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Exclusive | New York City: Neighborhoods Part Seven

Exclusive | New York City: Neighborhoods Part Seven

Brooklyn continued...

Elsewhere in Brooklyn, a restaurant row has recently sprung up in Carroll Gardens on Smith Street to rival anything Manhattan has to offer. Establishments there include Restaurant Saul (140 Smith St; 718/935-9844; $26-28), featuring "new American" cuisine by the former chef of world-famous Le Bernadin and the Grocery (288 Smith St; 718/596-3335; $20-25), which puts a seasonal twist on the menu.

Other sections of Brooklyn may not have quite the trendsetter's aura of Williamsburg or Smith Street, but one in particular is of interest: Park Slope (take the 2,3, or F train to Seventh Avenue). This has long been New York's premier center of dykedom, where on a weekend there are so many lesbian couples pushing strollers that Heather Has Two Mommies is no doubt required reading at the local preschool. Lesbian Central, formerly most popular with the Birkenstock-shod, is now attracting hipster girls in their droves.

Gay men are beginning to follow suit by moving into the area. Seventh Avenue is the neighborhood's main thoroughfare, with bookstores, cafes and several excellent ethnic restaurants.

Shades of Lavender (470 Bergen St; 718/622-2910) is a free space for women that provides all types of activities from screening of the latest lesbian and gay films to free tickets to some off-Broadway shows.

Some gay-friendly restaurants to consider: Second Street Caf? (189 Seventh Ave; 718/369-6928; $10-19), specializing in American bistro fare; Aunt Suzie's (247 Fifth Ave; 718/788-2868; $11-16) for Italian Cuisine.

Baked (359 Van Brunt Street; 718/222-0345) is a gay-owned dessert caf?, with sumptuous brownies. Lesbian-owned coffeehouse and roasters Gorilla Coffee (97 Fifth Avenue; 718/230-3243) offers strong and stylish sips on the corner of Park Place.

Gingers (363 Fifth Ave; 718/788-0924) is the doyenne of Slope lesbian/gay bars, attracting a neighborhood crowd.

For drinking and dancing, Cattyshack (249 Fourth Avenue; 718/230-5740) is the latest endeavor from the creator of the much missed Meow Mix women's bar. A two-story women's club, Cattyshack has a slew of hot nights, laidback days and a great outdoor patio with barbeque.

Excelsior (390 Fifth Avenue at Sixth Street; 718/832-1599) is a mixed (gay/lesbian) cocktail bar. It boasts a jukebox with character and a pleasant outdoor garden. Weekend afternoons, movies are shown.

The Lesbian Herstory Archives (484 14th Street and P.O. Box 1258, Brooklyn, NY 10116; 718/768-3953) is located in the Slope, and preserves lesbian cultural and social history through a variety of records. Call to make an appointment for your visit.

"The Slope" borders Prospect Park, also designed by Olmsted-Vaux. During summer months, the New York Philharmonic performs outdoor concerts here, and the park is also home to the excellent Brooklyn Museum of Art (200 Eastern Pkwy; 718/638-5000; $8), housing a treasure trove of American art and a world-famous Egyptian collection, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (1000 Washington Avenue; 718/623-7200).

Nearby, BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music; 30 Lafayette Avenue; 718/636-4100) is a 125-year old cultural institution, most famous for its spring festival of dance, opera and drama.

Outside of Park Slope, Starlight (1086 Bergen St; 718/773-5921) is a friendly, neighborhood bar in the Crown Heights/Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn that attracts a very mixed (by gender and race) gay crowd.

For a dance-devoted scene, one has to travel beyond the Slope to Bay Ridge, where Spectrum (802 64th St, at Eighth Ave; 718/238-8213) continues its long reign as Brooklyn's gay disco of choice. Its dance floor is the very same one that John Travolta strutted on in "Saturday Night Fever," and a decade later a lot of young gay Manhattanites trekked out there to do the same.

Today the flow of the gay male club set remains firmly in Manhattan's direction, but with the changes underway there, tomorrow is anyone's guess; Brooklyn clubs like Spectrum may yet fill in the gap. It's a long way from Manhattan, but in the long run, that may prove to be its saving grace. Open Thursday to Saturday.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six

Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Related Articles:
New York City: Introduction
New York City: Where to Stay
New York City: Where to Eat
New York City: Where to Play/Meet
New York City: What to See and Do
New York City: Where to Shop
New York City: Resources

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Joe Okonkwo