West Indian American Day Carnival. Photo: Joe Buglewicz
One of Brooklyn’s most diverse and thriving neighborhoods, Crown Heights offers a harmonious blend of bustling commercial blocks and attractive residential streets. A stroll along the main thoroughfare, Eastern Parkway, takes you past some of the area’s most popular cultural institutions such as the Brooklyn Museum and Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Head down any of the enchanting tree-lined streets that run parallel to Eastern Parkway to find beautiful brownstones, prewar apartment buildings and a few Victorian mansions.
Crown Heights holds a large African diaspora population, with many Africans, African Americans and Caribbean Americans calling the neighborhood home since the late 1960s. Indeed, Eastern Parkway serves as the traditional venue for the West Indian American Day Carnival, the largest annual celebration of Caribbean culture in New York City. Trinidadians, Grenadians, Bajans, Haitians and representatives from every West Indian island gather on Labor Day weekend to eat, play mas (or masquerade) and dance to soca, reggae and kompa—honoring the vibrant energy of their native homes. The festivities have been on hold the past two years due to the pandemic, but the vitality of these communities can always be found on Crown Heights streets such as Washington Avenue (the western dividing line between the neighborhood and Prospect Heights), Nostrand Avenue and Franklin Avenue.
Plan a long weekend getaway to visit the many Black-owned businesses in Crown Heights to fully experience the lively culture of the community.
Start your morning at , a café situated on the ground floor of a redbrick building on Classon Avenue. Centrally located to many attractions, this is the perfect place to grab your morning cold brew or oat milk cappuccino. Be sure to try the breakfast tacos—the PEC, Mom’s Migas and Queen Bean (all three vegetarian) are the most popular. Get there early as they go quickly.
After breakfast, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood, taking in a bit of the architecture while making your way to for some early shopping. Offering a wide assortment of products including jewelry, bags, T-shirts, skin and hair care, and cute additions for your home, Marche Rue Dix is a great place to start your weekend shopping. This location also includes a nail salon, dubbed Nail Studio at Marche, and Café Rue Dix just one door away.
To keep the shopping spree going, walk two blocks east to Nostrand Avenue, where you’ll find , a clothing store inspired by the owner’s nomadic spirit. Items representing cultures around the world are the main attraction, including caftans, ponchos, kimonos and blanket wraps, as well as uniquely designed and patterned dresses, skirts and denim.
Courtesy, The Crabby Shack
Head on over to the afterward for a quick lunch. Favorites include the crab roll, Alaskan crab legs and crab tacos; the menu also features delicious items such as the “clobster” roll (yes, crab and lobster on the same sandwich), crab and corn chowder, and mac and cheese.
is a cultural center and historical site dedicated to sharing the story of the Weeksville community, one of the largest free Black communities in pre–Civil War America, with the larger public. House tours have recently resumed; groups or individuals can for them; as well, the center offers events and exhibits celebrating Black culture throughout the year.
Get a proper introduction to the delicious flavors of Caribbean food in just one visit to , which has a menu of classic Caribbean meals. Jerk chicken, curry goat, calypso shrimp and oxtail dinners are just some of the dishes served here. Of course, all can (and probably should) be accompanied with sorrel or your favorite alcoholic drink—the restaurant offers a BYOB option.
After dinner, make your way to , a small but lively local spot serving popular cocktails. Try the Nostrand Station (a whiskey mojito), Stir Crazy (vodka, lemonade, peach schnapps and passion fruit) or frozen margarita.
Leisurely Saturdays are almost obligatory in Crown Heights. It’s a great time to be social; you’ll find locals and visitors strolling and/or biking through the neighborhood, visiting all their favorite spots.
Start with brunch at , whose enticing menu features shrimp and cheddar grits and a banana bourbon french toast. Looking for Caribbean flavor or craving lighter fare? is a Haitian American café offering traditional Haitian breakfast items, crepes and fresh-pressed juices. Try the Haitian Breakfast Platter, which includes sauteed herring, or jerk jackfruit crepe—you won’t regret it.
Courtesy, Miles Culture
After breakfast, take some time to explore. For more shopping, try , a clothing brand that touts itself as “Brooklyn based with love from Philly.” The shop offers a variety of items including T-shirts, tanks, outerwear, accessories, jewelry and body care products.
Brooklyn Museum. Photo: Julienne Schaer
Lunch at is all about one of Nigeria’s most popular spices. Suya—a spicy, nutty blend traditionally rubbed on meats before they are grilled—is incorporated into a build-your-own-bowl structure, with various protein, vegetable and grain options that highlight the spice’s flavor and versatility while showcasing Nigeria’s growing influence in Brooklyn’s culture.
Crown Heights also offers a number of restaurants where you can grab a quick meal to-go. is a takeout-only restaurant that serves freshly baked breads, pastries and Trinidadian Chinese dishes, which reflect the influence of Chinese natives that migrated to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. To taste the culinary blend, try the pepper shrimp or the house special, with lo mein, chow mein, fried rice and fried chicken—cooked Trini-Chinese style. features traditional Bajan meals to-go, including the national food of Barbados: flying fish and cou cou.
Courtesy, Black Nile
For dinner, offers meals best described as a clever combination of soul food and seafood. Some of the more unusual items include lobster jambalaya and crab-smothered fried chicken; however, the menu also contains classic Southern dishes such as gumbo and po’boys. After dinner, stop by for dessert on the go. The strawberry blonde, pineapple coconut and red velvet cakes are all favorites, as are cookies with the faces of rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur.
Courtesy, Colors Effect
provides a fun Saturday night activity for those looking for a creative way to spend the evening. Participate in a BYOB sip-and-paint event (or head over earlier in the day for kids’ painting events).
Courtesy, Savvy Bistro & Bar
Brunch at the is sure to deliver a satisfying start to your last day of neighborhood touring. The authentic Caribbean fusion menu includes bake and shark sliders and blue crab salad. Come back sometime for dinner to try dishes like jerk spring rolls, Cajun red snapper and curry crab legs.
Courtesy, The Pop-Up Shop BK
The is a retail and event space that is owned by the founders of Not Your Mama’s Vintage Closet and The WonderMart. This boutique is not actually a pop-up, but a lasting home for local brands to showcase their wares and designs.
If you started early and are ready for a healthy lunch, check out , with plenty of vegan and vegetarian dishes available along with sustainably sourced meat options. Menu items include fresh juices, green smoothies, sandwiches such as the Rude Boi wrap (with avocado and jerk chicken) and warm grain bowls with garlicky portobello mushroom, Asian-style shrimp or a variety of other proteins and toppings. For a light lunch on the go, stop by for a classic Jamaican patty. Choose from beef, chicken and veggie options and get some freshly baked coco bread or duck bread—portable food to enjoy while exploring the neighborhood. To satisfy your sweet tooth, offers ice cream, sorbet and popsicles in eccentric Trinidad-inspired flavors like soursop, Ovaltine and sorrel rum.
Spend some time reflecting on your weekend by visiting the . Named after the Brooklyn-born social rights activist and politician, this circular terrace is a peaceful place to relax; a stone and plaque commemorates her legacy. Your time may coincide with one of the many educational and recreational events the park holds for children.
Dinner at is a nice way to round things off. This organic, farm-to-table eatery provides patrons with a taste of Ethiopia. If you’d rather finish the weekend with a Caribbean vibe, will fit the bill. This takeout Jamaican restaurant, on bustling Nostrand Avenue, serves oxtail, jerk chicken and other traditional Jamaican cuisine. The flavors will encourage a neighborhood return.