Neighborhood Guide: Brooklyn’s Little Caribbean
Words: Shelley Worrell
Photos: Pablo Serrano, Christian Rodriquez, and photos courtesy of Aunts et Uncles, Hibiscus Brew, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and Prospect Park
One of Brooklyn’s original towns, Flatbush is quintessentially Brooklyn. Since the 1960s, Afro-Caribbean immigrants from Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, Trinidad and other island nations have called this neighborhood home. When you visit you’ll find a thriving hub of Caribbean culture, community, shopping and food.
This guide is a list of must visit bars, cafes, pop-ups and public places where you can get lost in NYC. When you visit, don't forget to look for vernacular signs, bodegas, murals and stunning architecture much of this neighborhood is still what we call “Old Brooklyn.” Are you ready to island hop along Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues?
Photo: Pablo Serrano
Start in this beautiful oasis designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, in the heart of Brooklyn. I love walking the loop starting at Parkside and Ocean just off the Q at Parkside with pit stops at the Carousel, Boat House and the Bandshell. On Sundays, for an immersive cultural experience, pull up to Drummer’s Grove, a fifty-year-old Afro-Caribbean tradition paying homage to African ancestors who brought their musical traditions to the West Indies in the 17th Century, or the Greenmarket on Grand Army Plaza on weekends. Pro tip: for perfect selfies, catch the sunset over the lake during what we call magic hour.
Photo: courtesy of Prospect Park
Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
A must visit, because who doesn’t love a beautiful and quiet garden in the middle of New York City? My go to spots are the native flora, Japanese Hill and Pond gardens. During Spring the cherry blossoms and magnolias will take your breath away. Don’t forget to visit their beautifully curated gift shop with its thoughtful selection of home and garden goods including house plants.
Photo: courtesy of Brookyln Botanical Gardens
Flatbush Oyster Co.
A Brooklyn via Panama mobile pop-up, Flatbush Oyster Co. serves everything from deepwater oysters from the east coast of Long Island to Caribbean sliders like oxtail and did I mention Latin-infused mussels. You’ll find them most weekends at The Rogers Garden or at other locations in Brooklyn.
Our mobile gallery-cum-shop the Caribbeing House, an upcycled shipping container is used as a mobile art + cultural + market space that hosts exhibitions, cultural happenings and curated pop-up shops featuring Caribbean/LatinX artisans from NYC and back home. It’s currently stationed in Prospect Park near Lefrak and is set to be open on weekends this Spring/Summer. You can also shop online for our best-selling varsity sweatshirts.
Photo: Pablo Serrano
Here you’ll find unique accessories like beaded earrings, copper bracelets, eclectic heritage clothing and footwear from the owner’s travels throughout Africa and the Caribbean in addition to a large selection of baskets, incense and soaps. Owned by a mother-daughter Rastafarian duo for years, Tafari is a staple in the community.
Another neighborhood small business that opened during the pandemic, visitors are welcomed by its bright pink exterior and stunning paper flower installation by Floratorium. The turmeric latte is my go to, with the jerk chicken avocado tartine. If there are children in your life, you can also pick up the founder Allison’s children's book, “Khison is Having Company” inspired by her son and home-organizing business.
Photo: courtesy of Hibiscus Brew
A neighborhood institution for over sixty years and located on what I call the power block in Little Caribbean, no visit to Flatbush’s Prospect Lefferts Gardens is complete without a visit to Allan’s Bakery. Expect long lines, loud music and a whole vibe but don’t forget to come for their flaky currants rolls, coconut drops and freshly baked hard dough bread. While you’re here, you can head to Labay Market on the opposite corner for fresh coconut water and Caribbean imported fruits like soursops and mangoes.
Photo: Christian Rodriguez
Shaquanda Will Feed You
Named after the creator’s performance alter ego, “Shaquanda” created a selection of Caribbean pepper sauce like no other. A staple in Caribbean kitchens, the collection includes West Indian curry and OoohMami, these bold pepper sauces are rich in flavor but mild in heat and go on everything from tacos to veggie burgers to beans and curries.
Aunts et Uncles
A few blocks from Bob Marley Boulevard and a recent addition to the neighborhood, Aunts et Uncles is a lifestyle concept shop meets plant-based cafe owned by a wife-husband duo serving up innovative fare in a tasteful interior alongside a thoughtful selection of books, magazines, incense and more. Plan to stay awhile, have a couple of drinks. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Photo: courtesy of Aunts et Uncles
Laura Thorne’s Little Caribbean Storefronts
A local artist who works in publisher by day and director of Voices of Lefferts & Flatbush Eats by nights/weekends illustrated a pen & ink series of storefronts inspired by Little Caribbean including Labay, Allan’s Bakery, Gloria’s, Caribbeing House and Trees of Prospect Park. Her attention to detail and beautiful/meticulous hand stokes perfectly captures the essence of these neighborhood gems/staples.
The Rogers Garden
A rum bar in a garden was just what we needed to open in the middle of the pandemic and the Rogers Garden offers the perfect place to lime with its eclectic, thoughtfully-curated rum menu inspired by the Caribbean. You really can’t go wrong with anything but we’d recommend KeeKee or our namesake drink the Little Caribbean Mojito.
Photo: Christian Rodriguez
Filled with colors, character and the culinary diversity of the Caribbean, Flatbush is a must-visit for those looking for authenticity and island vibes with a Caribpolitan bent. These are just a handful of places to get you started, but make sure you catch everything in between.