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.


 Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

Gowanus SouVEnIr Shop

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

 image via  @ltrainvintage

image via @ltrainvintage

L Train Vintage

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

 Image via @Knotandbow

Image via @Knotandbow

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 by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

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 via  @claro.bk

Image via @claro.bk


Everyone who eats here raves about their food. See Claro's New York Times restaurant review. Pricey considering the dishes are small and you'll want everything on the menu.

 Image Via  @Runnerandstone

Image Via @Runnerandstone

Runner & Stone

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

 Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

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 Via  @Dinosaur_BBQ

Image Via @Dinosaur_BBQ

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 by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

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 via  @insabrooklyn

image via @insabrooklyn


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

 Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

LavendEr Lake

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

 Image via  @Babaspierogies

Image via @Babaspierogies

Babas Pierogies

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

 image via  @mmoona30

image via @mmoona30

Kanan Indian Restaurant

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

 Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

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.


Givers And Takers

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

 Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

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 via  @dirtyprecious

Image via @dirtyprecious

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 by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

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 taco vendor inside leaves a lot to be desired it is convenient. Good for groups.

 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 via  @blkmtnbk

Image via @blkmtnbk

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 by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

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.


Gowanus Print Lab

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

 image via  Gotham Archery

image via Gotham Archery

Gotham Archery

Unleash your inner Robin Hood at this archery club. 

 Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

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.

"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.

 Image by  Marie Frei

Image by Marie Frei

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


 Courtesy Fairfield Inn & Suites

Courtesy Fairfield Inn & Suites

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 Gowanus Inn & Yards

Courtesy Gowanus Inn & Yards

Gowanus inn & Yards

Basic rooms, so booking an upgrade are desirable. An (often empty) below ground common area with mid-century modern design.

 Courtesy Union Hotel

Courtesy Union Hotel

Union Hotel

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

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