A Neighborhood Guide to GOWANUS, Brooklyn

I love telling New Yorkers I live in Gowanus. Their reactions can be plotted across a spectrum starting with envy and ending at disgust. “Near that amazing outdoor barbecue place?” I reply with an enthusiastic, "Yes!". “That toxic wasteland? Ick,” receives a slightly less enthusiastic "yes".

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It's no surprise the Gowanus Canal polluted. The topography of the area is why I liken it to being a storm drain between Carroll Gardens and Park Slope. In year's past, Gowanus was an industrial hub. Warehouses expelled their waste into the tidal inlet. Over time, black mayonnaise developed. Now, the neighborhood's namesake canal is so polluted, the Environmental Protection Agency has declared it a superfund site. I love Gowanus, even though it's in the midst of a multi-year, $100 million dollar toxic waste clean-up project.

The juxtaposition of trendiness and grittiness is exactly what makes Gowanus a neighborhood unlike any other destination in Brooklyn. With most blocks featuring two- and three-story aging warehouses, it's kind of place where you can walk around on a clear day and really enjoy a wide-open sky; an experience that is typically reserved for public parks in New York City. It's only a matter of time before the high-rises start going up.

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Beyond Gowanus' fetid canal, you’ll find a neighborhood full of heart. Full of creativity. Full of unlikely adventure. There's no better time to experience Gowanus than now.

Welcome to Venice, Jerko.


Gowanus SouVEnIr Shop

A gift shop with art, tees, and other funky collectibles themed around (you guessed it) Gowanus.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

L Train Vintage

Large warehouse converted to a thrift store. Go here for Levis, cowboy boots, and Liz Claiborne dresses.

image via  @ltrainvintage

image via @ltrainvintage

Even Keel

A small batch, natural skincare line rooted in clinical herbalism. En specializes in crafting soaps, natural oils, and other delightful elixirs for the face and body. Her lab and store is within the Gowanus Souvenir Shop.

Knot & Bow

A trendy gift shop selling stationary and other small accessories. The kids section is small but cute. This is the best place to buy a card for someone.

Image via @Knotandbow

Image via @Knotandbow

Make workshop

A workshop that will help make your Pinterest dreams come true. Check the schedule on their website for more info on classes. There is a small retail section at the front, so don't be afraid to pop-in and browse.  

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei



Everyone who eats here raves about their food. See Claro's NYT restaurant review and Michelin star. It’s pricey: the dishes are small and you'll want to order everything on the menu.

Image via  @claro.bk

Image via @claro.bk

Runner & Stone

The go-to for brunch (starting at 11:00am). Delicious bread and pastries baked in house. Best baguette in Brooklyn.

Image Via  @Runnerandstone

Image Via @Runnerandstone

Root Hill Cafe

Excellent coffee and cafe food. A few small tables work from. Get the bacon, egg and cheese.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Great pies available to purchase whole or by the slice. A cafe with enough space to work from.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

Dinosaur BBQ

Where to go if you want a platter of BBQ with side dishes. Big bar area and weeknight happy hours. Family friendly.

Image Via  @Dinosaur_BBQ

Image Via @Dinosaur_BBQ

Ample Hills

The best ice cream in New York City. After getting your scoops, head to the open-air rooftop. Room for birthdays and private events.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

Pig Beach

The best BBQ. Jam packed on summer weekends. Weeknights feature the occasional bus load of Wall Street bros in button downs and fleece vests. Order the pulled pork sandwich or a rack of ribs to share.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei


Korean BBQ. Private karaoke rooms. Hip tiki bar. Popular for birthday parties and large groups. Pricey.

image via  @insabrooklyn

image via @insabrooklyn

LavendEr Lake

Cozy bar and restaurant. Large outdoor patio. Get the burger.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

Babas Pierogies

The best comfort food. Build-your-own pierogi menu.

