Starting to Like Ditmas Park Now That I’ve Decided to Move Out

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I have mixed feelings about my neighborhood. I moved here several months ago now, in the very different era that was late fall of 2019. To be honest, I didn’t really want to move here; it just kind of happened. I live right on the border between Ditmas Park and Flatbush, and it’s generally not a super interesting place to be—lots of pretty Victorian houses and young families, relatively little nightlife. But I’ve found places I like here and there, and spend a lot of time in the few spots I’ve developed an affinity for. I think some of them have developed an affinity for me too (meaning the bartenders recognize me but let’s be honest they probably have no opinion towards me whatsoever).

Really, gorgeous houses.

Most of my favorite places are concentrated on one small stretch of Cortelyou Road, a few more at Newkirk Plaza and up Foster Ave. Particularly in the midst of the pandemic, the Cortelyou Road restaurants have a very summery, almost European feel. That’s kind of the current vibe of New York dining in general, but in Ditmas Park there’s a French countryside bend. In my neighborhood, I’ve seen a warmer, more human side to the clash of this very sterile, almost post-apocalyptic version of the world with the feeling of summer in New York; things like graffiti thanking essential workers, and a mask on the cow statue in a front yard down the street. Now that things have opened back up, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for where I live. I still can’t wait to move out, but here are some of my favorite Ditmas Park spots.

Ditmas Park pandemic

Milk and Honey: Slightly earthy-crunchy neighborhood cafe with great coffee and even greater food. I’m partial to their creme brulee French toast…also their flatbreads, and breakfast tacos. The space itself is very calming and crisp, and they have free wifi, so it’s a good place to bring your laptop and do whatever you do. I went on their website to look over the menu because I always get the same four or five items, and they bizarrely chose to include a review that called their food “good but not mindblowing”…and I kinda disagree. Maybe I just have an underdeveloped palate, but I think their food is pretty amazing.

Milk and Honey Cafe pizza

The Juicy Box: Best juice bar ever. Super light, tasty smoothies, some of which have vegetables in them but do not taste like vegetables. All good things, abolutely love this place. I sit at Newkirk Plaza almost every day and people watch with an antioxidant-rich berry smoothie and mango slices from the fruit market nearby.

Coffee Z: This small, minimalistic coffee shop has a wonderful selection of pastries and various other breakfast / brunch-y type food. CBD drinks as of late, and really dank make-your-own crepes (make-your-own meaning you pick what goes inside, not that you actually make them).

The Rusty Nail: Somewhere between a dive and the kind of place you’d take your parents. This was one of the first bars to open in the area that has a distinctly young feel to it. It’s hip but not too hip. Service is great. The bartenders all seem like genuinely nice people. They’re currently / as of recently partnered with Stuf’d sandwiches, with a slightly unique set-up as far as bar food goes. There’s a little booth in the back of the bar, right by a second entrance, so you order food entirely separately from drinks and can totally come just for the food and carry out. They’re also currently a liquor store as well as a bar. Plus boozy popsicles.

It’s Always Sunny the Rusty Nail Brooklyn
Very funny. Someone here is an It’s Always Sunny fan.

Westwood: Fairly new gastropub on Foster Ave, which I’ve only started going to in the past month or so but have been very impressed with thus far. They do kind of Americanized Mexican food especially well…nachos, tacos, etc. Brunch is also really solid, and there’s a large selection of cocktails, and frosé. Places that serve frosé are approximately 150% more likely to annoy me than the average bar, but this place is decidedly chill and unannoying. Great atmosphere, even given the current sidewalk-seating-only situation. Feels like you’re at a catered garage party with a bunch of cool but not intimidating people.

The Farm on Adderly: Farm-to-table at its best. I tend to go for brunch here but they do pretty much everything well. This is a neighborhood favorite. Basically everyone recommends it, and it deserves its reputation. I did not actually know what “farm-to-table” meant before going to this place––mostly American classics, but a little dressed up. Like their burgers have eggs on them and fries are served with curry mayo. My one complaint is that the bread on the cheese plate has raisins in it. WTF. Everything else, 10/10.

Cheese plate, some delicious creamy Italian dessert, and my weekly read. 👌🏻

Sycamore Bar & Flower Shop: My go-to writing spot in the neighborhood. Sycamore is, as the name suggests, both a flower shop and a bar. They also have a full menu, which I always felt was very similar to The Farm on Adderly…because it is The Farm on Adderly. They’re basically neighbors and FOA makes the food. The Sycamore is a nice, quiet spot to work during the day, and it picks up at night. Their back patio has a gorgeous, mossy drippy southern gothic summer vibe and lots of shade. There’s also a smoking section back there…for those who dislike the smell of cigarettes, it’s not even noticable. But I work best with a combination of nicotine and caffeine, so it’s nice I can go there and vape like a sixteen-year-old douchebag, hang out with a cup of coffee and do my thing without interruptions. The service is amazing, like one of my favorite bars just because the people who work there are so cool. They’re also great at whipping up a good mocktail on the spot, and sometimes give me free soda, which means I can often spend hours there without spending money. Happy hour is awesome…if memory serves there’s some kind of drink deal that comes with flowers.

Lea: Italian restaurant and market on the sweet-spot stretch on Cortelyou, which I honestly feel has gotten even better since the pandemic. Absolutely flat-out incredible. I like every single item on their menu, and have tried several (I guess I don’t know I like every single thing they serve, but there’s nothing particularly adventurous on the menu and almost everything involves cheese or something creamy). It’s a lot of classic Italian comfort food, and their pizza and strombolis are particularly comfy. The restaurant itself is casual but slightly trendy; it’s got a really nice energy, especially in the summer when the front patio is open. Not sure why I’m even bringing this up…I love this place, but I always feel the need to bring negative shit up for no reason––apparently like two years ago they were temporarily shut down because health inspectors found evidence of mice and “filth flies” (whatever those are). But since then they’ve gotten wonderful sanitation grades and the place actually feels particularly clean. Maybe it’s just the aesthetic, but I would never in a million years have guessed there were flies and mice in the kitchen.