There’s a small window of time when the weather in New York is indisputably perfect, and we can think of few better ways to spend a crisp and sunny day than wandering around Brooklyn, sampling the local fare. 

On one such afternoon, we ventured across the East River to the historic brownstone-lined streets of Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens to join the Lonely Planet Experiences Neighborhood Eats: Brooklyn Brownstone tour powered by Urban Adventures. A stone’s throw from the civic buildings and highrises of downtown Brooklyn, the sidewalks were bustling when we arrived at noon, full of office workers, chic moms pushing SUV-style strollers, and hipster types sporting earbuds and shades. 

A row of brownstone buildings on Smith Street in Brooklyn
Brooklyn's Smith Street is a dining and shopping destination © Amy Lundeen / Lonely Planet

Our tour began on Smith Street, where the indie restaurants, bars, and boutiques that made it a destination some 20 years ago now mingle with the likes of Lululemon, Chase bank, and, of course, the ubiquitous Starbucks. 

Ready to eat our way through some of the area’s best mom-and-pop joints, we met our small group at Stinky Brooklyn, a cheese shop that opened in 2006 before relocating to its current address five years later – practically a lifetime in Brooklyn real estate terms, though, as we would soon learn, a relative newcomer compared to some of its neighbors. 

the cheese counter at Stinky Brooklyn in Carroll Gardens
The tour kicks off in Carroll Gardens, at Stinky Brooklyn © Maya Stanton / Lonely Planet

The cheesemonger laid out our samples (a Spanish Manchego-style hybrid of cow, goat, and sheep’s milk, and a crystalline aged gouda with notes of butterscotch and berries) as our enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable guide, Sasha, filled us in on what we could expect. We browsed the store’s wares, from the wall of Brooklyn-made products to the tidy selection of craft beers on offer.

the slow-fermented loaves of bread at Bien Cuit, Brooklyn
The loaves at Bien Cuit are fermented for weeks, and cooked until they're brown and well-done – hence the artisanal bakery's name © Maya Stanton / Lonely Planet

From there, we walked a few blocks down Smith to Bien Cuit, an artisanal bakery that mixes each of its small-batch loaves by hand and ferments them slowly. They’re then baked until the crust is brown and well-done – hence the shop’s name. We tried the sourdough, first on its own and then slathered with unsalted butter and sweet, tangy jam. 

Shelsky's of Brooklyn is a classic Jewish deli and appetizing shop rolled into one
Shelsky's of Brooklyn is a classic Jewish deli and appetizing shop rolled into one © Maya Stanton / Lonely Planet

Our next stops would include a former carriage house for taster-size samples of local brews (or lemonade, ginger ale, and kombucha) alongside spicy peanuts and salty smoked almond; an appetizing delicatessen slinging classic Jewish fare like bagels and lox, pickled herring, and house-cured pastrami and corned beef; and the oldest Middle Eastern bakery in the borough for hot spinach pies and friendly conversation. 

Gus Matli holding up a tray of fresh-baked baklava at Damascus Bakery in Brooklyn
Gus Matli shows off the baklava at the oldest Middle Eastern bakery in Brooklyn © Maya Stanton / Lonely Planet

We wound our way down Court Street as Sasha delivered an overview of the area’s architecture, plus an introduction to some of its hidden gems and historic markers. In Carroll Gardens, we paused to pick up pastries at an old-school Italian bakery before making our way to D’Amico Coffee Roasters, a neighborhood fixture established in 1948 by a Sicilian immigrant, now run by a third-generation descendant and his purple-haired wife. 

a row of brownstones on Clinton Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
The Brooklyn brownstones that give the tour its name © Maya Stanton / Lonely Planet

On the whole, the portions weren’t huge, but we still walked away from the experience pleasantly satiated. From the ongoing history lessons to the diverse array of treats on offer, not to mention the quality people-watching opportunities on the city streets, Brooklyn made us feel right at home. 

Tour highlight:

Chatting with the third-generation owner of a 60-year-old coffee shop – a local fixture – and hearing about the neighborhood firsthand. Or, scarfing down a hot-from-the-oven spinach pie at the oldest Middle Eastern bakery in Brooklyn. 

Perfect for:

Food lovers and history buffs – though not necessarily in that order. 

Don’t forget:

Comfy walking shoes, a reusable water bottle, and an openness to culinary adventure (plus cash to tip your guide). 

Final word:

This is a great tour because… it gives you a proper feel for a neighborhood that’s at once old-school and new, a history lesson served with a side of diverse, delicious bites. 

Lonely Planet Experiences, in partnership with Intrepid Travel & Urban Adventures, are a new range of multi-day, day and half-day tours offering amazing experiences in the world’s best-loved destinations. 

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