With a lively cultural district anchored by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and some of the borough’s most popular restaurants, Fort Greene offers plenty of artistic and culinary appeal. The neighborhood and its main park are named for Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary general who commanded the Brooklyn army. At the highest point of what’s now Fort Greene Park—built on the grounds of the former Fort Putnam, a crucial site in the Battle of Long Island and redubbed Fort Greene during the War of 1812—a very visible piece of Revolutionary War history remains: the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, honoring the 11,500 or so American prisoners of war who died in captivity.
Today, Fort Greene—sandwiched between Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Navy Yard—is home to a diverse group of New Yorkers. Due in part to its distinctive architecture, film crews have long loved to shoot here. You may recognize some of the sights from the motion picture and Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, by Spike Lee. Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks still has its offices here in the neighborhood where he grew up. God Friended Me and The Last OG are among the other shows that have set up shop in the area.
Read on for some tips on how to spend a great day in Fort Greene.
1. Get a cup of coffee and some breakfast
Start your day with a cup of coffee at Hungry Ghost, on busy Fulton Street. One of the local chain’s earliest entries, the Fort Greene outpost occupies a prime location that gets plenty of natural light on the corner of South Oxford Street. You’d do well with any of the espresso drinks on hand at Coffee Project NY, but the signature item here is the deconstructed latte. If you order it, you’ll receive milk, espresso and a regular latte—plus water to clear the palate and an alfajor (a delicious South American cookie) to leave a sweet taste in your mouth. Olea, which specializes in Mediterranean food and is especially popular at brunch, has a variety of egg dishes for breakfast.
2. Hang out in Fort Greene Park
Get your caffeinated self over to Fort Greene Park, the centerpiece of the neighborhood. During your walk, admire the architecture of the historic district’s rowhouses and mansions including Italianate and Greek Revival homes dating back to the mid-1800s.
The hilly green space offers plenty to explore. The view of One World Trade Center and the rest of the Lower Manhattan skyline from the base of the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument is worth the climb. The perspective comes courtesy of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who designed the landscape a couple decades after the location was designated as Brooklyn's first park in 1847.
Many trees in the park are labeled with information about their species. There are also jogging trails, tennis courts and plenty of grass where you can lounge, play sports and walk your dog. Off-leash hours in the morning and at night are prime times for canine watching.
3. Go shopping, especially for books
Whatever you want to buy, you’ll probably find a charming independent retailer in Fort Greene who sells it. Greenlight Bookstore is one of the best places in the City to shop for tomes, plus they have an informed staff and frequent author events. Bibliophiles will also enjoy the Center for Fiction, which has a ground-floor bookstore and café and hosts talks with the likes of Joyce Carol Oates, Garth Greenwell and Colum McCann. If you’re looking for apparel, consider Jill Lindsey, which has an on-site café (do you sense a theme in the ’hood?) and sells handmade home goods and apparel. At Bird, there’s no café—but there is plenty of women’s clothing from trendy and independent designers.
4. Visit MOCADA
The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, located on Hanson Place near the border between Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn (and very close to Barclays Center), focuses on black artists while fostering an ongoing discussion about the African diaspora. Programming comprises exhibitions, performances and classes.
5. Eat Mexican, Italian or Cuban
Fort Greene is one of Brooklyn’s premier dining neighborhoods. If you’re looking for something casual, Habana Outpost is known for its Cuban sandwiches; corn with mayo, cotija cheese and chili powder; and outdoor seating where, when it’s warm out, they screen Sunday night movies. Miss Ada serves Middle Eastern cuisine like hummus (with a variety of toppings), za’atar-crusted salmon and kanafeh (a cheese and phyllo dessert), and has a pretty backyard garden. At Evelina the menu changes frequently, but the Italian spot excels at its spinach agnolotti. Other options include creative fare like fried broccoli tacos at No. 7, authentic Mexican at Tacombi and New American dishes at Walter’s.
6. See a show
The Brooklyn Academy of Music, an official landmark founded in 1861 and standing at 30 Lafayette Avenue since 1908, is the center of the area’s cultural scene. Head there to see an independent movie at one of the City’s most captivating theaters, BAM Rose Cinemas; experience live theater at BAM Harvey; catch high-profile musicians and comedians at the Howard Gilman Opera House; or witness groundbreaking work during fall’s annual Next Wave Festival. At nearby BRIC House, performances include plays, poetry slams and concerts.
You can also catch a production from the Theatre for a New Audience at Polonsky Shakespeare Center, where the programming frequently includes works by the Bard. They also put on many other classic drama productions, such as Waiting for Godot.
7. Cap off the night with some drinks
After the show, head to one of the area’s many bars to finish off your night. For a loungy experience, try Japanese cocktail spot Karasu, located at the back of Walter’s. Cocktails are also the main attraction at Dick and Jane’s, a tiny speakeasy-style bar, and Frank’s Cocktail Lounge, a longstanding neighborhood joint with frequent DJ sets and dance parties.