Brooklyn Travel Guide

Having two parents with roots in the NYC area, it is so important to Bobby and me that Forrest feels at home in our old stomping ground. So for our first real family vacation, we headed to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn to eat and drink our way through the busy streets of NYC!

Trying to cover Brooklyn - let alone New York as a whole - is incredibly intimidating and practically impossible. With all of the adorable, tree lined blocks studded with boutiques and cafes to busy main drags bustling with tasty delights and historic storefronts, the FOMO is real! It is nearly impossible to even scratch the surface of all there is to eat, drink, see and do.

That being said, we’ve done our best to round up some of the highlights from our visit. From traditional Italian ice to towering vintage-style sundaes, from nerdy coffee roasters to hipster pies, and from the best babka in NYC to the daintiest cupcakes, we’ve got your next Brooklyn trip covered!

For clips and more, check out the “Brooklyn” button in our Instagram Story Highlights!

Sey Coffee Roasters

Amidst the endless warehouses of East Williamsburg, walking into Sey Coffee is an oasis of sleek design, natural light, cascading greenery and - most importantly - exceptional coffee. Procuring only the highest quality beans, ethically and sustainability focused, and roasting to accentuate all of the natural aromatics and distinct flavor profiles unique to each particular coffee, Sey stands at the forefront of the industry as one of the leading third wave coffee roasters. We had our cups on the run (you on board), but get your beverage to stay and watch the Brooklynites in their natural habitat while sipping out of gorgeous handmade ceramics.

City of Saints Coffee Roasters

At City of Saints’ roasting facility, also in East Williamsburg, an open air garage covered in brightly coloured graffiti is a feast for the eyes and fits perfectly in this industrial community - something they pride themselves on with all of their shops throughout the New York/New Jersey area. Rustic and obviously in-use, you feel like you’ve wandered behind the scenes of a meticulously crafted operation. The seasonal offering during our visit (a Lavender Agave Latte) was as meticulously crafted as it was delightfully light-hearted.

Sweethaus Cupcake Cafe

When you see a pastel teal go in! Complete with a candy wall, an array of colourful cupcakes, and drool-worthy savoury cafe menu, Sweethaus is not just a pretty face. We stopped for lunch with a restless 10 month old and were greeted by the sweetest, most patient customer service, dressed in a vintage teal ensemble (just to add to the flavour of the place!) The interior is cavernous yet warm, with brass details, mezzanine seating, moroccan tiled floor, and shabby chic repurposed window panes and doors. Our lunch was scrumptious - the Baked Eggs and Mac n’ Cheese Panini were standouts, and of course we couldn’t leave without a box of mini cupcakes for the road (hit up the Coconut, Double Almond, Double Pistachio, and Cookie Dough for a real treat!)

Breads Bakery

No trip to the New York area is complete without a visit to Breads Bakery - the premier destination for the best babka and croissants in the city - and in fact the one and only trek we made into Manhattan during our stay. Bustling with the Union Square lunch crowd, there is little that feels more quintessentially “New York.” The babka and croissants both have a reputation unto themselves, but don’t leave without a Morning Bun (a swirled pastry covered in cinnamon and sugar), and Cheese Straws (unassuming but mind-altering-ly delicious - light, airy, and savoury.)

Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Medieval Times-meets-Hipster Hangout at the original location of this renowned artisan pie shop, specializing in uncommon yet traditional recipes. Casual and comfortable, take a seat at one of the rustic wood tables and enjoy a very civilized slice and glass of milk, complete with an ornate silver fork (just to further round out the perfectly contrasting elements of the whole experience.) The Salted Caramel Apple is famous for good reason - salty and sweet, filled with big, tender layers of apple slices. The Lavender Honey was equally lovely - a dense, rich custard base with just the right amount of lavender.

Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain

As the story goes, the original 1920s apothecary was found completely intact with original architectural details and floor to ceiling bottles of tinctures, frozen in time and locked away from the outside world. Now fully restored, the quaint corner storefront “sparkles with vintage authenticity” (their words, but it does!) The menu is as nostalgic as the interior, with savoury soda fountain classics like pastrami & kraut and grilled cheese & chips, as well as 2 entire pages listing intricate ice cream sundaes, floats, and milkshakes. Oh, and don’t forget the bell jars of cakes dotting the counter. The cherry lime rickey and "egg cream" - a super vintage-y bevie of milk and flavoured syrup topped with sparkling seltzer - are a must to complete the experience!

Court Pastry Shop Italian Ice Window

Take a stroll down bustling Court Street, lined with shops, boutiques, restaurants, and cafes. Stop at the little street-side window of the infamous Court Pastry Shop for a traditional Italian ice. A Carroll Gardens institution specializing in uber classic Italian and Sicilian treats, their ices are known to be some of the best in the city and are some of the clearest example of the true Italian-American summer treat. The Lemon was refreshing and puckering, Cherry was fruity and sweet, and Pistachio delicate and every so slightly creamy.

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream

With locations scattered around the city, Van Leeuwen is a necessary stop whenever we are in the area. The little Boerum Hill outpost off of Smith Street is no exception to the brand’s reputation of adorable, Insta-worthy design. The list of available flavours is always enticing and inventive, and the nut-milk based scoops are a favourite of vegans and non-vegans alike. Our favourite from their list of “Classics” is the Honeycomb - the chewy crunch of candied honey is actually addictive. Get a 2 scoop cone and pair it with the Earl Grey for the perfect combo.

East One Coffee Roasters

We spotted this impressive operation around the corner of our AirBnB and it ended up being our morning coffee of choice for the week. The baristas are warm, inviting, and open to conversations with chatty Canadian out-of-towners, and the pastry case is simple, rustic and exactly what you want. If you’re not feeling coffee, try the Iced Turmeric Latte with oat milk. The open concept industrial space is split into Cafe, Eatery, and Roastery - the front area opens to the tree-lined sidewalk and is the perfect spot for people watching over a latte or glass of wine, and an oversized arrow points down a hallway to the dining room at the back which serves all day long.

This list is obviously in no way all-inclusive. Part of the joy of visiting New York is the treasure hunt - finding a new hidden gem with each visit. Did we miss your favourite spot? Please leave a comment and give us your best tips for our next trip down!

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