Road trip at home! Spend a day along Flatbush Avenue

Markowitz leaves Borough Hall with business unfinished
Brooklyn Borough President/Kathryn Kirk

The only thing flat about Flatbush Avenue is its geography.

Beginning at the Manhattan Bridge and running 11 long miles to Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn’s most determined diagonal offers an ever-changing cross-section of Kings County. Downtown, thousands of new apartments scrape the sky in new glass towers, Fulton Mall is in the midst of a suburban-mall-like overhaul, and where the avenue collides with Atlantic, the Barclays Center and Atlantic Terminal have carved out a shopping and entertainment destination. Further towards Jamaica Bay, new small businesses are opening that are as diverse as the borough’s residents and Brooklyn’s biggest parks have a constantly expanding menu of activities on offer.

Take a core sample of Brooklyn by planning a Flatbush Avenue crawl with the help of our trusty guide.

Wet and wild: Marine Park

Get to know Brooklyn’s largest park with a four-wheel bike from Wheel Fun Rentals, or explore its salt marsh wilds afloat in a paddleboat, kayak, or paddle board.

“Our goal is to help people understand and become familiar with the [wetland] preserve,” says Wheel Fun president Al Stonehouse, “A lot of people don’t know that the park has this whole area to it.”

Mariners: From left, Michael Dinnall, Steven Boley, and Al Stonehouse paddle around the Marine Park Salt Marsh Nature Center.
Photo by Hannah Palmer Egan

[Marine Park, enter at Avenue U and
E. 33rd Street, (917) 533–6196, www.wheelfunrentals.com].

Suburban oasis: Kings Plaza

Forget for a moment that you are in the borough that would be America’s fourth-largest city and transport yourself to a suburban shopping mall, where you can browse the racks at such big-ticket retailers as Victoria’s Secret, H&M, and Macy’s.

[5100 Kings Plaza in Marine Park, (718) 253–6842, www.kingsplazaonline.com].

Snack on the go: Joeper’s Smoke Shack or Doo Wop Griddle

Stop by Joeper’s Smoke Shack for take-out smoked brisket or pulled pork sandwiches, Memphis-style ribs, wings, and all the trimmings. The barbecue joint is the brainchild of Joe Pandolfo, who quit his job as a boiler mechanic to master the pit and opened the business of his dreams in 2010.

[2085 Flatbush Ave. at Troy Avenue in Flatlands, (718) 677–4225]. Tuesday–Saturday, noon–8 pm, Sunday noon–7 pm, closed Mondays.

Board stiff: Hank Kwon sells comics, and more recently, skateboards at Bullettproof Comics and Games near Brooklyn College.
Photo by Hannah Palmer Egan

If you are looking for a marginally lighter lunch, hit up Doo Wop Griddle, a new chicken and waffles counter near Brooklyn College.

[3105 Avenue H between Flatbush Avenue and E. 32nd Street in East Flasbush, (718) 421–9650]. Open Monday–Friday, 7 am–7 pm, Saturday 8 am–4 pm, closed Sunday.

Boro of Nerds: Bulletproof Comics and Games

Indulge the nerd in your life at Bulletproof Comics and Games, which recently renovated its movie room into a skateboard shop after nearly two decades in business.

“That’s what we do,” says owner Hank Kwon. “We evolve.”

[2178 Nostrand Ave. near Avenue H in Flatbush (718) 434–1800, www.bulletproofcomix.com]. Monday–Thursday and Saturday, 11 am–8 pm. Friday, 11 am–10 pm. Sunday, 11 am–6 pm.

Share the health: Roselene Casseus makes Haitian food healthy at Zelia Cafe in Flatbush.
Photo by Hannah Palmer Egan

Pick-me-up: Zelia Cafe

For an afternoon coffee and a bite, swing by Zelia Cafe, where owner Roselene Casseus is serving healthy takes on the classic Haitian cuisine of her heritage.

“I thought, how do you take Haitian food, which is the carbs, the grease, the fat, and try to make it healthy,” she says.

The result: hearty, healthy soups, salads, and sandwiches with plenty of hot Caribbean flavor.

[1350 Flatbush Ave. at E. 26th Street in Flatbush (718) 483–9259]. Monday–Saturday 8 am–8 pm, closed Sundays.

Coming soon: Loews Kings Theatre

Built in 1929 and abandoned since 1978, the Loews Kings Theatre is on track to reopening in all its picture palace glory in November.

Herbal life: Liliana Bonafini and William Francis among the flora at Blessings Herbs and Coffee in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.
Photo by Hannah Palmer Egan

(1027 Flatbush Ave. between Duryea Place and Tilden Avenue in Flatbush).

