Beyond Manhattan: The Borough of Brooklyn

Physician's Money Digest, Fall 2014, Volume 15, Issue 2

New York City may be the most popular tourist destination in the US (and among the most popular in the world), but few visitors likely take the time to venture outside of Manhattan to one of the other 4 boroughs that compose the city.

Just across the East River lies an up-and-coming tourist hot spot: Brooklyn. While Manhattan has the glitz of Times Square, the entertainment of Broadway, and the beauty of Central Park, Brooklyn is gaining traction because of its bars, restaurants, shopping, and views of the Manhattan skyline.

Physicians in particular might want to take a trip into Brooklyn, where they can peruse the unusual Morbid Anatomy Library. While the library has plenty of oddities, it also has artifacts relating to medical museums, anatomical art, the history of medicine, and death.

Morbid Anatomy has been open for 6 years in Brooklyn, but recently it received a facelift as it moved into a 3-floor, 4,200-square-foot building in the Gowanus. The new building officially opened June 28 to the public. Initially, the museum began as a website created by Joanna Ebenstein as a place to house her photos of medical museums. However, she found a location to house the Morbid Anatomy Library and a lecture series called Morbid Anatomy Presents.

“It never occurred to me that it would be of interest to anyone but myself,” she explains. “Interest in this material has definitely grown, recently.”

The lecture series has included guests from the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, MD, and the New York Academy of Medicine. In addition to the lectures, the museum hosts workshops and classes, the most popular of which is the taxidermy class.

If the exhibits and artifacts within the Morbid Anatomy Library seem like they wouldn’t appeal to the public — consider again. In order to fund the larger space, Ebestein and Tracy Hurley Martin, chief executive officer and board chair of the library, took to Kickstarter to crowdfund the newly renovated museum. Not only did they reach their goal of $60,000, but they surpassed it to raise $76,013. Some people even donated $1,000 and more for special gifts, postcards from authors, and rare artwork.

The museum houses over 2,000 books, some of which are hard-to-find medical texts, and has space for temporary exhibitions among the permanent showcases. The first temporary collection is the Art of Mourning from Stanley B. Burns, MD, which includes folk art and traditional related to mourning. Visitors can find hand-colored mourning photographs, hair art shadowboxes and jewelry, memorial cards, death masks, and more. The exhibition will remain open until Dec. 4, 2014.

“The museum is dedicated to things that fall between the cracks,” Ebenstein says.

Blast to the past

In the late 1800s Coney Island became an entertainment center for Brooklyn with carnival games and amusement park rides. Although the games and rides are typically only open through Labor Day, the beach and the boardwalk are open year-round.

The current amusement parks are Luna Park (the second iteration of the park) and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. Three rides at Coney Island are listed in the National Register of Historic Places: Wonder Wheel, a Ferris wheel opened in 1920 with both stationary cars and rocking cars that slide as the wheel turns; The Cyclone, built in 1927 and one of America’s oldest wooden coasters still in operation; and Parachute Jump, built at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and a Coney Island landmark, although it is has been closed since 1968.

But if rides and carnival games aren’t of interest, visitors can lie on the beach, go fishing on the pier, or grab a hot dog at the original Nathan’s restaurant, which was started in 1916 as a small hot dog stand. The Coney Island Nathan’s is also the location of annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. The current record is held by American Joey Chestnut who ate 69 Wonder Wheel hot dogs and buns in just 10 minutes.

Best steak in town

If your palate is more refined than hot dogs, then Brooklyn is also a great place to get a steak. Peter Luger Steak House, located in Williamsburg, has been named New York City’s number one steakhouse for 30 years in a row by Zagat. However, the 125-year-old restaurant has prices to match its reputation, and reservations are strongly recommended.

Zagat warns that service is “gruff,” which is more than accurate. The waiters have often held the positions for years, rarely write down orders, and don’t bother bringing menus to the table unless they are requested.

While Zagat lists the price for Peter Luger’s as $83, that’s simply the cost of a porterhouse steak for 2. The restaurant doesn’t have an extensive menu, but what it serves it does well and the portions are large with most sides and appetizers enough for 2 people to share. The entrees are à la carte, so all sides are extra, but they are well worth it. Luger’s popular sides include its French fried potatoes and creamed spinach, while its well-known desserts are the Luger’s Special Holy Cow Hot Fudge Sunday and the pecan pie. All desserts are served with the restaurant’s famous homemade “schlag,” a thick whipped cream.

Diners should know to bring cash as the only credit card accepted at Luger’s is the restaurant’s own. If you forget, though, there’s an ATM outside next to the front door.

Don’t feel the need to spend a small fortune in order to get delicious food, though. There are plenty of other eateries that are both more casual and less expensive, including: Shalom Japan serving Jewish and Japanese food; gastropub Lachlan; BBQ at Fette Sau; Sweet Chick, known for its fried chicken; and old-timey Maison Premiere. Food trucks aplenty can be found in the streets peddling lobster, tacos, cupcakes, waffles, grilled cheese sandwiches, falafels and more. Or do as the locals and stop by Smorgasburg, a flea food market held at multiple Brooklyn locations, rain or shine.