Where to Fuel Up -- With the slogan, "coffee, books, democracy," Cortelyou's must-stop coffee shop, Vox Pop, serves up fair trade java and intellectual stimulation, all in one building. Well, kind of. Though its spastic Web site reflects the shop's array of purposes (coffee, food, books, publishing company headquarters), Vox Pop is primarily a coffee shop. Pick up a cup to go, or sit and take in the store's friendly vibe.
Where to Shop -- Once caffeinated, head up the road to Cortelyou Vintage, a vintage boutique that stocks furniture and decorations dating from the 1900s to the '70s. If the kitsch is too much, walk down the block toward Trailer Park. With another location in Park Slope, Brooklyn the store specializes in antiques, with an emphasis on made-to-order Amish-crafted wood furniture. The store, however, started as a place to find one-of-a-kind vintage decorations, and owner Chris Houghton still keeps retro chairs, knicknacks and space age home accessories in stock.
For the Kids -- Of course, no rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn 'hood is complete without a children's store. For the best selection of kid's clothing and toys with a bent toward organic materials and handmade designs head to Belle & Maxie's. The store, however, is no Children's Place: A pair of See Kai Run toddler shoes can cost more than $40 a pair.
Insider's Tip -- Penny-pinchers, consider this your warning. Ditmas Park is all about small businesses selling unique items with high price tags. If you're tight on cash, just browse the stores and take the Q train five stops north to the Atlantic Terminal shopping center. Enjoy a $1.35 iced coffee at McDonalds, score low-rent home furnishings at Marshall's or Burlington Coat Factory and dress your kids in Daffys' reduced-price designer brands. Take your pick: Vox Pop can restore ethical consciousness, but the golden arches will save you two bucks.
[Photo: Flatbush Gardener]