Wardrobe update: VIM

Shop new kicks and duds at a location of VIM, a clothing and sneaker shop chain that first opened in Brooklyn in 1977 and now commands a small empire with outposts throughout the tri-state area.

[999 Flatbush Ave. between Tilden Avenue and Albemarle Road in Flatbush (718) 287–3552, www.vim.com]. Monday–Saturday, 9:30 am–8 pm. Sunday, 11 am–7 pm.

For what ails you: Blessings Herbs and Coffee

Stop by Blessings Herbs & Coffee and say hi to herb man William Francis, who grew up in Marine Park. He and wife Liliana Bonafini are new to Prospect Lefferts Gardens, but their cafe and herb shop opened this spring and was quick to garner a following.

[663 Flatbush Ave. between Hawthorne and Winthrop streets in Prospect Lefferts Gardens]. Monday–Friday, 6 am–7 pm. Saturday and Sunday, 7 am–6 pm.

Tour de plants: Prospect Park offers ample opportunities for taking a load off amid a long bike ride.
Photo by Hannah Palmer Egan

Take a spin: Ride Brooklyn

You can see a lot more when you’ve got wheels. Rent two from the bike shop Ride Brooklyn and take an invigorating cruise. Steer back towards Prospect Park and find some changes in motion in the corner of the greensward nearest to the Central Library. A new kids’ play area made from reclaimed dead-tree wood was unveiled last fall and more improvements are on the way.

[468 Bergen St. between Flatbush and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, (347) 599–1340, www.ridebrooklynny.com]. Monday–Friday, 10 am–7 pm. Saturday, 10 am–6 pm. Sunday, 11 am–6 pm.

Afternoon sip: Ideaya or Sharlene’s

When the mojito masters at Ideya jumped the East River last spring to set up shop on Carlton Avenue, the rum-thirsty hoards of Prospect Heights offered a warm embrace.

Ideaya [636 Carlton Ave. between Flatbush Avenue and Park Place in Prospect Heights, (718) 636–6770, www.ideya.net]. Sunday–Wednesday, till midnight. Thursday–Saturday, till 1 am.

If tropical liquor is not your speed, drop in to nearby Sharlene’s, a spacious and inviting bar that replaced old-man favorite Mooney’s in 2009.

Pull up a stool: Sharlene's is an ideal place to wet your whistle after a long jaunt down Brooklyn's Main Street.
The Brooklyn Paper / Bess Adler

Sharlene’s [353 Flatbush Ave. between Sterling and Park places in Prospect Heights, (347) 350–8225]. Open daily 1 pm–4 am.

Dinner: Marco’s or
Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue

When Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg, moved Franny’s, their beloved 10-year-old pizzeria, into bigger digs down the street, they kept the space and opened Marco’s, a grown-up Italian spot serving sophisticated, Italian fare that won high marks from critics and locals alike.

Marco’s [295 Flatbush Ave. between Prospect Place and Saint Marks Avenue in Prospect Heights, www.arcosbrooklyn.com]. Monday–Thursday, 5:30-11 pm. Friday, 5:30–11:30 pm. Saturday 11:30 am–3 pm and 5:30–11:30 pm. Sunday, 11:30am–3 pm and 5:30–10 pm.

If you are feeling more finger-lickin’, hit up Morgan’s, which may be the brightest star in Brooklyn’s burgeoning barbecue scene.

Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue [267 Flatbush Ave. at Saint Marks Avenue, (718) 622–2224, www.morgansbrooklynbarbecue.com]. Monday–Wednesday, 11 am–1 am. Thursday–Saturday, 11 am–2 am. Sunday, 11 am–midnight.

Dessert: Junior’s Restaurant

Treat yourself to a creamy slice of classic Brooklyn at Junior’s Restaurant. Savor the atmosphere while you can, because the eatery’s owners are shopping the building around in hopes of convincing a developer to level it and replace it with a skyscraper.

But fear not for the future availability of fattening treats on Flatbush Avenue – the restaurateurs are selling on the condition that there be a reserved space for Junior’s on the ground floor.

[386 Flatbush Ave. at DeKalb Avenue, (718) 852–5257, www.juniorscheesecake.com]. Sunday–Thursday, 6:30 am–midnight. Friday and Saturday, 6:30 am–1 am.

This article is part of a series about how development is shaping the borough’s future, written for the Community Newspaper Group’s free magazine Brooklyn Tomorrow, which is on newsstands now.

Must-chew: Junior's Restaurant's cheescake is an indulgent way to cap a day on Flatbush Avenue. Here third-generation owner Alan Rosen hoists some of the must-eat desserts.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini