River Deli

River Deli

I’ve passed by River Deli a few times, and each time I’m always drawn to it’s green and white tiled floor, old-timey decor and it’s rustic charm. I manage to peel myself away but not without thinking that I must eat there the next time I pass. This past Saturday was said next time, and I took myself up on the offer — myself, my husband and his friend finally got brunch at River Deli.

The ambiance is playful and casual, the tables are packed together close enough to hear your neighbor’s conversation but not so close that you’re distracted by it. We took some time to get acquainted with the menu, and put in some quick orders – pancetta and cheese omelet  for me, spinach and cheese for my husband and spinach pear salad for our friend. We also ordered some coffees and afternoon drinks to round out the brunch. After which we were more or less ignored — no waters or check-ins. My husband on the way to the bathroom got barked by the waitress that the bathroom was for customers only — when he said he was in fact a customer she apologized begrudgingly. Why would she assume that he’s NOT a customer? Were his jeans, t-shirt get up so out of place in this restaurant?

Then our food arrived and it looked delicious but our drinks were still nowhere to be seen. When we inquired about our drinks and if they were still coming, we were told a curt, “sorry we’re busy today”. Really?  At that point I think the three of us mentally crossed this place off of our neighborhood visit list, and put it on “never again”. It’s a pity the food was tasty and the drinks when they did arrive were done well. But the service and attitude irreprably soured the taste.

Wait there are photos!


Shake shacking it downtown!

The anticipation surrounding Shake Shack’s Brooklyn debut was apocalyptic. Shake Shack became DoBro’s alliterative technique of choice. And just about everyone I knew couldn’t wait to stop talking about Five Guys, and move on to Shake Shack. Even the *vegetarians* were OK to patronize this place “for the fries”, really? Let’s just be honest, nothing heralds gentrification quite like Shake Shack, and for many of us, this will finally be the validation on the ROI we’ve all been talking about. It’s practically our civic duty as investors in the area to patronize Shake Shack, and so we took our hungry stomachs and did just that.

While I was expecting the place to be pretty packed (it was), the perfectly crisp rippled fries (they were), and the symphony that is the Shake Shack burger with “special sauce”, I hadn’t expected to run into every non-ethnic person that was living in Dobro. Really. You won’t find them directly next door at Wendy’s, no. If I hadn’t known better I could’ve sworn that I was NOT in Brooklyn let alone next to the Fulton Mall for all the diversity I saw. It was disturbing on multiple levels. Homogenous clientele or not, Brooklyn Fare beware, there’s a new spot for the burgeoning Flatbush foodie.

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atlantic terrace

Brooklyn Real Estate: Atlantic Terrace

There was little chatter about this development when I had visited it early 2011, and there still seems to be little discussion. Its forum on streeteasy is eerily silent. I stumbled upon it practically by accident. And I was suspicious. It seemed nice, but again how can NO ONE be talking about it? First, the lobby is modern,  minimalist and manned by a concierge / doorman who seemed to hate their job, but managed to get us to sign in. We met the sales agent in one of the penthouses, and it was impressive. A well laid out duplex, and windows on top of windows, on top of windows! With a porch! Almost love at first sight. But what about the rest of the complex? Not quite as overwhelming, but still a lot to talk about. For one, it’s Gold LEED certified. Not just “on track” for that certification (read Toren) but they’ve got the gold. One of the first in Brooklyn. Their finishes while not the fanciest, are sustainable and aren’t hard on your eyes. I especially liked the in-wall air units. Except for the duplex none of the windows were much to write home about, but we did see a few south facing units so you’ll probably get a lot of light. I liked the in-kitchen window, that’s always a nice touch. The hallways were actually very impressive, they *smelled* clean, as if fresh air was being pumped in, it probably was.

Now for the more interesting stuff. This development is a coop. Really? Yes, you read that right there’s a new GREEN building, that’s a coop, in Brooklyn. We were assured though that the board wasn’t unreasonable, the agent didn’t expect any problems. Uh-huh. The location, while not bad for convenience — about a brisk 10min walk to most subway stations, is practically sitting on the lap of the new Barclay’s center, upcoming home of the Nets, so expect to see a lot of traffic during game time in the near future. Finally, price. The market units weren’t offered at a great price.  8J a 1,067sqft unit was listed for $610k late 2010 and recently reduced by 2% to $599k, with common charges in excess of $1.1k (maybe some tax deductions?). The unit seems to be in line with what nearby developments are offering, maybe even on the more affordable side with the recent reductions. But, since the affordable units (which are the majority in this development 60/80)  are built in with the market rate units, you’re likely to see that your neighbor got your exact / very similar unit, just MUCH cheaper. Irksome.  All in, the market-rate units weren’t really that compelling. I’d rather go up the block to some of the new developments in DoBro, or even Prospect Heights and not have to deal with having Barclays Center / Nets Game traffic as my direct neighbor.

