On my recent trip to New York I learned that if Brooklyn were to separate from New York City it would be the fifth largest city in the USA. Whilst remarkable, this makes it all the more shameful that I have never really ‘done’ Brooklyn on previous trips. However, this was certainly a wake up call to spend some more time across the East River.
Unlike Manhattan, something about Brooklyn seemed to have the potential to make you feel you were walking in the shoes of locals. We spent a sunny late-August Saturday morning strolling the endless rows of Brownstones of Brooklyn Heights, half imagining life behind the ubiquitous arched double doors.
One thing easy to imagine though, is that this life would definitely include regular weekend brunches at Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain.
Despite the name, this is a retro café-diner housed in an old 1920s pharmacy. Serving sundaes, milkshakes and traditional dishes like Mac ‘n’ Cheese and biscuits, this is a nostalgic Americana that everyone recognises. Yet somehow this place manages not to feel gimmicky but instead an authentic hub of the Carroll Gardens community.
The story goes that the old pharmacy had been shut and virtually abandoned for thirteen years until the current owners had an idea and a twist of fate (see their website!) occurred to enable them to restore the shop, and its contents of original drugstore ephemera, old counter and mosaic tiled floor.
My group and I sat at a big table at the back surrounded by old board games and original pharmacy cabinet shelves filled with weighing scales, telephones and medicine bottles. We ate insanely tasty cheese and Brooklyn cured smoked-maple-bourbon-ham toasties, buttermilk biscuits, drank traditional sparkling sodas and even found room for a small sundae as a sort of ‘brunch dessert’. It was the perfect Saturday morning for the last day of our holiday.
Long gone are the days that Longos Pharmacy, as it was known, and as the original floor tiles spell out, was the centre of a community but I was so impressed how the new owners have been able to completely respect its past whilst also creating something new for today’s neighbourhood. America, like UK, are struggling with the baggage and connotations of ‘nostalgia’ and its use as political and emotional weaponry, and maybe it is too much to put on an eatery alone, but this place reminded me that halcyon reminders and a healthy respect for the past in the modern world can be both fun and comforting. Oh, and it always helps if there is ice cream…with chocolate sauce.