BY JAIME LUTZ
It makes scents: the Barclay Center has its own signature smell — presumably custom designed by some of the most discerning noses in retail. But Brooklyn doesn’t really need egg-headed poindexters to make our air smell different, because we’ve got some of the most interesting, homegrown, locally sourced, artisanal smells in the world.
Here’s the top nine:
1. “Combattere,” “Brooklyn Spice,” “Like a Latte,” “Italian Steam,” in honor D’Amico Foods
The thick, nutty aroma of roasting coffee at this Carroll Gardens legend is so pungent the smell alone could stain your teeth, which has roused local residents to call 311 with complaints. Those people deserve a quadruple-shot black eye. The fragrant smell of good Italian anything — coffee, pastries, pizza — drifting from a neighborhood store is quintessentially Brooklyn. Have you noticed that all Starbucks stores smell like pleather? That’s not even real leather! If you don’t like the smell of real coffee, move to Manhattan and surround yourself with chain stores like Subway, which speaking of authentic scents, can sometimes smell like the actual subway.
2. “Acqua Di … whoah” in honor of the Gowanus, Coney Island Creek, Newtown Creek
The borough is famous for its putrid waterways, but these three toxic-green streams truly stand out due to the likelihood that a few innocent whiffs may cause physical damage. The trio of tributaries shares the standard moldy odor of urban rivers, but with an added twist that includes old wood, stray cats, and the sad, salty tears of a misguided dolphin.
3. “Bodega Musk” in honor of that place with the incense near the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Atlantic Avenue
Where does that smell come from, and why? We can’t find the name of the store online, but one of our reporters bikes through this area of Bed-Stuy frequently, and finds it the most noticeably incense-filled place in Brooklyn. Is it a yoga studio? A head shop? A secret passageway to India?
4. “Disphoria” by Calvin Brine in honor of the Morgan stop on the L
Top notes of feet; midnotes of pot; basenotes of rat droppings. This place is a cesspool for the senses. Unless you’re a dog. If you’re a dog who likes to smell of butt, it’s a fragrant feast! But to us humans, even when it hasn’t rained for days, this place smells wet … or like a sweet onion chicken teriyaki on honey oat (sorry Subway).
5. “Flowers and Sweat” in honor of The Brooklyn Botanic Garden and surrounding neighborhoods, in the summer
Walking in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the summer feels oddly tropical. Because it’s surrounded by the city, the grounds are warmer than any natural woods, and the smell of pollen is vulgar. It’s hard to separate the heat from the smell, because both feel dangerous. In nearby Prospect Lefferts Gardens, the air is humid enough that you’re never quite sure if it’s raining, and the petrichor mingles with the West Indian doubles and jerk chicken and sidewalk barbecue. Another theory about that mingle - all the stores seem to have fans here, so the coffee shop pushes its air into the Italian vegan ice cream place and the hair salons and the gentrifying bar. Oh, and - while this isn’t an article about Brooklyn’s iconic SOUNDS - let us not forget that this neighborhood is steps away from the Prospect Park drummer’s grove. This is the sexiest area in all of Brooklyn. If only there was a Prospect Park lead singer’s grove.
6. “Chat Pipi” in honor of Owl’s Head Wastewater Treatment Plant
The paper’s Bay Ridge reporter says it smells, specifically, like “cat s—.” Not human s—, we asked? “No, definitely cat s—,” said Will Bredderman, who has apparently spent quite a bit of time familiarizing himself with subtle yet specific funk of a filthy litter box. Our house-expert on feline feces surmises that the stink might be a result of whatever treatment process the waste goes through.
7. “Eau De Weiner” in honor of Coney Island
The ocean, the hotdogs. Nowhere else does it better. But let’s break it down a little bit, even if it’s a cliche. The smell that draws you to Nathan’s isn’t the dogs at all - it’s the French fries. French fries, like popcorn, are a cheap, but intoxicating smell, a smell that vacillates wildly between nauseating and alluring. The fries draw you in, but it’s when you get close that you notice that meat smell. It’s richer and rounder. You smell the vinegar from the ketchup, and the sting of the mustard, and the wild base of carmelized onion. So you buy a hot dog, and you get some flat coke, which smells exactly like tap water. Beer evaporates off the boardwalk. You go to the beach. It doesn’t smell like table salt - it smells like salt that is actually alive, salt that grew from a plant in the ground. And old Russians smoke. Enterprising young Russians sell knishes from towel to towel.
8. “Bay Ridge Breeze” in honor of the Hookah Smoke at the Bay Ridge Avenue subway stop
There are three or four hookah bars near the Bay Ridge Avenue subway stop. So imagine tobacco. Then add any flavor you want: pistachio. Coconut. Apricot. Orange. The hookah smoke can be disorienting when you first smell it, because you wonder what kind of dessert is burning. Then you end up craving creme brulee.
9. “Home” in honor of Greenpoint Bread Baking
It’s 3 a.m. in north Greenpoint. You are walking off the Pulaski Bridge. The twinkling Manhattan skyline disappears behind a warehouse. It’s the end of the day: drunk hipsters are stumbling home, sweating alcohol (which smells a lot like bacon and whiskey-infused pretentiousness). It’s the beginning of the day: in Polish bakeries all across Greenpoint, bread is baking and it smells like home. Or Brooklyn.Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.