Disclaimer: These reviews were written before I was a real estate agent, and reflects my previous opinions solely as a buyer.


Brooklyn Real Estate: University Towers

This is a review from earlier this year, when I sojourned to my neighbor University Towers. I’d been itching to see a unit here since I learned that they were in fact coops, and not what I had initially thought, more projects. The unit I was viewing was being billed as a newly renovated gorgeous 2 bd / 2 ba sponsor unit, that wouldn’t require board approval. And I have to say I was mildly surprised. The outside, we’ve already discussed a bit dated. But once you’re inside, it’s pleasant. The security desk was manned by someone who was paying attention, the lobby was clean, the elevator comfortable,  and the hallways a bit utilitarian. There is a gym on premise, but not in the building, you’ll have to jump to the sister building 191 Willoughby to get your work-out on.

The unit itself was newly renovated and it showed. It was spacious, light, and had an interesting layout that allowed you to do laps around the living room / dining room / and kitchen. The details were nice, new appliances – kitchen aid fridge and silver stone counter tops, semi-crown molding, deep soak tub and solid white oak floors. Nice.  Yet, there’s no denying that the building / apt is old(er). The air unit is in a slightly obstructive , the windows are not over sized, though they do get good light, and the ceilings are a tad low. The finishes while new and good quality I expected more for the the $567k price tag. I suppose all of this is made up by it’s location — it’s well situated in Downtown Brooklyn, near all the subway lines, jumping distance to Fort Greene.

Checking streeteasy it appears the unit sold for ~$537k, not a bad price by any means for the location, the space, and the amenities.

Disclaimer: These reviews were written before I was a real estate agent, and reflects my previous opinions solely as a buyer.

Chez Oskar

Chez Oskar


Continuing on the French bistro trend we moved onto Chez Oskar, a funky little surprise in Clinton Hill / Fort Greene. We weren’t really sure what to expect as we just meandered in here after deciding against 5 previous lunch contenders. Chez Oskar it was. I start many French Bistro experiences with their French Onion soup, not for any special reason other than my taste buds water at the thought of it. I mean the CHEESE, the flavor, the CHEESE, and cute bowls they come in, my senses are helpless against a good French Onion soup.  Chez Oskar’s while tasty, was nothing to write home about. I liked it only because I like cheese.

Such was not the case with the main course; the highly recommended and much anticipated lamb burger. It lived up to it’s reputation. Cooked to buttery softness, simple but punchy spices, and topped off with a delicate goat cheese spread, a strong contender for best neighborhood burger. Not skimping, the dish comes with crisp fries, and a well dressed salad. What a deal! I smiled all the way through lunch, despite the slow and inattentive service.

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Chez Lola Croque Madam

Hola Lola

Chez Lola Croque MadamChez Lola will entice even the hardest of hearts. I practically ran across the street to check it out. It’s all ooohh ahhh, how DO they combine a Frech bistro with 1920′s Shangai chic? They do. And that isn’t all. There’s something to look at, at nearly every crevice of this neighborhood staple. Plus there’s a garden, simple, sweet, and seemingly fresh air. What’s not to like? The food and service. Alas. We ordered the house cured salmon eggs benedict and the croque madam – and were underwhelmed. It’s heart breaking because I wanted to like this place SO much. In fact my enthusiasm for them will likely result in a second trying later in life. But for now, I gotta say there was nothing special about the food. The eggs benedict had bland / non-existent Hollandaise sauce, calories without flavor UGH! The croque madame egg was shriveled until {hand to heart} it was little more then yellow carbon.

Last, they really must fix the draft. We weren’t seated THAT close to the door, and it was a really warm winter day (50s) so the draft shouldn’t be that bothersome, unless there’s a lot of it. There was. Here’s hoping for second chances.
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Fisherman’s Dawta Taking over!

Long time readers will remember my gushing review’s of Loretta Coffee and Tea. It found the perfect balance between cafe, restaurant, urban sanctuary, coffee, milk and of course price. I was horrified to see in my recent Boeurm Hill visit that it’s been torn out from our neighborhood, and replaced by an equally cute soon-to-come “fisherman’s Dawta”, type cafe. I peered behind the coming attractions posters and saw they hadn’t even changed the layout. Basically it looks exactly like Loretta’s Coffee and Tea except it’s been painted light blue. Is that going to work? Are people going to all of a sudden flock here now because there’s light blue paint. How much can they possible optimize on Loretta’s that would make them think they can stay in business longer? I guess we’ll soon find out!


