El Pingüino | Photo by Cole Saladino
El Pingüino | Photo by Cole Saladino
Tucked next to the G train in the northwest corner of Brooklyn, Greenpoint is an enclave of both Polish culture and millennial modern influence. The neighborhood, home to top-rated restaurants, popular parks, TV studios, and an abundance of nurseries, remains relatively free from tourists, likely due to its slightly out of the way location.
Before recent history, Greenpoint was an industrial center characterized by its many factories and maritime docks, which is in large part what attracted Polish immigrants looking for work opportunities after leaving Europe. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the neighborhood’s first Polish presence snowballed into a Little Poland in its own right, as relatives, refugees and other native Poles moved together in the area, seeking a community after immigrating to a nation that was not particularly welcoming to them. Early on, the city government’s revitalization efforts reached Greenpoint, and a period of aggressive construction and subsequent gentrification altered the region’s long-standing demographics.
Today, even though tattooed thirties outnumber first-generation babcias, Greenpoint’s Polish roots remain predominant: bank tellers are bilingual, the cuisine is rich and pączki is part of every resident’s vocabulary. While it may not be the immigrant paradise it once was, it’s still a paradise, filled with quiet, tree-lined streets and quaint little shops.
This winter, take a short trip to Greenpoint and let the low-rise backdrop replenish your soul. Here’s everything you need to know about food, drink, and entertainment before you visit.
Take a culinary tour of old and new restaurants
A plethora of authentic Polish restaurants line Manhattan Avenue’s main thoroughfare, run by families and longtime members of the community. Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop is a 1950s bakery serving popular and affordable handmade donuts in the city. When it comes to pierogies and kielbasas, Polka Dot and Pierozek are the places to visit, with the former having a café vibe for lunch and the latter more sitting down.
Once you’ve ticked Polish cuisine off your list, you can also explore the many other dining options in the neighborhood. In the morning, live out your Hannah Horvath fantasies with light bites and as-seen-on-javaGirls coffee shop Cafe Grumpy, or opt for a more hearty brunch at the pop-up Blue Light Speak Cheesy on Green Street, or the beloved Chez Ma Tante. Specialty delicatessens are the right way to eat lunch in Greenpoint, with Frankel’s Jewish grocery store and Lebanese market Edy’s Grocer easily taking the crown.
However, appetizers don’t end with sandwiches and wraps. Pizza comes in perfect form at the Neapolitan pie restaurant Paulie Gee’s and her sister around the corner; newcomer Salsa also does a terrific take on classic Neapolitan pies, and Screamer’s Pizzeria has the beat of vegan pizza. The fresh tacos are cooked over a wood fire at Oxomoco, Mexico street style at Taqueria Ramirez, plant-based in Xilonen, and filled with seafood at Greenpoint Fish.
At dinner time, Greenpoint offers an award-winning restaurant to suit all palates. Classify it in the adorable Italian restaurant Le Fanfare or the spacious Japanese dining room at Rule of Thirds, or take it to the next level with the tasting menu from a resident chef at Fulgurances, Laundromat, the first American restaurant in a renowned Parisian restaurant. Although it acts as a bar, the Achilles heel is a classic Greenpoint option for eclectic small plates with a Mediterranean flair. For newer American options, try Sereneco, Esme (with outdoor garden), and Nura; for Spanish tapas, visit El Born; and for seafood, try the brand new El Pingüino. Asian restaurants are also plentiful: Little Dokebi serves classic Korean cuisine; Di An Di monopolizes the Vietnamese market; Wanpaku is open daily for tapas and Japanese ramen; and Xi’an Famous Foods offers casual Western Chinese fare. If you prefer a DIY dinner, grab some high-quality ingredients from Big Night and make your own spread.
Enjoy an evening of drinking, however you like
Greenpoint is known to have some of the trendiest bars in town. While cocktail shops, perfectly imperfect dives, and craft breweries share the limelight, most of which have year-round outdoor spaces that are just as enjoyable as the inside.
When meeting friends for after-work drinks, think of Minnows Bar, a low-key neighborhood favorite due to its bustling patio and amazing queso or the trusty old pencil factory never disappoints either. On a night that calls for a playful elixir sipped in the warm light of a cocktail bar, Goldie’s, Diamond Lil, and Broken Land are the top contenders, each with lovely backyards to match the mood.
If you are looking for a pool table, Greenpoint’s many dive bars will be happy to help. Brooklyn Safehouse, Nightshade, and A Bar Brooklyn all have stunning pool tables and unassuming environments that make going out a hassle-free affair. Take out the pool table and you’ve got a list of old-fashioned taverns with beautiful dark wood features and reliable draft beers. The most important of them: The Palace, with its infinite size and stained glass windows, and Black Rabbit, for that classic pub vibe.
Northerners in Brooklyn enjoy their beers in small batches and natural wines, which makes beer and wine bars a staple in the Greenpoint community. Brouwerij Lane Craft Beer Shop has an assortment of rare and imported beers in cans, bottles and growlers, all of which can be taken away or enjoyed in the tap room or on the back patio. And Tørst serves over 20 taps of draft beer as well as over 200 bottled selections. For the perfect brewing experience, visit Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co. at the northern tip of the neighborhood, which also has a popular rooftop terrace. Threes Brewing on Franklin Street offers the same level of beer quality in a classier, more intimate setting. Natural West Coast wines take center stage in Coast and Valley, and more unique artisanal Korean rice wines are brewed in-house at Hana Makgeolli. Newcomer The Buttery also offers wines and small plates.
Plan a self-care day full of activities
Greenpoint was apparently designed to take care of itself, home to some of the city’s best parks, farmers’ markets, plant shops, and entertainment centers. Outdoor activities are concentrated around three main centers – McCarren Park, McGolrick Park and Transmitter Park – where local vendors, community sports leagues and friends from across town come together.
Spanning 35 acres, McCarren is the largest and busiest park in the neighborhood, best suited for sports games, group picnics, and Greenmarket Saturdays year-round. McGolrick looks like a quaint town square, with plenty of park benches, a playground, and a historic pavilion that hosts a weekly farmer’s market on Sundays. Transmitter Park is the smallest of Greenpoint’s three main parks, but it offers the most breathtaking views. Located along the East River, this is the site of the former WNYC radio transmission towers, now adapted for lounging with friends and watching the sunset over the Manhattan skyline. Down the street from Transmitter is the Greenpoint Terminal Market, a beloved vendor fair open only during the warmer months.
As you browse the parks and markets, be sure to check out one of the neighborhood’s great plant shops, like Greenery Unlimited, Tula Plants & Design, Horti PLAY, and Tend Greenpoint. Or, if retail therapy isn’t your style, take part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience, like an open-air movie along the East River at Skyline Drive-In or an independent film at the Art & Cinema Cinema. essay, Film Noir Cinema. Later, stop by Archestratus to browse their selection of new and old cookbooks and also grab a snack while you’re there. If, at the end of it all, you’re still not relaxed enough, close the deal and float in warm salt water with a trip to the Vessel Floats Sensory Deprivation Spa.
Spend the night at a Brooklyn boutique hotel
When all is said and done, you will need to get your feet up. Greenpoint isn’t known for its hotel scene, but the few places it does have are very cute and cozy. You can stay in a renovated 19th century textile warehouse at the beautiful Henry Norman industrial hotel. Opt for an entertaining experience at The Box House hotel, home to a renowned rooftop dining room with a wraparound marble bar and bird’s eye view of the area. Finally, if you’re looking for ambiance, book your stay at Franklin Guesthouse, with serene loft-style rooms that resemble the center page of a Pottery Barn catalog.
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