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By Sarah Amandolare in Brooklyn—
Do you enjoy strolling on a full belly? Maybe you’re drawn to warm doughnuts or fluffy pierogis, washed down with strong coffee or an icy pint? In Greenpoint, North Brooklyn’s Polish enclave, such casual delicacies are abundant.
It’s unnecessary to arrive with a plan in this neighborhood, located just a few subway stops from Manhattan. Crowded as it is with hipster cafes, grungy bodegas, cheapo diner-style eateries and old-school Polish butchers, Greenpoint is a great place to wander aimlessly. Pop into vintage clothing shops, record and movie stores, independent booksellers and a collage of dimly lit dive bars as you go.
Of course, there are some Greenpoint establishments that would be a shame to miss out on. The itinerary below is a rough guide to the neighborhood’s high points, with plenty of room for improvisation.
It’s tough to choose just one breakfast haunt in Greenpoint, so go with your gut.
Awake and famished? Head to Brooklyn Label, at 180 Franklin St., where the dishes may not be the cheapest, but are very generously portioned. (You could always scrimp on lunch.) Order Green Eggs and Ham or Challah French Toast with a Stumptown coffee. Or, try whatever special Hash is offered, as it’s consistently delicious. Several vegetarian options are also available.
Prefer a lighter start? The choice is simple: Peter Pan Donuts, at 727 Manhattan Avenue. Inside the adorably old-fashioned shop, coffee costs $1, efficient staff don 1950s-style uniforms and locals get their sugar fix at counter stools. The Plain Sour Cream donut is perfection–a slightly crispy exterior gives way to dense, fluffy insides. The Sugar Raise, best when warm, is light and airy with a dusting of white sugar. Plenty of cream-filled and chocolate options fill the bins behind the counter.
Shops on Franklin Street
If you’re on Franklin Street (after dining at Brooklyn Label), continue walking south toward Greenpoint Avenue, stopping into the shops along the way:
Pip-Squeak Chapeau, at 99 Franklin Street, is a light-filled shop owned by Moscow-born designer Sveta Dresher, who used to sell her designs to Barneys New York. Her elegantly minimalist clothes and accessories are made in Brooklyn from natural fabrics and yarns, like Alpaca fur.
Old Hollywood, at 99 Franklin Street, is in the same building as Pip-Squeak Chapeau. This carefully curated, old Hollywood-inspired boutique stocks an energetic mix of jewelry, including modern pieces and vintage baubles created by more than 70 different designers. Owners Tiffany Porter, an expert vintage-buyer, and Alex Shulhafer, a designer, also offer period clothing and some home goods.
Stop into WORD independent bookstore at 126 Franklin Street to peruse the selection of novels, poetry books, literary journals and Moleskin notebooks.
By now, you’ll want a pick-me-up. Continue a bit further south to Cookie Road, at 94 Franklin Street. This tiny bakery and coffee shop is owned and operated by an older Polish couple, both graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts in Poland. Pick up a cookie or pastry with seasonal fillings and take a seat at one of the café tables outside.
Manhattan Avenue stroll
If you started the day at Peter Pan Donuts, continue walking up Manhattan Avenue toward Messerole Avenue. On the crowded main drag, be aware enough to dodge slow-moving grandparents, young mothers with strollers, hand-holding couples and kids on bikes. Take out your ear buds and listen closely–that’s Polish you’re hearing as you pass the sweet-smelling bakeries and butcher shops with hanging sausages.
Check out Photoplay, a DVD and VHS rental store that stocks a thorough selection of classic and foreign films, in addition to new releases, at 928 Manhattan Avenue. Movie fanatics should feel free to chat up the equally obsessed staff.
Vintage clothing fiends should book it back to the other end of Manhattan Avenue. The newest addition to Greenpoint’s fashionable scene is Seven Wonders Vintage, at 606 Manhattan Avenue. Everything in the store, a carefully edited array of floral sun dresses, ‘70s styles and Mexican turquoise jewelry, is less than $100.
Want more vintage? Keep trekking to Lower East Side-transplant Fox and Fawn, at 570 Manhattan Avenue, where there’s almost always a find hidden somewhere in the racks of clothes and shoes.
Lunchtime eats and parks
Along the way, you’ve no doubt passed a slew of tempting eateries. Below are a few of the best bets.
Papacito’s, at 999 Manhattan Avenue, prepares incredibly flavorful, fresh guacamole, served with crunchy house-made tortilla chips. Pair it with fish tacos and eat outside in the backyard if the weather’s nice.
Or, go to the Franklin Corner Café, at 210 Franklin Street. The nondescript, but unusually clean and bright bodega makes an outstanding Cuban sandwich—if you can be patient with the somewhat slow service. Window counter seats look out onto pretty Franklin Street.
Alternatively, grab sandwiches and sides to-go at the deli inside The Garden, an organic market at 921 Manhattan Avenue. Bring your lunch to McCarren Park’s picnic tables, or spread a blanket in the grass and watch the pickup softball and Frisbee games. The park is at the intersection of Nassau, Bayard, Leonard and North 12th Streets.
McGolrick Park is further away from the center of Greenpoint, but worth the walk. The park features a playground area, beautiful archway and probably the most stunningly tall and majestic trees in the neighborhood. Located at the intersection of Russell and Monitor Streets between Nassau and Driggs Avenues.
For drinks and dinner
Anella, at 222 Franklin Street, serves seasonal, Italian-influenced small plates and entrees. Chef Joseph Ogrodnek is known for his delicate preparations of vegetables, which are sourced from Anella’s back garden and the Eagle Street rooftop garden down the road. The humble interior is comfortably rustic, with salvaged wood tables and low candlelight.
For pizza, don’t miss Paulie Gee’s, at 60 Greenpoint Avenue. Thin-crust pies with bits of perfect char come topped with everything from arugula and shaved parmigiano reggiano, to roasted grape tomatoes, sweet copicola and homemade fior di latte. Brooklyn native Paulie is passionate about pizza; he imported a wood-burning brick oven from Naples and taught himself how to make perfect pies in his backyard.
Wherever you’ve ended up by nightfall, there’s bound to be a pub nearby. The Black Rabbit, at 91 Greenpoint Avenue, is one of the best. The pub pours pints of its namesake lager for $3, along with a brief menu of snacks, like sliders, marinated olives and a seasonal pickle plate. Saloon doors on the booths add charm to the dimly lit, jovial scene—select a board game to play from the stack next to the bar.
In Greenpoint, the portions of Polish food are generous, cheap and authentic. There are several different cafes and restaurants to try–stick to Christina’s, at 853 Manhattan Avenue, or Lomzynianka, at 646 Manhattan Avenue. Both are homey and warm, a bit like being fed by family–family with a knack for handmade cheese and potato pierogies, kielbasa and stuffed cabbage. Wash it down with a Zywiec beer.