Food Rally

Grand Army Food Rally

Spreading the vending truck fever Prospect Park Alliance let loose this weekend some of the finest vending food fares. What better way to spend the weekend than testing out my insatiable appetite. That is until I saw the lines. Saying they wrapped around themselves would be kind. Plus some of the best fare, like the lobster truck ran out of food. For shame! Faced with standing in line for well over an hour for food, and paying about $1 per dumpling for the privilege of eating it in the chilly afternoon air, I decided that my vending food fever only went so far.

Next time Prospect Park Alliance, chairs, more food, and more trucks please.


Dispatches from DoBro

Just about every denizen in DoBro has said something about the weather — which is nothing new, and in about another month we’d have been well on our way to collective amnesia “what snowstorms?!”, were it not for the unplowed streets that make this years flurry batches unforgettable. A close second though has got to be the ensuing trash — immortalized here by AOL’s Patch.com: http://fortgreene.patch.com/articles/the-torens-tower-of-trash

And if that wasn’t enough trash talk for the Toren, DoBro’s zebra tower, they’ve also been recently stripped of their crown as best selling building in DoBro. http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2011/01/21/the_bestselling_building_of_2010_was_actually_a_zombie.php

I think we all secretly knew that Be@Schermerhorn with its drop dead prices was out selling the Toren, we just opted not to say anything about the “accounting” error.

The neighborhood while still in the throes of construction and snow-trash appears to be selling well, according to property shark data, which shows that most sales in the $500-$1,000 SF range were in DoBro or Park Slope, so take THAT Williamsburg! We may show you yet!

81 Willoughby was named Brownstoner’s “Building of the Day” for February 10th.  Which made me stop and actually take a look at that building. For the entire 6+ months that I’ve been living in the neighborhood I never paid attention to that building, it has students congregating on its steps, so when I usually pass it I’m actually pushing through it. But truth be told, it IS quite nice. http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2011/02/building_of_the_235.php

Brooklyn Gold which we covered last year in October is having a moment, only 4 units left from the sponsor according to Brownstoner, who featured this unit as their Feb. 3rd “Rental of the Day”. While the complex is a strong rental I’m not sure about this $1,999 for a one bedroom. I mean the W/D is *clearly* in the kitchen. You would think that would impress the multi-tasker in me, but it doesn’t.

The Brooklyn Burger Bonanza can probably thank the Shake Shack for the moment the burger is experiencing. But really, how many of these things can we eat, and how often?

Smash burger: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/19/smashburger-will-land-in-fort-greene/

Chee burger: http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/34/3/ps_cheeburger_2011_1_21_bk.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheBrooklynPaper-FullArticles+%28The+Brooklyn+Paper%3A+Full+articles%29


Brooklyn Real Estate: The Robert Livingston

There were quite a few open houses the day I went to check out the Robert Livingston, unfortunately for me I only had time to check out only one. The chosen one was a one bedroom on the 7th floor, ~ 650 sf, listed by BellMarc for $315k.

The Robert Livingston is well located on the border of Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill. Very accessible to all subways and unlike much of Downtown Brooklyn nearby neighborhood charms and conveniences. The lobby is unexpectedly opulent, channeling old-world appeal. Even the elevator had a certain aged elegance, arriving with a sense of purpose. But where the lobby seemed appealingly old, the rest of the building was a bit neglected. The hallways were dark with worn carpet. The unit itself, echoed the sentiment. The kitchen appeared to be the strongest feature, having been recently renovated. The bathroom was a good size and had modern finishes. The windows were generous throughout and light easily streamed in.

I wasn’t a big fan of the darkish parquet flooring, though this is more personal preference as the ones here were in decent shape.The layout also seemed reasonable for a one bedroom, though there is an awkwardly placed closet in the living room with accordion doors. The furniture could have been better optimized to showcase the space.

I didn’t get a chance to checkout the building amenities, but I was told there was 24hr doorman, live-in super, laundry, bike racks, storage, and  a health club next door.  All good things. Still the $315k seemed a tad bit high for the unit, especially if I’m going to have to pay for my own health club membership, and the W/D was in some communal space rather than in the unit itself. The apartment also wasn’t in the best shape possible (though not bad), and $315 isn’t too pricey and depending on how much you like the location might actually be fair. The monthly maintenance of $787 is shockingly steep, and I can’t imagine why it’s pegged so high given the limited amenities. This is a co-op however so the monthly structure is worked out differently from a condo, so possibly hard as it is to imagine this might be reasonable.

Disclaimer: These reviews were written before I was a real estate agent, and reflects my previous opinions solely as a buyer.

Living the fabulous A-List Life in Downtown Brooklyn