elmos and the painted ladies), I would rarely leave. Everything I need is pretty much in my backyard.

Here is a list of my favorite places in Carroll Gardens and the nearby hoods—Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Gowanus.

Coffee

I co-own a coffee shop in Carroll Gardens, Smith Canteen, so obviously I go there for my morning coffee. Right now, I’m hooked on our cold brew on tap, with a splash of almond milk. We also have yummy sandwiches and salads and sometimes I’ll snag one to bring to work. I do wait on line with everybody else to get my coffee, but I go behind the counter and help myself to a tomato/mozzarella/basil on a baguette or a pain au chocolat.

Lunch

I also co-own a Vietnamese place, Nightingale 9, so I’ll stop by for pho or a banh mi. I’m pretty obsessed with Vietnamese cuisine and could eat it for every meal. The other place I co-own is Wilma Jean, a casual Southern spot. The cheeseburgers are great and so is the fried chicken burrito.

Drinks

I’m not a big cocktail person, but I love the drinks at Nightingale 9. There’s also a new place in the neighborhood called June that has an interesting wine list. It’s a lovely space physically, like a Viennese rail car, so it’s worth going by just to admire the interior design.

Dinner

Nightingale 9 is my go-to. In the summer, the watermelon-and-tomato salad and the fried squid make a nice light dinner. In the winter, I get the fried broccoli and the torn rice sheets with pork shoulder or maybe some pho. Zahra Tangorra’s Brucie is a fun spot for inventive Italian. I love the dishes for two, like the big chicken parmesan or zucchini parmesan. If you’re lucky, Zahra will be there, wearing something chic.

Ice Cream and Pie

Ample Hills is a five-minute walk from my restaurants and they have truly killer ice cream. Don’t be scared if the line is out the door; it moves fast and the vibe inside is fun. Order the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake flavor and thank me later. Four & Twenty Blackbirds, also in Gowanus, is worth the walk. It’s the best pie in the city, perhaps in the country. I never liked fruit-based pies before I had theirs. If their sour cherry pie doesn’t make you weep, you have no soul.

Grocery Shopping

I’m a regular at the Carroll Gardens Greenmarket on Sundays. Unless I’m out of town, I’m there each week to stock up on eggs, veggies, herbs, fruit, and honey. I like to eat seasonally and the market makes it easy to do that. They also collect food scraps for compost, so I save everything in my freezer and walk it over. The compost pick up is done at noon, so don’t dawdle.

When it comes to grocery shopping, you can live like an old school Parisian here, meaning you can go one place for bread, another place for cheese, another place for fish, etc. It’s time consuming, but I don’t have kids and food is my thing, so I enjoy it. If I did have kids and/or a car, I’d go to the Whole Foods in Gowanus. It’s astounding as far as supermarkets go. But when I’m doing the Paris thing, it’s Bien Cuit for bread, Stinky Brooklyn for cheese, Smith & Vine for wine, Caputo’s for pasta, prosciutto, and other Italian specialties.

Exercise

My main form of exercise—and my favorite pastime—is walking and Carroll Gardens is a great neighborhood for that. You can walk up Smith Street and across the Brooklyn Bridge in less time than you would imagine. If you haven’t crossed the bridge, do it. It’s breathtaking and every New Yorker should be able to say they crossed the East River by foot. And it’s free!

As for non-walking activity, there is a great Pilates studio in Carroll Gardens called Ellie Herman. My favorite instructor there is a woman named Jeanie Clay and time flies with her. Right across the street is CKO Kickboxing, which I also love. It’s high energy, with Jay Z and Nine Inch Nails blaring thru the stereo, and really fun teachers who will totally kick your butt. Some of them make you run laps outside while holding a medicine ball. Spoiler alert: If you’re not in shape, you will be in pain two days later.

Books

Luckily, the neighborhood has a great bookstore, BookCourt. A bustling bookstore is always my benchmark for a civilized neighborhood. If we didn’t have a bookstore, I’d have to open one and God knows I don’t need another project. If you live around here, you should sign up for BookCourt’s email. You never know who will be doing a reading there. I’ve seen everyone from Vogue editor and author Taylor Antrim to Alice Waters.

Fashion and Beauty

My friend Jessica Richards has a great beauty boutique called Shen, so when I’m out of mascara or moisturizer, I run in and get something from Bobbi Brown or one of the great indie brands she’s discovered. Then for clothing, there’s the Bird boutique around the corner, run by another friend, Jen Mankins, who’s the queen of Brooklyn fashion. She carries labels such as Zero + Maria Cornejo, Rachel Comey, Alasdair, and Isabel Marant. The selection is so good it borders on dangerous (financially).

Miscellaneous

Just as every nice neighborhood needs a bookstore, it also needs a great hardware store. We’re fortunate to have Mazzone’s, which has everything from Christmas trees to mason jars to fire alarms. When I need to buy a thoughtful gift for someone, I stop by Swallow, which is one of the loveliest shops in New York City. It’s a beautifully curated collection of curiosities, from seashells to letterpress cards to ceramics and wind chimes. Lastly, we have a small but nice public park, Carroll Park. Smith Canteen sells a Carroll Park cookie and donates the proceeds to the Friends of Carroll Park, who help with the maintenance. It’s a great park for the parents in the neighborhood as there are swings and slides and all sorts of amusements for the little ones. In the summer, there’s Shakespeare in the Park, and then before Halloween, there’s a children’s costume parade, which as you can imagine is the cutest thing ever. So grab a coffee and a cookie and come hang out. You’ll be glad you did.

*Photo of Kerry Diamond by Danielle Kosann. Feel like you want to move to Brooklyn? Watch this video. Also check out Leandra Medine’s guide to the Bowery