Carroll Gardens: Degraw Street to the BQE
There’s some debate as to what street marks the northern boundary of Carroll Gardens, but when you hit Degraw Street, you’re definitely there. To prove it, one of the first stores you come to on the Carroll Gardens side of Court is D’Amico Foods, which has been on this block since 1948.
Between Sackett and Union, there’s the great newcomer Brooklyn Strategist, a board game haven for school kids by day, and a BYOB spot for adults in the evening.
On this block you’ll also find Caputo’s Bake Shop, which opened in 1904.
Monteleone’s, between Union and President, is an Italian bakery with an old-world feel, despite having opened in 2011. Founder and pastry maker Antonio Fiorentino has been making pastries for over forty years, first in Sicily and then in the United States.
Between President and Court Street is the western edge of Carroll Park, Brooklyn’s third oldest park. Charles Carroll was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and led a regiment during the revolution to protect part of Park Slope. The park began as a private community garden and morphed into a public park in 1853. The ball field on the Court Street side is named after Louis Valentino, Jr., a firefighter who grew up in Red Hook and Carroll Gardens.
If I Were a Toy, at the corner of Carroll and Court, is a kids’ toy shop and barbershop in one and a popular spot for aficionados of toddlers throwing tantrums.
Between 1st and 2nd Place is the coffee/beer/cheese Shop, First Place Provisions. It’s impossible to miss, thanks to its eye-catching sign:
Between 3rd and 4th Place, a closed storefront reveals a former shoe shine shop, now deteriorating with decades of bric-a-brac inside.
At the corner of 4th Place sits the Van Westerhout Cittadini Molesi Social Club’s Madonna Addolorata shrine, a replica of their town idol in Mola de Bari, reminding passersby of the neighborhood’s Italian history. Such social clubs, traditionally men’s only, were once a large part of the community, based on the members’ city of origin in Italy. With the neighborhood’s shifting demographics, few remain today.
Peering down the side streets, rows of beautiful townhouses sit on tree-lined roads, much like on other side streets in Cobble Hill, and Brooklyn Heights.
The stretch between 4th and 5th Place has become a destination for food and drink. There’s Goldenrod, formerly the oldest bar in Brooklyn in its past incarnation as P.J. Hanley’s, as well as the popular brunch and dinner spots Frankie’s Spuntino and Prime Meats. In between are Black Gold Records, a coffee-and-vinyl-record shop, and Olaf’s, a vintage men’s clothing and home decor store.
As Court Street approaches the BQE, the street takes on an even more eclectic feel. New, taller condominiums have gone up next to the older Brooklyn buildings. The architecture of the older buildings — like the Hamilton Savings Bank Building between Luquer and Nelson Streets, with the dates 1889-1929 carved at the top of the building — point to the bustling working-class area Carroll Gardens once was.
Meanwhile, the adaptation of older buildings to new uses reveals the neighborhood’s future direction. The International School of Brooklyn, which also hosts the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), was once the Girls School of the St. Mary Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Parish. Though non-religious now, the building still retains the Catholic cross on top.
Just down the street, Court Street Grocers carries an impressive selection of local and imported finds, like Sriracha sauce, French Gavottes, Rick’s Picks pickles, apple cider vinegar, matzo balls, gluten free pasta, and japanese Panko. In the back, there’s a sandwich counter.
Restaurant Buttermilk Channel is named after the tidal strait in the upper New York bay, and serves comforting American bistro fare.
La Slowteria at West 9th serves authentic, inventive Mexican cuisine.
You might also encounter some The Treats Trucks in this area, as The Treats Truck Stop is just near West 9th Street.
There’s plenty of shopping around these parts too, including the children’s clothing shop Tiny Brooklyn, and Store 518, which looks like a general store but sells home decor, toys, and curiosities. Fat Cat Wines stocks spirits and wine from smaller vineyards.
Finally, as Court Street intersects with the Brooklyn Queens Expressway/Gowanus Expressway, it forms the curiously named Cough Triangle, a public park named, according to the NYC Parks website, for the streets around it: “The C-O-U come from Court Street…The G comes from Garnet Street, and the H comes from Hamilton Avenue, which was named after Alexander Hamilton.”
If you turn down West 9th Street or Garnet Street, you’ll see the newly renovated Smith-9th Street subway station. Continue your exploration up Smith Street to experience Brooklyn as it evolves from industrial center, to residential core to municipal Downtown Brooklyn.
When you live or visit Court Street in Brooklyn, you’ll be surrounded by old world Italian history and wonderful neighborhood amenities. The immigrant history is interwoven into its architecture, restaurants, and many bakeries. We’ve covered a large expanse of Court Street here but there’s so much more to see. We hope this guide gives you a sense of the rich street life along this thoroughfare and encourages you to get out and explore on your own.