DUMBO, Brooklyn Neighborhood Guide

DUMBO (Down Under The Manhattan Bridge OverPass) is one of the most Instagrammed neighborhoods in New York City.  It’s easy to see why with it’s cobblestone streets and industrial buildings the neighborhood is picture perfect for a wedding photoshoot or just an afternoon in the park with friends.  Walking around DUMBO it can be easy to forget that not long ago the neighborhood was a better place to find a cardboard box rather than a perfect social media post.

The neighborhood has changed considerably over the years and is a perfect example of how quickly New York City can change.  I once had a barber, Truman Capote’s Barber to be accurate, tell me that he wouldn’t go to DUMBO in the 80’s without a handgun.  At the time it was an industrial area with only a few bars – so far from the picturesque scene we see today.

DUMBO began as a manufacturing district.  The majority of the buildings in the neighborhood were run by the paper and cardboard titan Robert Gair.  You can still see his name on the majority of the buildings along Washington Street.  The Gair Company eventually sold them to David Walentas in 1981.  They essentially the the entire neighborhood for $12 million dollars.  David Walentas is quoted in Forbes:

“We got the whole neighborhood. You had the freedom to create a neighborhood. In New York. And whatever you did with one building would add value to the others.”

The neighborhood blossomed under Walentas who diversified the building into businesses and apartments.  They have hand curated businesses to fill the streets and worked to maintain the creative spirit from the time that there were artists lofts.  While it looks different today it’s easy to walk the streets and image how the area looked in the 1900’s.  If you need some help picturing what it looked like here are some historic photos of Dumbo.

The addition of Brooklyn Bridge Park has changed the neighborhood and certainly made it a destination.  While our money is still with Prospect Park for an afternoon – you cannot beat the views at BBP.

Today Dumbo is one of the best neighborhoods for Instagram but it also has a history for being in films.  Gleason’s Gym is a historic gym that Muhammad Ali once trained in.  Hilary Swank trained at Gleason’s to prepare for the film Million Dollar Baby.   Hollywood loves to shoot in DUMBO some movies that have been shot in Dumbo, Brooklyn which have included:  Vanilla Sky, Gotham (TV Show), Gossip Girls Dan Humphrey’s Loft was located in Dumbo, and Orange Is The New Black.

Now that you have a good idea of how the neighborhood got started it’s time to explore!  Grab your phone and make your friends jealous in Insta!

We have put together some notes on Eats and Places to visit in the neighborhood.

Eats

Foragers:  When I first stepped into Foragers I wrote it off as an overpriced market.  They had all the usual things you will find in a upscale market.  It wasn’t until my third visit that I started to fall in love.  Foragers stocks the shelves with some of the best products and hard to find items but offers a diverse salad bar, sushi, and sandwiches.

I discovered the real secret at Foragers are the sandwiches.  They literally have the best sandwiches on earth…well that may be an a bit of an oversell – they do in fact have incredible sandwiches.  The thing about their eats are they are perfectly proportioned.  Somehow they know exactly the right amount of everything so there is a balance between meat/bread.

This is a great place to run into before hitting the park.

Atrium is your brunch or date spot.  The vibe is on point.  I love the green wall, the outdoor seating and the open kitchen.  I think it’s an undiscovered gem in the neighborhood.  You will see tourists taking all the pictures in America at One Girl Cookies next door.  While One Girl Cookie is photogenic if you are hungry Atrium is the spot.  We recommend making a reservation if you have a large party or have a time you can’t miss as it can get busy.

Speaking of One Girl Cookies – yeah it’s worth it.  The cookies are usually tiny and you get 3 or 4 for the price of one cookie.  They are cute and tasty.  Beyond that the space is a great place to sit and catch your breath.

We have to be honest about our favorite cookie.  You will find that down the street at Jacques Torres.  They have the best chocolate chip cookie.  Like for real.  They also have an incredibly rich hot chocolate in the winter.

Ok now we are sufficiently full and filled up with sweets.  We wanted to mention the other highlights in the neighborhood.

Coffee:

Blue Stone Lane – A little outside the ‘hood (Dumbo Heights) but worth the visit, amazing place to work as well.

Brooklyn Roasting – Either Jay Street (they have more couches) or Washington Street (better for working with more Tables)

Usagi – This place is the reason it’s fun to live in NYC.  It is a coffee shop/art gallery/library.  Yeah it’s that Brooklyn.  It’s an undiscovered gem for most people in the neighborhood so definitely worth a stop in.

Drink:

68 Jay Street – This is one of our favorite spots on a Friday night.  They usually have a killer bank playing.  The vibe is super laid back and they have great drink specials.

Superfine – A great bar with upgraded food options.  It is one of the more spacious spots in the neighborhood and they have a large bar if you have a group.

Gran Electrica –  Backyard, Backyard, Backyard.  If you find yourself in Dumbo in the summer make sure you stop in an grab a drink here.  They have Mexican food which you know we can never pass up.  The vibe is laid back but the space is well designed and a good spot to hang for a bit.

Events

If you are in the area in the evening plan to check out St. Anne’s Warehouse.  Make sure to look at their calendar before because they are always putting on some of the most provocative and fresh shows in the city.

SmackMellon is one of the few remaining galleries in the area but definitly worth a stop if they have a show going on.

Transportation

#1:  The F Train

#2:  A/C at High Street

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