Cafe Martin is located in the Park Slope neighborhood of Manhattan.
Like many of Brooklyn's more upscale neighborhoods, Park Slope was recovered from decline by community-minded working class residents, and it retains the character of a tight-knit community even as it battles the now widespread influx of bourgeois bohemians and the ensuing rise of property values. Speaking of which, Park Slope is bordered on the north by the Barclays Center and Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, 4th Avenue to the west, Prospect Park West on the east, and (depending on who you ask and how long they’ve lived in the neighborhood) 9th Street, 15th Street, or Prospect Avenue to the south. The advent of South Slope, extending southward from 9th Street, has jarred the boundaries of Park Slope, although most people consider the neighborhoods to overlap—think of South Slope as the West Village to Park Slope’s Greenwich Village, except in this case the subset is the poorer neighborhood (relatively speaking, in both cases). Park Slope is surrounded by Prospect Heights, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Windsor Terrace, and Sunset Park, in addition to newly delineated neighborhoods like Gowanus and Greenwood Heights.
Prior to the 1950s, Park Slope was home to many wealthy Brooklynites, who's mansion-sized footprints still line the neighborhood's verdant border, Prospect Park. Between 1st and 2nd Streets on Prospect Park West, the Brooklyn Society For Ethical Culture sits inside the Romanesque-style mansion home of William H. Childs, millionaire inventor of Bon Ami Cleaning Powder. There's also the $8.5 million mansion on the corner of Carroll Street and Prospect Park West, one of the more stately mansions in the area and formerly home to actors Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly. Several Romanesque and Victorian mansions site between Montgomery and Garfield Places. Just a few blocks down, on the corner of 1st Street, is the 1889 mansion built for paper industrialist Henry Hulbert, a Romanesque Revival building that has since been taken over and expanded—into the first New York school to be an LEED green building—by the Poly Prep School. Also notable is the 14th Brooklyn Armory on 8th Avenue and 14th Street, which formerly housed the 14th Regiment New York State Militia best known for service during the Civil War. One of Park Slope's most interesting buildings, the Pillar Of Fire Church, is notable for the same reason it's no longer at the corner of Sterling and 7th. In 1960, two commercial planes collided over Staten Island in what was then the worst disaster in aviary history; one of the airliners staggered on for an emergency landing, but flew so low that a small miscalculation crashed it into the Pillar Of Fire church, ironically.
Speaking of Prospect Park, the area—which was designed by Central Park architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux—is an attraction in its own right, with a zoo, the country's first urban Audubon Center for bird-watching, Kensington Stables, and the Prospect Park Bandshell, which hosts Celebrate Brooklyn, an annual summer music series. And at the northwest corner of the park is Grand Army Plaza, the stately gateway to Prospect Park which features the Soldiers' and Sailors' Arch, a Brooklyn version of the Arc de Triomphe designed by the same man who designed Grant's Tomb in Riverside Park.
Park Slope's two main thoroughfares—5th and 7th Avenues—are home to dozens of fine shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars, as well as a few quirkier places. 7th is the fancier, more well-heeled of the two, and is dominated by boutiques and restaurants, with very few nightlife options, save for venerable old-timers’ bar Old Carriage Inn and newcomers Parish Bar and American Cheez. Jean-Georges-trained Top Chef alum Dale Talde has created a miniature empire in Park Slope, with two of his restaurants, Thistle Hill Tavern and the eponymous Talde, offering some of the best cuisine on 7th Avenue. If his deft blend of seemingly disparate cuisines isn’t your cup of tea, there’s quintessential, 24-hour diner food at Donuts. In the mood for Chinese food? Szechuan Delight has the best in the neighborhood. Burgers? Try Brooklyn Flipsters. Indian? Bombay Grill. Thai? Beet. Pizza? Well, you’d have to try out Pizza Plus or Smiling Pizza, where Star Trek’s Patrick Stewart, a local, had his first “slice.”
Over on 5th Avenue, there’s no paucity of restaurants, for sure, but the onus seems dead-set on drinking. For every Stone Park Cafe or Benchmark, there’s a Gate or Loki; for every Blue Ribbon or Grand Central Oyster Bar, there’s a Beauty Bar and a High Dive; for every Sidecar, there’s the other ten bars between 9th and 16th Streets.
There are also oddities like Brooklyn Superhero Supply, which has a secret identity: the gallons of anti-gravity and cans of invisibility available for purchase in the store provide both a front and donations for the 826NYC charitable organization run by author Dave Eggers. Try on a cape and step up to the fitting room—a metal grate atop a powerful fan that will blow the cape around violently, letting the shopping superhero know how it'll react during flight. If that doesn't sate your need for the fantastic, head down towards 9th Street and Galaxy Collectibles, Park Slope's main comic book store.
At the outskirts of Park Slope, you'll find the Brooklyn Lyceum, a multi-purpose venue that's home to live music, theater, dancing, and even a gym, a long way away from its origins as a public bathhouse. A few blocks north, above 5th Avenue on near Union Street, is Union Hall, where a full bar stretches the length of a wall opposite massive floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and borders a room featuring two full bocce ball courts and a jukebox as well-stocked as the bar. And thumping along below that, you'll hear live music from national acts as well as local favorites in their basement venue. Rock Shop also features live music in a more lively, grittier environment. For a bit of food with your libations, The Dram Shop offers some of the best burgers to be had in Park Slope and Brooklyn in general, as well as fine collections of scotches and bourbons and a whole menu of delicious foods.
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