Gowanus, a Brooklyn neighborhood tucked between Park Slope and Carroll Gardens, has shed its must-avoid reputation. Its namesake toxic canal and desolate feel used to keep people away, but in recent years, efforts by groups to clean up the canal and build green spaces along the water have led to a renaissance. New eye-catching apartment buildings dot the skyline, and a diverse array of restaurants, bars and stores have opened, bringing fresh life to a gritty area once known more for its auto repair shops than its attractive spots. Now the sidewalks have foot traffic, and optimism is in the air.
Affordable, fun and serving incredibly tasty barbecue, it’s no wonder that this formerly seasonal outdoor barbecue restaurant is now a 13,000-square-foot permanent fixture with indoor and alfresco seating. Always vibrant and crowded, with families and groups of friends, the space has several bars and plenty of room for children to run around. Matt Abdoo, who cooked at Del Posto, is in charge of the food, which includes traditional barbecue dishes such as baby back ribs coated in an addictive honey sauce, as well as more eclectic offerings like purple coleslaw with jalapeño and pineapple; craft beers from local producers and a creative cocktail menu round out the options. There is also a tasty selection of sandwiches like an oversize meatball hero. A meal for two with a drink each is about $30.
480 Union Street, 718-737-7181, pigbeachnyc.com
The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club
This spacious and popular hangout, open since early 2014, has a relaxed and vacationlike atmosphere, and the menu of tropical-themed cocktails matches. The shuffleboard Bob, for example, named after the shuffleboard player Bob Zaletel, is made with gin, coconut water, lime juice, cucumber-infused simple syrup and bitters. Though the place doesn’t sell food, the daily changing on-site food truck does — Indian fare one day, say, lobster rolls the next. Shuffleboard is $40 an hour per court with an unlimited number of players.
514 Union Street, 347-223-4410, royalpalmsshuffle.com
Knot & Bow
Gifting stores can be a tad boring, but that isn’t the case with this year-old airy establishment. The owner, Erin Ozer, started her business by selling party and gift-wrapping supplies on Etsy before opening her bricks-and-mortar store. It carries items like confetti-filled balloons and greeting cards, as well as crayons, handmade ceramic bowls and stickers.
253 Third Avenue, 718-855-5393, knotandbow.com
Morbid Anatomy Museum
(Note: This venue has closed.) A store, library and exhibition space all in one, this quirky hall of curiosities is dedicated to exploring concepts around death, human and animal anatomy, and medicine. The one-room library, where people are welcome to sit for hours, has 1,500 rare books from around the world on topics such as freak shows and mourning practices. The exhibits change every few months; a recent one was dedicated to taxidermy. And the store sells books on subjects similar to those in the library as well as odd knickknacks like individual human teeth.
424-A Third Avenue, 347-799-1017, morbidanatomymuseum.org
A venture between two friends, this shop and studio specializes in low-maintenance terrariums with imaginative designs. Michelle Inciarrano and Katy Maslow source the plants for the creative pieces from local nurseries, and the glass — some of it handblown — from small glass blowers nationwide. A recent attention grabber in the evolving collection was a vintage cookie jar filled with moss that resembled a crime scene in a park, complete with tiny plastic human figures. Customers can request a custom design or try their hand with a do-it-yourself kit.
287 Third Avenue, 718-488-8944, twigterrariums.com
Correction: December 21, 2016
An earlier version of this article included an outdated reference to the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus. After the article had gone to press, it was learned that the museum had closed because of lack of funding.