The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Old Grind - The Place of the Hip Coffee Joint in America

A few years back, a humble coffee and sammich shoppe opened on beleagured Lincoln Road on the "forgotten" side of Prospect Park. The whole semi-uninteresting story of its arrival in Flatbush's NE corner (sometimes referred to as PLG or "the Leff") is documented on the long-defunct but always google-able Across the Park blog. Checkout the whole saga here: here...ATP (not All Tomorrow's Parties, for those of you who just smugly smiled at the acronym because you're so cool you were there when My Bloody Valentine played Loveless in its entirety but no one really enjoyed it because it was ear-splittingly loud and aurally unintelligible, hiding the bands only real drawback - it's lack of skill, hardly a problem on record, but apparently quite obvious live) was wild about K-Dog, as were many folks of a certain pedigree. Not everyone was thrilled, but suffice to say K-D & D-B made a lasting impact on the neighborhood. And regardless if Gaby et al stay, go, move or take a well-deserved break, the meaning of K-Dog will forever transfix this blogger. For you see, it wasn't always thus...

Long before I ended up being a middle-aged man in the Leff, I was a young man in Brooklyn, making my way as a musician and non-profit arts guy. I went to work 9-5 at the Brooklyn Museum, rocked in the evenings, and partied whenever it seemed reasonable to do so. My life was fairly simple, and the trajectory of my life well-trodden by other non-natives looking for adventure. I didn't care TWO SQUATS about things like "amenities" in my neighborhood. Oh, a local bar was nice, sure. But who had money for drinking in bars? Paper bags around 40s were the coin of the realm, but if one did have a favorite bar, it was no biggie to hop on the train and make it your destination for the night. Really...I knew lots of pre-kids folks and I don't recall anyone ever having a fit about whether or not a decent bistro or espresso bar or tapas place or boutique or gallery or wine bar was about. Yes, yes, we knew they had them in the West Village or SoHo or maybe the UWS/UES or someplace, and we would manage to locate them if we needed them. THE WHOLE POINT back then was finding cheap digs. And this meant going to neighborhoods where the people didn't necessarily come from the same background we did. They might be old world Italian-or-Irish-American (south Slope, Carroll Gardens) Polish (Greenpoint) black (Prospect Heights, Bed-Stuy) orthodox (Borough Park, parts of Crown Heights), even Buppie (I remember the term being bandied about in regards to Ft. Greene) Latino (Sunset Park, Bushwick)...some even braved Coney Island or Brighton Beach, but after a winter or two they moved back inland. I guess we were "pioneers," but only as much as anyone looking for cheap rent can be called a pioneer. Bargain Space (as much as possible) was what we were after, and maybe a place to rehearse the band or paint or sculpt or, (now here's the dirty little secret about "artist's" lofts) throw outlandish parties that would make a fire chief blush.

I know, I know, your eyes are rolling "that was then, get over it." I'm actually not being sentimental so much as wondering when it became so important that a neighborhood have Zagat's-approved cache. I started to notice it during the big tech run-up, when money was flying around town like ticker-tape after the moon landing. Smith street went from dump to dynamo in a few short years, and pretty soon everyone with a chef's hat and an investor (there were lots of them) was opening a semi-sophisticated yet informal eatery, and you could no longer get an entree for under $10. And people started using words like "pinot" and "merlot" and "zinfandel" when red, white and rose used to suffice. And rents began to rise like a teenage putz at the pool. Oh, and did I mention that people started to WANT to live in Brooklyn? Not just for the Bargain Space, but because they actually thought it was cool. Seemed strange to me, but what the hell I had a big, bad "Bargain Space" near the Gowanus, and I was on the road half the year anyway.

Which brings me to my point...such as it is. Even though most bistro-eaters have all-you-can-eat Metrocards or cars, or both, they STILL insist on having a drop-in baked-goods/wi-fi/latte place within spitting distance. Without a, local hotspot to brag about, I guess one's neighborhood is just another not-yet-there place that would-be business owners don't see as hip, trendy, or up-and-coming enough to risk their life's savings on. In fact, I think what K-Dog's opening did was to suggest that PLG might actually finally join the brotherhood of "hot" neighborhoods. Fact is, PLG/Flatbush/Lefferts was always way cooler than most neighborhoods, by sheer fact of his unique diversity, reasonable prices and proximity to the park. Even an Iowan rube like myself could see that some 22 years ago when I first set foot on the other side of Empire. Okay, at first it was just to sneak a meal at Wendy's over my lunch-hour from the Museum by walking through the Garden (a little communing with nature followed by a most unnatural of meals followed by another 15-minute hike through Botanic splendor,purging me of my guilt).

I hope K-Dog sticks around or finds a new home. And I hope new businesses of all sorts fill the vacant store-fronts of the 'Bush. But I'm damn sure the true appeal of my neighborhood resides beyond the reach of a coffee shop's modem.


Anonymous said...

Well said. And I can still get a better happy hour on my way home in Manhattan than in the watering hole on Lincoln. I guess that is the point. I lucked into this place 10 years ago and I've never thought of leaving.

Anonymous said...

Oh good grief, we're bemoaning the loss of a good, convenient coffee shop. No one is saying that PLG is no longer a great neighborhood. It's just that bodega coffee sucks balls and K-dog was great to have around.

Good coffee is fast becoming a NYC staple, and not just in the gentry-approved nabes. Some of the best coffee I've had has been in far flung QNS and BX (there's a Turkish joint in Woodside that'll knock your socks off). K-Dog was great, but I'll happily cross Flatbush and give Blue Roost my bidness now. Or any bodega that steps up their coffee game.

eggs! said...


Anonymous said...

for me kdog was all about being able to get a good bagel. nothing fancy about that, in my opinion. just a regular NY staple. I am really going to miss kdog for that reason alone.