Let this be your Brooklyn bucket list. All my favorite experiences in the borough, from cozy live music venues to wild rave parties, exclusive chefs tables to dive bars you’ll dive right in to.
If you’re visiting, scratch off everything on your to-do list and use the one I’ve made below. If you live here, you’re lucky. And let me tell you why.
These are the experiences that give Brooklyn that irrepressible energy, the places that breathe life into every square inch, and the memories we make here that make it unforgettable. It’s the reason why we live here, why we pay astronomically high prices for rent and suffer through extreme and unpredictable weather patterns and learn to simply look away from the homeless man across the platform from us, making the first avenue stop his personal bathroom. This list, these places, these experiences, will help remind us why.
As I’m continuing to fall in love with this city, this list will be updated often, so come back. It’s all waiting for you.
Little Cinema | Best Immersive Theater in Brooklyn
I understand that the word “immersive” is thrown around a lot these days. Little Cinema is arguably an immersive theater experience, but one that is conducted by the genius hands and brain of Jay Rinsky, who brings together onstage a team of the most talented and ostentatious dancers, performers, musicians, and aerialists you’ve ever seen. Jay himself becomes conductor and dj, remixing the film as it dances upon a live score and brings alive all of the players onstage. familiar stories explode with life and give the audience, and the performers and creators involved a completely new perspective and feeling about what can often be a one-dimensional art form. His Little Cinema has reinterpreted and reimagined everything on the spectrum from The Big Lebowski to Holy Mountain and isn’t stopping anytime soon. Follow his performances here and get tickets as soon as the next one is announced, like the very seasonally appropriate Romeo + Juliet, in collaboration with The Love Show, happening February 6th (sold out!), 12th, 13th and 16th. Get tickets here now.
Lucali in Caroll Gardens | Best Pizza in Brooklyn
My favorite pizza place in the borough. Now I’m not talking by-the-slice joints, or the charming, comfortable, and seductive experiences you have at Roberta’s or Paulie Gees or Emily. I’m talking about the pizza; the integrity of pie’s you’ll never find outside of this city, or maybe anywhere else on the planet. They don’t have the predictably long waits you can expect from other famous city pizza places, they give you a relative wait time and you still might not get a table. And if you think this uncertain feeling makes the pizza taste better, you’re wrong. The pizza makes the pizza taste better. They take no reservations and it’s BYOB, because the nerves that mount while your wait shouldn’t be watered down artisanal cocktails. And you won’t even be able to pass the time brooding over the list of menu options, because there are only two: pizza and calzone. Get both. The night’s toppings will be delivered audibly first by your waitress and only once. If they don’t mention it, you can’t have it. The dining room is candlelit and oven-fire lit as the pizza is made right in the middle of the dining room. Do not come here for the service, for the experience, do not come here with a group of people. Do not come here with somewhere important to be afterward. Come for the pizza. Bring wine. And leave knowing, but not bragging, that you finally understand what’s the deal with New Yorkers and their pizza. 585 Henry St. lucali.com
Barbes in Park Slope | Best Live Music Venue in Brooklyn
Barbes is the intimate music venue you’ve been searching for your, for maybe your entire life. A simple, no-frills downstairs bar in Park Slope has a curtain in the back that opens up to a 45 person venue with a small stage, upright piano, and “Hotel D’Orsay” antique sign that will transport you back to Fitzgerald Paris. And that’s even before the music begins. Stephane Wrembel has a Sunday night residency there, which you might have heard him on the soundtracks of Vicky Christina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris. He’s a French-born Spanish guitar aficionado and universal raconteur, so settle into a night of singing and storytelling and a band that, even without his prowess, would blow you away on its own. Have some wine and stay a while, and keep up with their amazing calendar of musicians here. Shows have a strongly encouraged $10 donation per person. 376 9th St. barbesbrooklyn.com
Brooklyn Wine Exchange | Best Wine Experience in Brooklyn
Wine stores are great. Getting an approachable education about wine that will make the wine taste richer, viticulture feel more digestible, and your appreciation of wines more shareable is something that you can’t get from simply choosing, uncorking, and sipping. Brooklyn Wine Exchange in Cobble Hill will lure you in with its rare finds and knowledgeable staff, an always occupied tasting table that more often than not is serving mini gin-and-tonics, but the magic happens behind that glass door in the back. Every Saturday and Wednesday experience hour-long classes led by experts in the industry, people who are so passionate about white Burgundy or small-batch Mezcal or the monk-vintners of Germany that they want you to understand, with your eyes, your ears, your mouth, your soul. Classes are FREE with membership (which also comes with a discount on all of your purchases and a rad tote bag) but if you call the day of, they just might be able to squeeze you in. This place is pure magic. 138 Court St. brooklynwineexchange.com
Keep seeking, Brooklyn.