The coffee scales have officially tipped in Brooklyn, NY, 11238: it may sound hard to picture, but this once humble working-class area didn't even used to have a biergarten. Thankfully, these days there's ample caffeination alongside these Ample Hills, and it should be even easier to pick up your lattes on the way to Barclay's. The rapid gentrification of Prospect Heights and Crown Heights have played out not only on increasingly tony Vanderbilt Ave (the, cough, Champs-Elysees of Brooklyn), but on now-overflowing Franklin Ave, Washington Ave, and even Classon! Come with us for a little tour of the sunny cafes of this corner of New York City.
Finding a spot with food as good as its coffee, and vice versa, is a rarity. But Prospect Heights' Milk Bar—a long standing, breezy little spot, only recently having to suffer the indignity of being confused with David Chang's migration into Brooklyn—nails both.
The Australian-run spot, busy with the stroller set and discreet laptopper alike, serves unpretentiously prepared, great coffees from Counter Culture alongside simple and healthy things like muesli or avocado toast. Some use the space just as a cafe, some as just a restaurant, and they'll sprinkle a little cinnamon on that cappuccino for you, too, which means no hipster attitude. We call Milk Bar delicious as well as versatile.
Breukelen Coffee House
We weren't sure what Breukelen Coffee House was going to turn into when it first opened its tiny space offering Stumptown coffees and Master Juice Cleanses. But in the last couple of years it's truly morphed into the neighborhood coffee hub. It's got plenty of local competition—it's just up the street from Glass Shop, a charming spot with not-quite-as-fine coffee, and The Pulp and the Bean, a somewhat more mainstream cafe started by an iconoclastic local grocer. But Breukelen Coffee House, having played it steady with well-prepared coffees and Balthazar pastries (which in this neighborhood, every other shop doesn't have), and expanding deep into the back of the building to provide plenty of space for local laptop workers' needs, the space reads as mellow and friendly, and clearly as a home away from home for many.
Breukelen Coffee House
Sit & Wonder
Less lingering lifestyle cafe scene than coffee bar, Sit & Wonder's simple, small space on Washington Ave focuses on the charming, neighborhoody vibe, while dispensing Stumptown-beaned drinks and fought-over donuts from Bed-Stuy's Dough. The cafe has also been experimenting with placing limits on the laptop crowd in favor of higher seat turnover for, you know—paying customers, a growing trend in the city. It shouldn't hurt the shop too badly: no one else is even trying to focus on great coffee on this stretch of road. On a lazy day, you'll surely welcome the warm environment to crack open a book in (they have a book exchange), bask on the patio, or perhaps have your iced coffee to go while you wander to the Nets game?
Sit & Wonder
Don't be fooled by the street address of this Classon Avenue establishment—sunny, whitewashed Crosby Coffee actually lies just around the corner on Bergen Street, ready to meet your stylishly delivered coffee needs. The shop is named in tribute to Crosby Gaige, undercelebrated author of the New York World's Fair Cookbook—hence the errant pachyderm in the otherwise minimal decor. In a someone-here-must-know-someone move, coffee is strangely supplied by Seattle (and Manhattan) roaster Cafe Vita, whose vaguely bitter brew is the only minus-mark on this otherwise charming space. Seating isn't capacious, but what table space there is is all nice, and visitors can bask in plenty of sunlight, at least until they finish shading the surrounding area in condos. Friendly staff offset the eerie, only occasionally laptop-dinging study hall silence of this modern coffee space.
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop later this year.