It is with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement from yoga. I have never considered myself a Yogi and my yoga experience to date would best be described as, “scattered.” I am confident that my decision to never unroll my yoga mat again is the right one. • I first got into yoga several years ago when I wanted to be fit, healthy and embrace a more meditative lifestyle. Unfortunately, I’m as flexible as an office chair, which is to say, not at all. My lack of flexibility and complete laziness caused each pose to become a cheapened custom one. Downward Facing Dog became Rug Pose (face down on the floor). Warrior Pose became I Can’t Go Any Further or My Pants Will Rip Pose. • While I have often felt comfortable cheating basic yoga techniques (chair pose isn’t meant to use an actual chair?), I decided to call it quits when I found out about Bikram yoga. It’s like regular yoga, but in a room that’s hot as hell. This completely negated the relaxed and lazy nature of yoga that I had embraced. To me, Bikram yoga is as off-putting as having an instructor who yells, “STRETCH IT, WUSS!!!” • Now, I will need to get my exercise through other means. Since I spent the summer draped over my AC unit, I need to get the move on this fall. Good thing there are so many places that beg to be checked-out in each corner of our neighborhood. I can walk from North Slope, to South Slope to the parts of 4th Ave people who don’t require a mechanic’s service have never seen. I can do the walking on my time and, best of all, I get to taste food and check out new hang-outs instead of telling people, “No, I REALLY can’t stretch any further.”
Too Bad I’m Retired
Great! As soon as I announce my retirement from yoga, a new place opens. I bet it’s got a weird shtick or makes you do an obscure yoga style like only doing poses inspired by artichokes. What? No? It focuses on classical styles for any level of student? The classes focus on different levels and cores such as postures, meditation, relaxation, chanting and philosophy? Well, I bet it’s one of those giant gyms with a million people in every class. No? It’s in a beautiful, sun-drenched space on the second floor of a building built in the 1850’s? The classes are small, casual and allow for a lot of attention from the instructors? It must be expensive, right? It’s donation based? Really? Just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in! Check out Dharma Yoga Brooklyn, the yoga studio with the most natural light at 82 6th Ave at Bergen. (718) 395-7632. www.dharmayogabrooklyn.com.
A Bar For the Wild West. You Bring the Wild.
You may claim to hate country music, but I bet you $5 you sing along to Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks when it comes on at a bar. In many ways, Branded Saloon is the equivalent to that song. The country boys have been begging for a place like this and, chances are, you’ll enjoy it too. If you’re looking for a real deal saloon, that’s more San Antonio than speakeasy, set the GPS unit on your horse to the Branded Saloon for some decent bar grub, straight forward beers (they even have Lonestar beer) and a boot cut jeans attitude. It’s a good place to go and not just a good place to be seen. Only in New York could something like a straight-up saloon be thought of as a theme bar. I recommend checking out the downstairs pool table with its separate jukebox. Even the smallest group down there will make you feel like you’re having your own private party in the land of the armadillos instead of right on Vanderbilt. Relax…have a beer and enjoy the saloon style doors at Branded Saloon – 603 Vanderbilt Ave. (between St Marks Ave & Bergen St). (718) 484-8704
4th Ave Rocks
We all want the same thing: a place that’s perfect. A place that’s got a nice outside area for the days when the weather’s perfect (12 days a year), a breathy, relaxed, space indoors to play some pool, watch the game or just enjoy a beer. And a place to watch some good live music and get swept up in the energy of the night. Rock Shop, the new bar/venue/roof deck combo on 4th Ave has them all. The roof deck is both open and spacious. It’s a great place to mingle among friends and stumble into new ones. Inside, there are TVs everywhere and casual nooks to talk, watch or blend in. Downstairs, separated from the more laid back and toned down atmosphere is the space for pushing the decibels, an intimate performance space that breeds energy. Owned and operated by Michael Winsch, formerly of Bowery Ballroom, this club grantees to rock with former Bell House/Union Hall booker Jack (Skippy) McFadden bringing in the talent. Check out Rock Shop and it’s variety of ways to spend an evening at 249 4th Ave. (between President St & 5th Ave). (718) 230-5740.
Rotisseriechicken and Artisanbread
While the sign may confuse you (they spell Park Slope as one word) the advantages to having Parkslope Eatery open in the neighborhood are pretty clear. Just walk by and see the window full of artisan breads or the racks of beckoning rotisserie chicken to see what I mean. It’s not a breakfast place, it’s not a lunch place and it’s not a dinner or take out place. It’s all of the above and the variety is endless. Grab a breakfast sandwich in the a.m., grab a falafel in the afternoon or saddle up to what might be the best chicken in the neighborhood for dinner. It’s a European style cafe with the feel of something less pretentious. Grab some bread on your way home at the corner of 7th Ave and 4th Street.
