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Bay Ridge: A guide to where to eat and what to do in this diverse neighborhood

All the way down between Sunset Park, Dyker Heights and the Narrows waterway, Bay Ridge offers a chance to be transported without ever leaving the city.

The neighborhood is known for its cultural diversity, with Norwegian and Middle Eastern communities, as well as Irish, Italian and Greek areas. This is evident when walking the streets, primarily Third and Fifth avenues, which are lined with offerings ranging from pizzerias to hookah bars to halal food stores.

Some call Bay Ridge "Little Arabia," and others say it's where the other half of the Greek and Irish families from Astoria moved.

Bay Ridge is a nice getaway from the bustle of Manhattan and offers great views of New York Bay, a cornucopia of culture, beautiful parks and scenic walks as you pass through tree-lined streets with large homes.

Thinking of a visit? We've picked out some of the must-sees before you head over.

Grab a doughnut and a slice of community history to start

Mike's Donuts, which sits kitty-corner from Dunkin Donuts
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Mike's Donuts, which sits kitty-corner from Dunkin Donuts and not far from a Starbucks at 6822 Fifth Ave., has been a community staple for more than 40 years. The small shop still has an old-school feel with customers sitting on stools at the bar, its chalkboard menu, 1970s-era register and exposed brick walls. Doughnuts are $1 a piece or seven for $5.50 and its tea and coffee is $2.50 -- clearly holding its own with the competitors across the street. People actually walk in and have conversations about their families with the staff, including Gus Neamonitis, the son of the original owners. To this day, the family makes the doughnuts the way they were originally made, hand-cut, one-by-one, starting at 6 p.m. for a 4 a.m. open ... seven days a week. Of course, try the doughnuts, but people tend to love the French cruller, the cinnamon rolls and the coffee, whether iced or as a cappuccino.

Stop into Balady Halal Foods

This halal and Middle Eastern goods shop (7128
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

This halal and Middle Eastern goods shop (7128 Fifth Ave.) is packed with foods and products from all over the Arab world, from hand-painted dishes and colorful rugs to olives, dates and goat meat. Fruit and dried goods are set out like they might be at an open-air market, except it is an every-day grocery store that also carries the typical necessities. It's a family-run business that also has expanded to an interior decor shop next door.

Take in the expansive Bay Ridge homes

Many of the homes in this neighborhood have
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Many of the homes in this neighborhood have sprawling porches and actual lawns that only add to the beauty of the tree-lined streets that surround the avenues. It's very easy to forget that you're in New York City and not in some suburban dream.

Go ahead and get that avocado toast

If it's brunch time, you know what to
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

If it's brunch time, you know what to get: avocado toast. Matter (7604 Third Ave.) is a coffee bar/cafe that may exceed your expectations. The small shop decorated with subway tile and reclaimed wood not only serves solid cappuccino and espresso, but it has a full beer and wine list and a menu of delectable bites. Try the burger or the avocado toast, which is made with ingredients you can tell are fresh (two slices of bread, creamy avocado, lemon, onion and sunflower seeds).

Grab a breath and a view

If you keep walking west (to Shore Road
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

If you keep walking west (to Shore Road between Bay Ridge Avenue and 72nd Street), you'll run into the Narrows Botanical Garden, which not only has great views of New York Bay (and of Staten Island), but a native plant sanctuary, a lily pond, a zen garden and rose gardens. If you can ignore some street noise, it's a nice little retreat. The all-volunteer project was started in 1995 and has since been named as one of the top five gardens to visit in NYC by Condé Nast Traveler. If you keep walking south, you'll eventually hit Shore Road Park, which has incredible views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Pick up a new paperback at BookMark Shoppe

BookMark Shoppe
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

BookMark Shoppe "is the only game in town, but it's a good game," according to Erin Evers, who works at this 16-year-old shop at 8415 Third Ave. The independent bookstore, which carries gifts, a healthy selection of children's books and all the newest titles, may be in a literary desert, but it's had many authors grace its wooden floors for book signings.

It's been a hub for the community in a lot of ways," Evers said. "It's been a drop-off center for charities, it does outreach at schools ..."

And kids and adults both spend time there, whether searching for the right book or socializing. There's also a book club on the last Thursday of every month, crochet and knitting classes and more. It's also on the way to a number of small boutiques on Third Avenue (hint-hint).

Visit a cemetery dating to the 18th century

On the corner of a block (at Mackay
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

On the corner of a block (at Mackay Place and Narrows Avenue) lie Revolutionary War veterans in Brooklyn's smallest cemetery. Originally built in 1725 as the family plot for the Barkaloo (or Barkulo) family in what was called New Utrecht, it's unclear how many bodies are buried there, but the two earliest existing stones are dated to 1788 and 1841. One of them belongs to Simon Cortelyou, who is said to have been involved in the Battle of Brooklyn. Over the years, various groups have taken care of the plot, which sits next to the parking lot for Xaverian High School.

Dinner at Tanoreen is a must

Tanoreen, at 7523 Third Ave., has been recognized
Photo Credit: Tanoreen

Tanoreen, at 7523 Third Ave., has been recognized by the Michelin Guide for its Palestinian/Middle Eastern delicacies from the Galilee region. Run by a mother-daughter duo, the menu features lamb chops, kabob, sayadiyya ("the fisherman's meal"), musakhan (homemade flatbread with sumac-spiced chicken, onions and toasted almonds) and sahlab (a spiced custard with pistachio nuts and rosewater syrup) for dessert. Prices range from about $8.50 for an appetizer to $28 for a grilled entree. Locals swear by Tanoreen, so don't pass it up.

Finish your day inside The Owl's Head

This intimate bar, easily spotted thanks to an
Photo Credit: Nakleh Photography

This intimate bar, easily spotted thanks to an incredible mural that spans its storefront at 479 74th St., offers a robust and rotating beer and wine list and mouth-watering bites. Named after a local park, the space is as down-to-earth as you can get, with knowledgeable staff and regular community events, from LGBTQ+ Night on Thursdays, open mic nights for the Bay Ridge Poets Society and art openings with work by locals.


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