Image via  @Babaspierogies

Image via @Babaspierogies

Kanan Indian Restaurant

Not glamorous from the outside, but inside, you'll find the best Indian food. Get the tikka masala to go.

image via  @mmoona30

image via @mmoona30

My Cuban Spot

Grab a cup of Bustelo and the best sandwich and empanadas in the neighborhood. Seats are on the sidewalk so you really get to experience the neighborhood and its characters.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei


Givers And Takers

Our local bar. Great for beer. Small outdoor patio area with tables with umbrellas.

Mirror Tea house

The best place to sit and chat over a cup of tea. Occasional live performers. The only cafe besides Bagel Pub that makes my favorite iced banana latte.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

Dirty Precious

The best cocktail bar. Perfect for a date. With friends, order the "Ti for Two" and pretend you're at the Mad Hatter's Unbirthday party.

Image via  @dirtyprecious

Image via @dirtyprecious

Threes Brewing

There's a lot going on here. Threes Brewing and bar (excellent craft beer), 9th Street Espresso coffee shop (good for working remote), and restaurant (The Meat Hook).

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

Park Life

Bar with an outdoor courtyard with a handful of picnic tables. The Mexican food served by the pop-up inside leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s convenient. Go with a group and get the nachos.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

Strong Rope Brewery

Small craft brewery with a bar. Crowlers (large can of beer filled and sealed to order) make really great gifts.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

Black Mountain Wine House

Cozy little wine bar with small dishes to nibble on. My favorite bar in winter because you can enjoy sitting by the wood burning fire.

Image via  @blkmtnbk

Image via @blkmtnbk

Abbotsford Road

Coffee roasters and coffee brewers. This cavernous coffee shop has free WiFi and large tables, making it a great place to work remotely from.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei


Public Records

Gowanus’ newest bar is its trendiest. The old public records building has been transformed into a daytime café and bar, plus, a state of the art sound room in the back. Follow their Instagram to learn what’s happening tonight.

Shapeshifter Lab

An NYC loft-style venue for listening to live jazz and other music. Check their website for their calendar of events.

Gowanus Print Lab

Learn how to make a custom t-shirt with their screenprinting class.

Gotham Archery

Unleash your inner Robin Hood at this archery club. 

image via  Gotham Archery

image via Gotham Archery

Brooklyn Boulders

Hybrid rock climbing and other workouts in old Daily News garage. Popular with all ages.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

Brooklyn Glass

Glassblowing studio. Check their calendar for info on classes and events.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club

If Wes Anderson designed a shuffleboard club, it would look like this. A 5 hour wait is typical on the weekend if you don't have a reservation.

Image By  Marie Frei

Image By Marie Frei

"Double D" Public Pool

Adult and kiddie outdoor swimming pools open from the end of July through the start of September. Lounge chairs and free sunscreen. Check the rules on their website before going.

CityWell Brooklyn

The neighborhood’s best kept secret - a backyard spa featuring a sauna and hot tub. Massages available.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club

Explore one of the most polluted waterways in America with a life vest and canoe at your own risk.

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

Kick Axe Throwing

Axe throwing and drinking in an indoor venue that makes you feel like you’re in a ski lodge. Great for groups

Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

Arts Gowanus Open Studio Weekend

One weekend each October, hundreds of artists in and around Gowanus open their studios to the general public. Read more about this special event here.

Image By  Marie Frei

Image By Marie Frei


Fairfield Inn & Suites

One of the best hotels in Gowanus because quality is consistent. Good for large groups. Rooftop picnic area. Complimentary hot breakfast.

Courtesy Fairfield Inn & Suites

Courtesy Fairfield Inn & Suites

Gowanus inn & Yards

Basic rooms, so booking an upgraded room is a must. An awkward, below ground common area with mid-century modern design. TBD on when the attached coffee shop will open.

Courtesy Gowanus Inn & Yards

Courtesy Gowanus Inn & Yards

Union Hotel

Best boutique hotel in Gowanus. Simple, small rooms. Complimentary continental breakfast.

Courtesy Union Hotel

Courtesy Union Hotel

Note: the Super 8 Motel & Red Lion Inn are used as homeless shelters