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Brooklyn for Beginners

Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, New York.

Photo: Philip Scalia/Alamy

Turn left on DeGraw Street; then make another left on Court Street, the heartbeat of Cobble Hill. If the Heights is Brooklyn's Upper East Side, then the former Italian stronghold of Cobble Hill is its Upper West—funkier, more diverse, and wetter behind the ears. Walking north, you'll pass three restaurants on the left: Camille's Clover Hill (272 Court St.; 718/ 875-0895) and Kalio (254 Court St.; 718/ 625-1295), known for their eclectic American food, and Caffè Carciofo, which sticks to its Tuscan roots (248 Court St.; 718/624-7551). Farther up, between Baltic and Warren, is Harvest (218 Court St.; 718/624-9267), which has been drawing a strong local following since it opened late last year. The food is Southern; the sides—greens spiked with lemon and corn bread studded with corn kernels—are standouts.

The new restaurants have added much to Cobble Hill's dining scene, but it wouldn't be Brooklyn without a place like Sam's (238 Court St.; 718/596-3458). Since its opening in 1930, Sam's has been a bastion of honest food and local color, a rock against the waves of gentrification that have swept through the neighborhood. Neither the menu of solid Italian standbys nor the plastic flowers on the tables seem to have changed since Eisenhower was in office.

Court Street's food offerings are not limited to what's found in restaurants. Staubitz Market (222 Court St.; 718/ 624-0014) is an old-fashioned, sawdust-on-the-floor butcher shop. Fratelli Ravioli (200 Court St.; 718/ 330-1183) is a pasta boutique whose awning proclaims not a store, a tradition. After tasting the heavenly smoked mozzarella there, you'll know why. On a diet?Explore the Attic (220 Court St.; 718/643-9535), a tiny antiques store, and Shakespeare's Sister (270 Court St.; 718/694-0084), which stocks the seemingly incendiary combination of stationery and candles, with a coffee bar in the back.

When you've finally finished eating, sipping, and browsing your way up Court Street, you could walk a block west and catch a cab on Clinton. Otherwise, continue north on Court, past Atlantic, and you'll be back at Borough Hall, the starting point of our tour. Whether you take a taxi or the subway back to Manhattan, it should be comforting to know you can take your time returning. Brooklyn will always be here.

Former Brooklynite IAN BALDWIN is a reporter at U.S. News & World Report.

Antiquing in Brooklyn?
Three blocks east of Court Street, Atlantic Avenue becomes Antiques Row, a one-block stretch (between Hoyt and Bond Streets) with 18 stores selling the best of yesteryear. Here are the standouts.
Circa Antiques 337 Atlantic Ave.; 718/596-1866. Pristine pieces, mostly from the 19th century, including a secretary once owned by Andrew Carnegie—its history is written on the bottom of a drawer and dated 1888. And check out the 1940's jukebox with the original oak paneling.
Horseman Antiques 351 Atlantic Ave.; 718/ 596-1048. Probably the biggest of the bunch, this tri-level emporium is packed with furniture from Victorian perfection to early 1980's drab.
In Days of Old 357 Atlantic Ave.; 718/858-4233. Only the very best of late-Victorian cabinets, dinner tables, and hand-carved bookcases, as well as a few beautiful steamer trunks and a 19th-century moth collection.
City Barn 362 Atlantic Ave.; 718/855-8566. This sister of SoHo's upscale City Barn sells sleek Deco and 20th-century coffee tables, couches, and armchairs, all in mint condition.
Time Trader Antiques 368 Atlantic Ave.; 718/ 852-3301. A converted 1917 synagogue with three floors of restored Empire, 30's, and 40's furniture. The building's Star of David mosaics and stained-glass windows are alone worth the trip.
Olde Good Things 400 Atlantic Ave.; 718/ 935-9742. Dig a little, and you'll find brass skeleton keys, tinted-glass doorknobs, turn-of-the-century photo albums, and who knows what else. The store's courtyard across the street is crammed with wrought-iron gates, claw-footed bathtubs, and rusted American highway signs.
—David Knowles


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