The leafy neighborhood of Fort Greene is a hotbed of history, cultural institutions, and bustling bistros and bars. Artists have always flocked to the area: Author Richard Wright wrote Native Son here, filmmaker Spike Lee filmed She’s Gotta Have It on these streets and kept an office here for years, and Mark Morris Dance Center is one of its many arts institutions. The brownstones and rowhouses that line the streets plus the intermix of old and new storefronts and restaurants give the community its charming, unique identity. Stopping at the weekend farmer’s market at the edge of the park and strolling the picturesque streets is the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday, but if you’re in the mood for upscale cocktails or classic dive bars or anything in between, this neighborhood has it all.
Photo: @huntparr via Instagram
1. Explore the cultural heart of Brooklyn
In many ways, Fort Greene is the cultural heart of Brooklyn with seemingly unlimited live performances, installations and theater in the arts district. BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music (30 Lafayette), is a performing arts center and cinema. Founded in 1861, it's well known as a pioneer in avant-garde theater and entertainment. Visitors can see opera, music, theater, dance, comedy, live podcasts or film any night of the week. BRIC House (647 Fulton) is a unique arts and performance space, as well as an educational center and community event center. In the summer, their Celebrate Brooklyn free outdoor arts festival is legendary. Finally, the Theater for a New Audience (262 Ashland) is focused on performances of Shakespeare and other classic works and was founded in 1979. On top of everything else, the neighborhood boasts proximity to Barclays Center. It’s clear that Fort Greene is now a hotbed of culture.
Photo: Fort Greene Park Conservancy
2. Discover the secrets of Fort Greene Park
The neighborhood is rooted in history, and get its namesake from the Revolutionary War general, Nathanael Greene (although you’d be forgiven for thinking the Greene comes from the multitude of trees and parks in such a small area). General Greene aided George Washington during the Battle of Long Island in 1776, so it comes as no surprise that traces of history are found all over the area. Fort Greene Park, 30 acres of rolling hills, is not only a perfect place to picnic or hear live music during the summer months, but also was the site of a Revolutionary War fort. That massive column at the peak of the park is the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, a 1908 tribute to people who died in British prison ships during the war. A little known fact is that some of the prisoners' remains are still buried in a crypt in the park. In 1867, it became one of Brooklyn’s finest parks, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (the duo behind Central Park and Prospect Park.)
3. Seek out African art at MoCADA
Although there is a glut of performance spaces in Fort Greene, the visual arts are not forgotten. MoCADA, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (80 Hanson Place) is dedicated to presenting African cultural traditions through visual and performing arts and community events. The museum was founded in 1999 in Bedford Stuyvesant, but moved to Fort Greene in 2006. It is committed to giving diverse voices a platform, and that includes art-making workshops, panel discussions, education programs, and more.
4. Get lost in Greenlight Bookstore
If a neighborhood is only as good as its independent bookstore, then Fort Greene is one of the best. Greenlight Bookstore (686 Fulton St.) is everything you want in a bookseller: a great selection, a knowledgeable staff, and interesting sections to browse through. The Brooklyn based cookbooks shelf, a solid music section and a hefty kids area that includes unique educational toys provide something for everyone. The store packs in the literati with readings (which they also hold at BAM), panels, and membership perks. At a time when other indie bookstores are closing, it feels good to see one so supported by its community.
5. Immerse yourself in cafe culture
Join the intelligentsia in Fort Greene with the cafe culture that permeates the neighborhood. Freelancers stake out the free wifi, hipsters get their caffeine fix, and new moms meet up over lattes in the variety of coffee shops that are sprinkled throughout the area. Hungry Ghost (781 Fulton) is a micro chain with locations in Prospect Heights and at NYU, and serves up espresso drinks and pastries in a minimalist setting. Smooch Cafe (264 Carlton Ave.) pours fair trade Indonesian beans in a cozy, pillow-filled setting where you’ll want to seriously chill out and maybe indulge in some organic small bites. Right across the street from Fort Greene Park, Bittersweet (180 DeKalb) is a tiny coffee place that takes their coffee very seriously--a perfect pre-park stroll spot.
