sw/EATS! Crunch Fitness and El Gran Castillo de Jagua


Crunch Fitness!

A staple of the North Flatbush Business District since 2008, Crunch is North Flatbush’s “little bit of everything” fitness spot, with a broad spectrum of equipment and classes, all at an affordable monthly membership rate.

Crunch’s massive facility offers the standard fare of workout machines and weight stations, as well as an abundance of personal training packages to help you achieve your fitness goals. Crunch Park Slope is a Crunch Signature Location, meaning that they offer all the sweat-inducing equipment available at regular Crunch locations, plus a supersized menu of group fitness classes, expanded facilities, and upgraded amenities.

Crunch Park Slope’s amazing selection of unique classes is just one thing that sets them apart from your standard gym! As part of my “research” for this article, I got to test out a few of their more unusual classes. “Bro-ga” is a yoga class that’s specifically geared towards men’s bodies (though women are welcome to join!). “Anti-gravity yoga,” one of the gym’s most popular classes, allows participants to indulge their “Cirque de Soleil” fantasies.

“Anti-gravity yoga” was equal parts soothing and thrilling; anti-gravity hammocks hanging from the ceiling served as both relaxing cocoons and vehicles for flipping and tumbling. Instructor Emma Galland was great at helping everyone in the room, from beginners to more experienced acrobats, feel confident and successful, while continually challenging themselves and confronting moments of fear or uncertainty. The class finished with a very relaxing savasana (“dead-man’s pose”) — as we were gently rocked in the hammocks (I’ll admit it, I feel asleep), Galland came around and sprinkled us one at a time with some delightfully scented lavender goodness.

Other classes include: Ass & Abs, The Athlete’s Workout, Chisel, Carribean Rhythms, Tabura, Burn and Firm Pilates, Pilates with Toys, Circuit Party, Barre Bootcamp, TRX Diesel, Beach Body, and Vinyasa Yoga. Crunch also has a dedicated spinning studio, with regular high-energy classes like “The Ride,” for those looking for a techno party on a bike.

Crunch is expanding into the former American Apparel space, and will be adding an extra class and workout space, including a custom High Intensity Interval Training workout area with four different HIIT circuits: AccelerateHIIT, PunchHIIT, StrongHIIT, and ExtremeHIIT (for more info click HERE). Other unique Crunch amenities include live online workouts so you can workout anywhere, anytime, small-group training, an online nutrition program, TRX suspension-training equipment, and baby-sitting services, so your kids can play while you workout!

To wind down from your workout, hit the sauna in the full-service locker rooms!

Crunch aims to be a gym for the community, and their “no judgement” motto is at the heart of everything that they do, aligning with the belief that fitness should be accessible, empowering and fun for everyone.

Want to try it out? Click HERE to access membership rates, and click HERE to link to their free 3-day guest pass!

El Gran Castillo de Jagua!

From one of our newest businesses in our last reporting to one of our oldest… El Gran Castillo de Jagua has been a North Flatbush business for 32 years. Current owner Ramon Olivo’s cousins began “The Great Castle of the Jagua” (the Jagua is a river in the Dominican Republic). When Ramon’s family of restaurant owners saw an opportunity to grow their locations, they settled on the original  Flatbush location at 347 Flatbush Avenue (at the corner of Carlton and Park Place). They saw the community needed a place to eat a belly-filling, well priced meal, and played to the nearby construction and home improvement businesses and their customers at the time — Pintchik Hardware, Bergen Tile, City Lighting, J&G Plumbing, etc. The generous portions and quality ingredients at a fair price were the foundations of the family’s offerings, knowing that would keep people returning. Not much has changed since then except a familial change of hands where Olivo took the reins a decade or so later. He eventually spearhead the location change up the block at 355 Flatbush with hopes of attracting additional clientele as the neighborhood shifted with desires for more sit-down dining accommodations.

Dominican food served in New York City has focused on a constant cast of stewed meats–chicken, pork, oxtail, braised in rich sauces with vegetables. Not spicy, the food can be “spiked” with table-top hot sauces or vinegars. The ten-person staff prepare a rotating selection of specials in addition to the regular staples above. And the steam-table provisions offer a quick option for take out appealing to the populous –small portions are still reasonably priced at $6.75 (to-go only). Boasting “the best Spanish-style coffee” around, El Gran Castillo de Jagua is proud to mention the use of natural Domincan Republic ingredients, “When people taste it, they love it!”

Olivo exercises frequently–riding bikes, running, playing tennis–but does it close to his Long Island home. He has never tried any of the North Flatbush fitness locations, but he sees many athletes and gym-goers swinging by to refuel. The rotisserie chicken is a huge draw for exercising folks, as well as the accompaniments like spanish yellow rice or traditional white rice, black beans or red beans, and fresh green salad that round out the meal–add avocado for a creamy contrast to the savory chicken. Broiled fish is another popular alternative — Castillo features up to five options regularly. But for those who avoid animal protein, there are a number of delicious options that are meat/dairy free including: plantains (maduro-sweet, or tostones-fried); mangú boiled plantains, mashed with butter, margarine or oil in the water in which they were boiled and topped with sautéed red onions that have been cooked with vinegar, Yuca (also known as cassava, manioc, or Brazilian arrowroot-not to be confused with the ornamental yucca bush) served up as crispy fries, and the variety of rice and beans offered.

Business is good, Olivo says, and is happy to see new stores opening up, “more business, more people” he claims. But neighborhood changes are not lost on him– the streets are cleaner and he loves the new planters with trees and greenery,  but property taxes and rents are increasing. Gran Castillo hesitates to use Seamless or other delivery services in order to avoid service fees and to keep his prices low for customers– though he understands the market demands, Olivo would prefer direct-dialed delivery orders.  

Before our long days of event-production, the North Flatbush team loves to stop by and enjoy an abundant “dominican breakfast” consisting of eggs any style, mangú, fried cheese, and grilled salami. Lunchtime favorites include any of the sandwiches (coldcuts, baked chicken, pernil) on simple, baked-daily bread, or cold-weather friendly asopao –a soup and rice dish that is loosely translated into English as a Dominican version of the Italian risotto, without the endless stirring and the added cheese and more like a stew thickened with rice, tomatoes, and meat. But my personal favorite is the simple yet delicious breaded and pan-fried pork-chop that is humongous and flavorful, served with two sides and under ten bucks. Whatever your hunger brings can be easily satisfied with the wide selection at El Gran Castillo de Jagua. The issue though– how many times a week can one eat there before it is too many? Olivo would love to see you daily!