Field Trip: Crown Heights

Crown Heights buildings2Taking advantage of the warm fall, Andrea and I spent a recent afternoon in Crown Heights. Our expectations were modest, to the degree we had any; all we really knew about the neighborhood was that it’s gentrifying, as discussed in a New York Times article, but of course it is. Welcome to New York, as Taylor Swift wrote.

We took the 4/5 to Franklin, but in my mind we were actually on the A/C, which is farther north, so after leaving the station we headed south on Franklin Street. Besides a sweet store called Owl & Thistle, the area mostly looked like gentrification wasn’t even a gleam in a developer’s eye. That’s not a complaint! Check out this signage. We loved how orderly the supermarket signs are (until the person responsible lost focus).

Crown Heights supermarket signage Crown Heights shoe store signageAnd even though Tribeca can claim a couple of pedestrian bridges, we can’t ever resist one. This bridge, at Carroll Street, had a lovely view of the tracks.

Crown Heights pedstrian bridge Crown Heights train tracksAndrea soon convinced me that we should really be heading north. After a dawdle inside tiny, adorable Hullabaloo Books, we were hungry, and the few restaurants on Franklin (burgers, bagels, etc.) didn’t appeal on this particular day. A block east, on Bedford, we landed at a New Orleans–style establishment called Catfish. It felt more like a bar, and not an uncool one, but the food (vegetable scramble for me, catfish po’boy for Andrea) was actually rather good.

Crown Heights CatfishWe drifted east, then back south to the Kingston Station. (In other words, I didn’t pay attention to street names.) In that time—90 minutes? two hours?—we mainly looked at buildings. The architecture wasn’t as consistently charming as Bed-Stuy to the north, but it made up for it in variety.

Crown Heights blue house Crown Heights buildings Crown Heights castle Crown Heights townhousesCrown Heights schoolCrown Heights Studebaker At some point in my life, I’d like to have a porch.

Crown Heights house with porchAnd a castle, if I’m making a list. (Every neighborhood in Brooklyn seems to have a castle!)

Crown Heights castle2Or maybe a bell tower….

Crown Heights belltowerCrown Heights—at least the part we explored—was possibly even less commercial than Bed-Stuy, and the shops and restaurants we did come across were generally of the pre-gentrification type. I thought we’d find more like King Tai, an impossibly cute cocktail bar. (Seriously, look at its website.) And the menu for Colina Cuervo, an Ecuadorean café on Nostrand, that was posted in King Tai’s window left us wishing we had considered it for lunch. There is a downside to avoiding pre-trip research.

Crown Heights King Tai Crown Heights King Tai menuNearby, we discovered a splendid Christmas display. A passerby told us that it’s much better at night—no doubt!—but then we wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the freaky little lamb.

Crown Heights Christmas decorations Crown Heights creche lambToward the end of the walk, I remarked how it had been a half hour since we saw anyone white. I don’t know about Andrea, but I kept imagining that locals, seeing us take photos of things like the foliage, church signs, and a very amusing mural, probably assumed we were gentrifiers plotting a takeover. But what’s the alternative: never leave Tribeca?

Crown Heights foliageCrown Heights Washington TempleCrown Heights Dr Burton muralPrevious Field Trip posts:
Spuyten Duyvil
New York Botanical Garden
The New Whitney Museum
The Rockaways
S-Cruise by Smartboat
Wave Hill
Governors Island
F.D.R. Four Freedoms Park
Litchfield County, Conn.
One Wall Street
Behind the Scenes at Grand Central Terminal
The Howard/Crosby Microneighborhood
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
East River Ferry
Museum of American Finance



  1. If you go to the Hassdic part of Crown Heights paralleling Eastern Parkway, you will see the most amazing mansions from the days when Eastern Parkway and the surrounding areas were home to many doctors, etc. (I haven’t been to that part in decades, so I can’t provide specific street names).

  2. The storefront with the “Discount Shoes” sign (formerly a hair braiding shop) is being turned into a new-Brooklyn-style bar. If you’d looked across the street, you’d have seen a bar/bakery popular with the newcomers. Gentrification is happening more slowly south of E. Parkway, but it is happening, for good or ill. Sadly, a lot of storefronts on that stretch of Franklin are empty as building owners wait for more lucrative tenants.

    Crown Heights is a beautiful neighborhood that people from many cultures call home. I hope the next time you come by that you check out some of what the longtime stores and restaurants have to offer–like incredible, authentic Caribbean food.