A Short Walk Through Gowanus

Gowanus, Brooklyn, is a really special neighborhood. It’s been described succinctly as a “working class bridge between Carroll Gardens and Park Slope,” and is infamous for it’s putrid canal (which is slowly getting cleaned up and has been designated a Superfund site). It’s even been memorialized in a painting by Randy Dudly, which is on view at the Brooklyn Museum (and is one of my favorites). The neighborhood is becoming less industrialized, though a few local industries still hang on, and more filled up with artists needing studio and musicians needing practice spaces. In the last few years the very popular club the Bell House has opened up on 7th street, as well as a sprinkling of restaurants along 3rd avenue. Band practice takes me to Gowanus on a weekly basis and I’ve decided to share some of my favorite sites along 9th street. To follow on this short walk just get off at the Smith and 9th subway stop (at 88 feet high the tallest in the system) and walk east on 9th street.

Gowanus Cement Truck

Polkadot Cement Mixer

The first thing I always notice when I get off the subway or ride my bike by are these polkadot covered cement trucks. I love the whimsy they bring to heavy industry! Aileen told me she remembered seeing them around NYC as a kid. Does anyone know the story?

Late Afternoon Icon

Gowanus Icon

After crossing the canal (unless you had to wait because the draw bridge was up) make sure you look up to see the famous Kentile Floors sign. Along this route you’ll encounter Find Home Furnishings for things unique and old and dear, and also Lowes, for daily home goods that are not so special.

Brooklyn Hot Dogs

Brooklyn Hot Dogs

Further along you’ll pass this other great, and less celebrated, example of Gowanus signage. I don’t know what this place is. It has never been open in all the years I’ve been walking by and why is there awkward, extra space at the end?

Bar Tano Atmosphere

Bar Tano, my favorite recent addition to the neighborhood

Don’t let the signs distract you too much though, because all good walks along 9th street include a pause at Bar Tano, a bar and eatery with an Italian slant. With cocktails like the basil infused “Gowanus” and tequila concoction “Flats Fixed” (inspired by a tire shop across the street) Bar Tano brings the feel of a European cafe to gritty 3rd avenue. Their pizza and bruschetta is also becoming a bit of an obsession for me.

Bar Tano Bar

The inviting bar at Bar Tano

I admit I was really surprised the first time I walked by and saw that such a sleek looking join had opened up on 9th street, but a few years on I feel it’s integrated into the landscape and I’m glad it’s there. Newer newcomers (and honorable mentions) include pie mavens Four and Twenty Blackbirds and Lowlands Bar. While these might speak to the upcoming (but not yet taken hold) complete yuppification of Gowanus, I’ll admit it’s nice to see good establishments operated by nice people opening up in South Brooklyn.

2 thoughts on “A Short Walk Through Gowanus

  1. Greetings,

    The story behind the polka-dotted concrete mixers started with Certified Industries that produced and delivered concrete from several concrete plants in the 5 boroughs. I drove for Certified for several years as did my Father who was with the company for 30 years. Before the polka-dot paint scheme the barrels were painted with blue and white stripes. As the story goes, one day one of the bosses was up on one of the buildings that Certified was delivering to. He was looking down to street level and there were some of the mixers, barrels spinning and found himself almost hypnotized by the moving spiral paint. Fearing there could be possible injuries he had the barrels repainted to polka-dots. The truck that you photographed was owned by Certified. This was one of my favorite companies to work for.

    John S.

    • Thanks, John! What a great story and I’m glad to know they were a good company to work for. It really adds a fun bit of color to the industrial setting. Thanks again for reading and sharing!

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