Friday, January 30, 2009

Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Clinton Hill is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the world. Mostly because I live there. The photo to your left is actually my home on Downing street where I live with my friend Katie and my cat, Nancy Drew (who isn't really my cat as much as she is the feral cat who lives at the bottom of my steps in a cardboard box. To be honest, someone threw away that box a few months go. So I haven't seen her around much lately. Bummer.)

I moved to Clinton Hill because I have friends in the neighborhood but love it because of c'ette brownstone and its proximity to Fort Greene. The neighborhood is strongly West African with a few of us young, struggling art-types straggling in.

The white girls like myself do worry me, ironically, because like so many neighborhoods in New York, CH is in danger of massive amounts of gentrification. And I'm part of that gentrification and that's scary. As it stands, Clinton Hill is incredibly local in its establishments-- there isn't a Starbucks to be found. In it's place are grass roots coffee shops and hole-in-the-wall African eateries. It is one of the cheaper neighborhoods that still retains a sense of pride and history.

However-- with gentrification ultimately comes a lower crime rate and that of course is a good thing. (Yes, there is crime in my neighborhood. It's still Brooklyn, after all.) This brings up a huge social argument centered around Alphabet City in the 70s. If you ever want to discuss it with me, I'm extremely interested in this sociological look at nostalgia and its price.

I love the bodegas (that's for you, Dad) and the dogs and the hardware store and the Pratt mansions. I love the front stoops and the friendly hello's and the frequent whistles (ha.) There are also many-a abandoned bulletproof store fronts and garbage piles. It is, after all, bordering Bed-Stuy and also retains a large sense of the ghetto in addition to its history and charm. Okay, its super ghetto. But we love it.

Sister's Hardware: This is my local hardware store where I buy things like bathroom sponges, paint, and bike locks. Alison once needed a ladder to paint her room and the owners suggested that she simply borrow their ladder instead of purchasing one of her own. Seriously!? Are there really people that wonderful out there still!? Warms my heart.

Met Foods: If you've been to Met Foods, you're probably laughing at this post because Met Foods kind of sucks. HOWEVER. They have a rockin' play list of early 90's pop music (Ace of Base, Celine Dion, Amy Grant, Lisa Loeb) and they sell illegal bootlegged DVDs for $5 at checkout. Funny. Worth a trip just to bee-bop to 'Heart in Motion' while buying whatever random yogurt they are selling on that particular day and having to go to three different aisles to find the cinnamon. It's great.

Olivino: My ADORABLE wine store. If you ever visit me, please get a bottle of wine from here because I really want to keep them in business. The people are so friendly and a pug is usually running around as I shop for the bottles with the best labels. My goal in buying wine is usually to find a label with a dog on it... and Olivino usually pulls through.

Olivino Wine Bar: Recently opened adjacent to Olivino wine store! I have to admit that I have a hard time going here only because the prices are double what it would cost to buy the same bottle next door but the cheeses are extraordinary and, again, the people are so nice. The last time I was in the owner told me that they are going to add more tapas to the menu soon, but for now the fresh bread (from Choice, I assume) and cheese selection are all you need. The decor is surprisingly chic for being located on a block housing mostly abandoned nail salons... I was shocked the first time I walked in. Light wood, soft lighting and clean lines. Its really quite gorgeous.

Locanda Vini E Olii: Oh my lordy, I love this restaurant. It's about a block from my apartment which is an extremely random location for a restaurant of this caliber (and these prices). It's an old pharmacy gorgeously transformed into an Italian restaurant while retaining its charm and apothecaric details. Like so many uber-cool Brooklyn spots, there isn't a sign other than 'Drug Store' to note its presence. You just have to know.

Choice Market: A lovely little French bakery just blocks up from Gates. They serve the freshest of baked goods along with whole Rotisserie chickens and the best breakfast sandwiches on this side of the East River. You can usually find dogs hanging out as well, which makes it perfect. NY Mag loves it too.

Outpost: My local coffee shop/hangout. My CH friends and I come here for lattes and the Sunday Times. We drink coffee and pass around the good sections (arts & leisure, style, metro, travel) until we lazily decide to do something like go to the beach or move to a wine bar for the rest of the day. Brooklyn living at it's finest.


Jen Pasko said...

If you don't take me to Olivino I might cry....This was a beautiful post and I really can't wait to meet your cat and see your "hood" in my most gangsta voice!

Meredith said...

I love this post. And may I just say I'm SO excited that you and Katie are now roommates. :)

B Butler said...

Sarah: I loved your description of the neighborhood in which you live. It makes me feel warm inside that you are happy. We need a bodega in
beatrice, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

We live in rural CT. My son wants to attend the Pratt Institute, but is somewhat apprehensive. Your description of the Clinton Hill area was comforting. Any comment or advice for an 18 year old "country boy" going to college in the city? What is it like after dark and what's the crime rate like? Thank you.