Where “Everything” is an Acceptable Answer
Usually, when you ask an owner of a food establishment, “What’s good,” they will respond with, “Everything!” In almost every case, you should be immediately be skeptical. However, when you ask them at Bencotto, they might be right. Bencotto, has your traditional pizza joint fare, but mixed in with your slices of cheese and your house salads is an extra sense of quality that makes it feel like a meal and not just takeout. Two things worth your attention on the first trip are the stuffed garlic knots (chicken parmigiana) and their soon to be signature spinach and artichoke slice. Established by the same people who own Leone’s – the mozzarella supplier to most of your favorite restaurants in Brooklyn – this place has an easy to relax atmosphere with an open, clean and classic interior. Have a seat, enjoy your meal at Bencotto, 291 3rd Ave. (between Carroll St & President St). (718) 722-7200.
Not Pronounced, “OH-AH-ZA-CAH”
During my first job, I worked alongside a French guy. He talked about how he used to work for Coach (pronounced, CO-CH). However, because of his accent, it sounded like the name of the brand was “COTCH.” Against my better judgment, I assumed the name of the brand was pronounced as if it rhymed with botch. Yolks on me when 6 months later he gets me a job interview there and the manager had to tell me, “It’s hard to get a job at a place when you don’t know the name of the company.” So when it came time to pronounce the name Oaxaca Revolucion de Taco, I decided not to even attempt it. Well, have no fear, let the taco revolution begin at “WAH-HA-KAH”. Oaxaca’s sister store has been opened in Carroll Gardens for a while and it’s brought its low key style, but high octane taste tacos to the most active section of 4th Avenue. While many lament the inability to get good Mexican food in New York, Oaxaca puts its hat into the ring and, I gotta tell ya, it’s a pretty big hat. The tacos at Oaxaca have that extra level of taste that reveals the meaning of “subpar” with other tacos. Their choices range from carne asada (grilled steak), pollo guisado (stewed chicken), carnitas (braised pork), frijoles (bean and cheese), pescador (fish – heads up, it’s served cold) and a special taco that rotates frequently. Grab 3 tacos with a side of rice and beans for under $10 or take your meal into the cozy eating area they have there (BYOB, baby!). Don’t feel like you have to stick with their tacos though. Their tortas rival any I’ve had. The revolution can be located at 250 Fourth Ave. (between President St. & Carroll St.). (718) 222-1122. www.oaxacatacos.com
A Hooligan Bar Non-Hooligans Can Enjoy
I know 2014 seems like a long ways away, but it will be here before you can say, “Remember Donovan’s goal?” When 2014 does roll around, remember this: the best place to watch the World Cup is Woodwork in Vanderbilt. However, by that time, you’ll already know this. Woodwork is a bar that is a new type of soccer bar. Gone are the days when soccer bars meant old men dranking pints of Guinness by the dozens in dark, dank, hooligan infested bars. Woodwork may have soccer at its core, but it doesn’t need the World Cup or crazed fans to survive. The lite fare available preaches sustainability and they don’t use factory farmed products. Even the sodas in their guns are conscious and lack corn syrup (brought to you by Boylan). Just the simple elegance of the bar should tell you the character of this place isn’t only for crazed futbol fans (the bar is made of reclaimed wood from a dairy farm in Massachusetts). However, this is not to say that soccer is nothing more than a byproduct of Woodwork. At all times they have soccer matches from around the world on their flat screens (“they play more than once every 4 years?”) and their giant pull down screen gets used for Wii FIFA soccer tournaments every Monday night. Is soccer in America here to stay? I don’t know, but I sure hope Woodwork is. Check out an English Premier League match at Woodwork and see why people are so intense about it (Woodwork and the game) at 583 Vanderbilt Ave. (between Pacific St & Dean St). (718) 857-5777. woodworkbk.com
’Cause All Inclusive Resorts Have Terrible Food
We should all go on casual dates more. Whether it’s date number 1 or date number 1,000, there’s a new place in town that has the right vibe for a great time without the sense of forced romanticism. Kaz An Nou is a French/French Caribbean styled place that offers delectable food offerings in a cozy, not trying to force the moment, space. The warm flavors mixed with the warm interior and energetic music makes it a great space to explore. Translated to “our house” in Creole, Kaz An Nou has entrees that won’t require you and your date to go Dutch ($10 – $15) and the concise menu will give you a lot to mull over. For appetizers, it’s hard to pass up the stuffed avocado or the escargot (come on, be adventurous). The entrees are just as exciting as the Agoulou is a West Indian style burger with avocado salsa, choice of cheese and an optional fried egg (go for it!). My new favorite casual date spot is BYOB and is at 53 6th Ave. (between Dean St & Bergen St). (718) 938-3235. www.kazannou.com
I LOVE Being Spoiled