6. Eat where the locals eat
The tried and true restaurants in Fort Greene still hold up against any new flashy kitchen. Come to Romans (243 DeKalb), owned by Andrew Tarlow of Marlow & Sons and Diner, for amazing mouth-watering Italian food in a cozy setting. Or spend a cold night eating oysters at the bar at Walters (166 DeKalb) and after dinner enter through the secret door in the back to Karusu, a real windowless Japanese “izakaya”, for a cocktail or two. The locals know that Olea (171 Lafayette) has the best brunch around in a moroccan setting. They don't take reservations, but the wait is always worth it.
7. Try the buzziest hotspots
The great thing about the newest restaurants in Fort Greene is that they could easily become your favorite neighborhood haunts. There’s nothing pretentious about Hudson Jane (360 Myrtle) an “all day cafe”, whose slogan is “Life’s too short to eat sh*tty food.” Metta (197 Adelphi) has everything you want from your go-to spot: a gorgeous space that twinkles from the outside on a dark night, an open kitchen with a wood-fired stove, and a multi-generational crowd drinking and laughing through the late dinner hours. The only thing it may not have is a table available, so make a reservation or be prepared to wait. The DeKalb Market Hall (445 Albee Square) might technically be considered downtown Brooklyn, but the Fort Greene locals are embracing these incredible food vendors. From Katz’s Deli and Forager’s Rotisserie to DeKalb Taco and Arepa Lady, there’s an overwhelming choice of delicious options.
Photo: @jayfingers via Instagram
8. Have a drink at a classic outpost
Fort Greene has always been a great neighborhood to catch a drink and have a conversation. Habana Outpost (757 Fulton) is the best warm weather spot, with a big, relaxing patio and even bigger frozen drinks. If dive bars are more your speed, then you can’t do better than Franks (660 Fulton), a family owned establishment since 1974. Or the no frills bar, The Alibi (242 DeKalb) is also a favorite with cheap drinks, a pool table, and a killer jukebox. What else do you need in a bar?
9. Belly up to a beer garden
There’s no season that is not appropriate for a beer garden. Summers on the sidewalk or winters nestled inside with a beer and a pretzel, the beer gardens of Fort Greene aim to please. Black Forest Brooklyn (733 Fulton) serves up tasty German food like schnitzel and sausage, and a great selection of beer in a comfortable room full of communal wooden tables. Almost directly across the street, DSK (710 Fulton) was the first beer garden in the neighborhood, and feels classic with a black and white checkered floor, taxidermy, and a boot of beer in front of you.
Photo: The Great Georgiana
10. The perfect nightcap spot
If you’re looking more for chill vibes pub with a with a great cocktail list, then check out The Great Georgiana, (248 DeKalb), where a DJ spins records late into the night. Have the bartender mix you up an Egyptian Shumba, an Etta James, or a Delete Facebook, and sip your pain away as you groove out under the sparkling tin ceiling. Then come back in the morning, when the space transforms a coffee shop and brunch stop.
11. Browse the best boutiques
Fort Greene has some of the best shopping in Brooklyn, if you know where to look. Feliz (185 DeKalb) is filled with incredible housewares, jewelry, and gifts. Think gold bangle bracelets, white tapered candlesticks, or tangerine basil soaps. Brooklyn empire, Bird (85 Lafayette), just opened their newest outpost in the French Garment Cleaners storefront. Selling fashion favorite brands like Rachel Comey, No. 6 and Ulla Johnson, it’s where Fort Greene girls get their on trend uniform. Step down a few stairs into Cloth Clothing (138 Fort Greene Pl.) for relaxed yet still sophisticated clothing by indie labels. If you’re looking for great clothes plus coffee plus wellness, then Jill Lindsey (370 Myrtle) is the place to be. The top floor sells boho dresses, ambrosial perfumes and high vibes accessories, while downstairs offers wellness services ranging from reiki to an ayurvedic face massage.
You can probably already tell that we're huge fans of Fort Greene. In fact, our very first of a series of neighborhood-inspired gift boxes is now available. Allow us to introduce Fort Greene Faves! Treat yourself or another savvy Brooklynite to one!