by Anaïs DerSimonian

There’s a reason they say: “I love New York”–there’s a lot to love! The food, the sights, the nightlife–the FASHION. Needless to say, New York is one of the world’s greatest cities.

But outside of the tourist traps and the iconic places that you’ve seen 1,000 times in every rom-com, there’s a whole world to explore.

So let’s talk about Brooklyn–the city’s biggest borough, and my personal favorite–and some of the hidden gems that I’ve found in my travels.

So here’s some context: I have a friend who lives in a beautiful 4-story walk up in Park Slope–one of Brooklyn's nicest neighborhoods–and whenever I visit, I always stay with her. Is it because of the close proximity to the beautiful Prospect Park, or the Barclay Center (go Nets!)? Perhaps it’s the beautiful, tree-lined and quiet streets full of million-dollar brownstones? Not exactly.
It’s because of the food.

I first tried V-Spot–the amazing vegan Latin joint serving up the comfort food you love in all its glory–during the pandemic. My friend–a vegan–told me V-Spot is better than any meat-heavy Latin food you could try. As a meat lover, I naturally scoffed. We ended up picking up some empanadas and some cold beers from a bodega and headed to the park to camp out in the sunlight and social distance.

When I tell you that the flavor, the multiple multi-colored sauces–the whole experience–was better than I could have imagined, I’m not exaggerating. This spot was peak comfort food, and not even for a second did I miss animal products.

The next time I was in town, many of the mask mandates had lifted–and we felt more comfortable sitting inside. This time around, we tried Wasan–another highly recommended spot by said friend. The bento boxes, she said, are to die for. I LOVE sushi and japanese food–I used to get bento boxes with my grandma every Sunday when I was a kid–and this bento box was off the charts. Every detail was so well executed, from the barbeque eel sushi to the marinated vegetables to the best teriyaki salmon I’ve ever had hands-down. This was one for the books!

While eating in Park Slope is always a treat, no matter what you’re having, my all time favorite Brooklyn neighborhood is Fort Greene. Of course, there are the quintessential Brooklyn overpriced coffee shops with cartoonishly hipster clientele. There’s Fort Greene Park, with the amazing year-round farmers market on Saturdays featuring dozens of jewelers, produce farmers, basket makers, vintage clothing pop-ups (you know I stop at these tents for a WHILE) and more.

But if you’re in the neighborhood and you’re hungry for something special, Imani truly takes the cake. Combining Caribbean fare with a Brooklyn twist, this spot isn’t just tasty–it’s fun. Beautiful murals combined with a playlist of purely afrobeat/dancehall makes you feel like you’re enjoying your jerk chicken eggs bennie on a tropical island.

Also one time I told my server that I loved the pineapple hot sauce my dish came with, and he brought me over a whole quart of it to go!

From delcious vegan empanadas to my favorite farmers market, Brooklyn is full of things to explore beyond the beaten path.

A few spots more on the beaten path, but worth mentioning–Brooklyn Museum, Elsewhere club & venue, and all of the amazing, curated vintage thrift shops that I just can’t seem to get enough of.

Obviously, there’s a lot to do, buy and eat in Brooklyn. With every trip I take, I stumble upon a different corner of my favorite neighborhood–or a new favorite neighborhood! But don’t take my word for it, go explore this amazing city for yourself.

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