We’re so spoiled. We’re like a kid who gets a new toy every week and when we open a cool dart gun we say, “yeeaaaahhhh….I already have a dart gun.” Fortunately, we’re not spoiled with toys (actually, I might want to go back and change that to unfortunately), but we are spoiled by having lots of charming restaurants who are committed to locally farmed products, locally sourced dairy, meat and sustainable seafood. The good news is that Thistle Hill Tavern, the new gastropub with these values, comes into our neighborhood with something more than value.It comes in with style and a distinct taste all its own. In other words, this dart gun’s got a laser scope and an automatic reload feature. Owned and operated by David Massoni, John Bush, Chef Rebecca Weitzman and Fat Mike (yup, Fat Mike from NOFX) this gastropub is the type of place that would only open quietly in a place like Park Slope. The space itself is beyond charming as every inch is exquisitely designed in a style I’m deeming “Comfort Chic” (a la Bar Toto/Tano). They are open for Lunch/Brunch every day (can’t tell you how much I like the fact that they’re more lunch than brunch on the weekends) and have a great set of sophisticated cocktails to give any meal a little extra special twist. Order some fries so you make sure to get some of their homemade ketchup the next time you’re at Thistle Hill Tavern – 441 7th Ave. (between 15th St & 6th Ave). www.thistlehillbrooklyn.com
Where Norm Would Drink
More often than not, when you open a bar that’s not located in an easy accessible strip, there’s an urge to give that bar a “worth the effort” quality. That usually translates to gimmicks and lots of noise that covers the fact that if this bar was around the corner from you, you’d probably ignore it. Lowlands, the sister bar to Abilene in Carroll Gardens, however, has taken a different approach and opened a bar for locals to love on 3rd Avenue and 14th street. This dimly lit bar gives the interior a divy feel without the dingy connotations that usually accompany it. There aren’t any TVs so come to Lowlands if you’re feeling friendly and wanting to engage in conversations. The mirrored walls, the painted floors and the subtly interesting interior along with a dozen beers on draft at accommodating prices (happy hour is 5-8, $1 off each drink) are reason enough to find your way to this neighborhood joint. Also, the always friendly bartenders and the open patio in the back, which may be between 3rd and 4th Ave, but feels like a friend’s backyard, encourages an evening or afternoon of meandering conversations.Deep in the lowlands of the Slope is the comfortable place with the attitude you’ve been looking for. Check it out at 543 3rd Ave. (between 13th St & 14th St.). (347) 463-9458. www.lowlandsbar.com
If Only Van Gogh Lived in Park Slope
We’ve all had crazy ideas that our friends and family have told us to let go of. Thankfully, Zohreh’s husband didn’t. Through his “go for it” attitude, Zohreh got up and went for it and earlier this summer she opened Zora Space, an art/performance space/cafe. Zohreh’s mission statement is decidedly clear: to invite, inspire and promote all artists from every genre. She means it too. Zohreh (a fellow Park Sloper) is a former filmmaker who got tired of constant struggle to find an audience without a pushy publicist and wanted a space where an artist could find their audience more easily. Unlike many spaces, putting on a performance is something you apply for, not something you pay for. The shows are all donation based and every single penny donated goes to the artist who is performing. All that is asked for in return is for the artists to promote, promote, promote…and bring hungry/thirsty friends. The cafe (which just got its beer/wine license) helps keep the variety and depth of performances coming and keeps the mission statement genuine and in-tact. Swing by for a muffin (or 70) at 315 4th Ave (between 2nd & 3rd St). (718) 832-4870. zoraspace.com
Are You a Spooner?
Every once in a while my girlfriend and I try to meet up for lunch during the week. That’s when the tug o’ war begins. I try to get her to come uptown, she tries to get me to go downtown. Unfortunately, she’s got an ace in the whole when she mentions, “Afterwards, we could go to Jacques Torres by my office.” She knows I can’t resist their chocolate! Well, now I’ve got an ace in the hole. “Why don’t you come up here and then later tonight, when we’re back in our lovely neighborhood of Park Slope, we’ll go to Wickedspoon for some frozen yogurt and get Jacque Torres covered Cheerios as a topping.” Game. Set. FroYo!Wickedspoon shares a space with Atomic Wings and offers tasty frozen yogurt (in flavors such as plain, pomegranate, chocolate and red velvet) and the widest range in toppings of any yogurt place around. Toppings range from fudge covered graham crackers to wasabi peas to gummy bears to fruits of all kinds (blackberry, blueberry, kiwi, mango, etc., etc., etc.) They also have specialty toppings such as their balsamic sauce and their lemoncello sauce that leave the Pinkberry vs. Red Mango debate feeling a little unnecessary. Check out the Froyo and leave an idea for a wicked combination (if it gets on the menu, you’ll win an iPad) at 321 9th St. (between 5th Ave & 6th Ave). (347) 987-4810
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