Greenpoint is sometimes called the “New Williamsburg” for its laid-back atmosphere, dreamy waterfront, trendy bars and its lively art scene, but its Polish, working-class roots live on.
The neighborhood, set between the East River and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Long Island City to the north with Williamsburg to the south, has seen an influx of 20- and 30-somethings, bringing with them a deluge of cocktail bars and brunch spots, pushing rent prices higher, rivaling those of Williamsburg, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens.
Despite the changes, the Polish influence has endured through restaurants like Karczma (136 Greenpoint Ave.), shops like Acme Smoked Fish (30 Gem St.) and the St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church (607 Humboldt St.).
So as you plan your day in Greenpoint, make sure to stop and note its history as you navigate the northernmost Brooklyn neighborhood, from sunrise to sunset.
Start with coffee and a doughnut
Why settle for a standard cup of Starbucks and a microwaved pastry when you can get a fresh cup and doughnut from Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop at 727 Manhattan Ave. Peter Pan has been a staple in the Greenpoint community since the 1950s, and it’s been operated by its current owners, husband-and-wife duo Christos and Donna Siafakas, since the ’90s. They’ve maintained Peter Pan’s decades-old feel, with its checkered floors and counter seating, and the prices hark back to another time, too: Doughnuts cost $1.10 and a cup of coffee is $1 (cash only).
If you’re more of a coffee connoisseur, try Upright Coffee at 860 Manhattan Ave., which is a tiny, standing-room-only sort of space, but its locally roasted coffee packs a big punch. We’re partial to the creamy cold brew, but if that’s not your thing, Upright features a solid menu of cappuccino, espresso and beyond. If you’re looking for somewhere to sit and sip your coffee, check out Café Grumpy at 193 Meserole Ave., best known for its role in HBO’s “Girls.” Yes, that’s the same cafe that Ray runs (and that Shoshanna later rebrands as an anti-hipster locale to boost business).
Take in the view at Transmitter Park or McCarren Park
We hope you took your coffee and doughnut(s) to go because you can enjoy them at Greenpoint’s Transmitter Park, which is found between Greenpoint Avenue and Kent Street at the East River’s edge. It opened in 2012 and has been offering gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline ever since. It’s the perfect place to people-watch: You’ll catch locals fishing off the pier, families enjoying the playground and 20-somethings lounging on the grass, especially on warmer days. In the summer, Transmitter Park often hosts free movie nights and is a prime spot to enjoy the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks over the East River.
Otherwise, check out McCarren Park (776 Lorimer St.), which is considered by many the unofficial border between Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The 35-acre park brings in crowds on weekends from both north Brooklyn neighborhoods with its track, baseball field, dog run, basketball courts and plenty of spots to sunbathe during the warmer months. If you’re really looking to cool off, the park also has a massive public pool, that’s open from the last week in June to the second week in September.
Tip: Stop by the park, at Union Avenue and North 12th Street, on Saturdays for its year-round greenmarket, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Get some perspective at the Kingsland Wildflowers Project
Not very unlike Manhattan’s High Line, the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof on the top of Broadway Stages (520 Kingsland Ave.) provides a natural escape from the city streets with native grasses, insects and wildflowers all overlooking the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s digester eggs. Many people don’t know it’s there, which is a bonus for those seeking a break from city crowds. The green roof also has open hours and hosts performances from time to time. Be sure to check its website for the next event.
Brunch like a champion at Anella
Greenpoint is brimming with top-notch brunch spots — there’s French eatery Le Gamin (108 Franklin St.) for all your croque madame needs and American restaurant Esme (999 Manhattan Ave.), which serves a to-die-for savory Parmesan French toast (served with tomato-braised kale and poached eggs). But poultry enthusiasts should head to Anella (222 Franklin St.), which serves up the neighborhood’s best fried chicken sandwich topped with jalapeño honey butter, white gravy and coleslaw. It’s worth the $16 and the seemingly endless calories. In warmer weather, ask to sit outside: The gorgeous backyard feels like a secret garden, located far, far away from the city.
Stop in at Archestratus, Film Noir Cinema and Maha Rose
Archestratus Books & Food at 160 Hurdon St., named for the ancient Greek poet and food lover, carries cookbooks, food memoirs and vintage culinary collections. In addition to functioning as a new and used bookstore, Archestratus also has a cafe and hosts events and pop-up dinners of timballo (a cake-shaped pasta bake) or vegan pesto with beer, wine and vermouth, which are also for sale. When pop-up dinners aren’t held, the tables in the back cafe are filled with locals for lunch or people attending trivia night, craft night, cookbook club or social activism events.
Another bookstore to explore is WORD at 126 Franklin St., which offers author readings, writing workshops and three book clubs, including a “Gilmore Girls”-themed one. This quirky club, which meets on the fourth Sunday of every month, brings Stars Hollow to Brooklyn as it discusses “books important in the Gilmore Girls universe,” according to the website.
Or pick up a book (or a crystal) at Maha Rose
Maha Rose (97 Green St., #G3) at is a wellness center that sells crystals, books, jewelry and tarot cards and offers healing services like an infrared sauna, reiki, massage, acupuncture and hypnotherapy. This is a good stop for those who are weary or feel they’re in need of some self-care.
Check out Pentatonic, at 139 Franklin St., which is a musician’s dream: Brooklyn’s self-proclaimed “wildest guitar shop” has hundreds of new, used and vintage instruments for sale. In the market for a guitar? Stop in, chat with the highly knowledgeable staff and test out some of the merch, Thursdays through Sundays when walk-ins are welcome.
Get competitive at Black Rabbit
Hole up with your friends in one of the booths at Black Rabbit, located at 91 Greenpoint Ave., or relax in its cute backyard, where you can easily spend hours playing the bar’s many games — from Scrabble to Connect Four to Sorry. On Tuesdays between 8 and 10 p.m., try your hand at “the world’s nerdiest trivia night” where the winner gets a $25 bar tab. They also have pickleback shots, if you’re into that sort of thing. The cozy bar is warm in the winter and cool in the summer, offering a nice respite from the daily grind.
Dig into classic Polish dishes at Karczma
There’s always a wait at Karczma, which has been serving up traditional Polish fare for nearly a decade at 136 Greenpoint Ave., but it is well worth it. The surprisingly affordable restaurant, designed to resemble a farmhouse, is a great introduction to Polish food: Get an order of pierogies ($8) plus a “plate of Polish specialties,” which offers you a bit of everything — potato pancakes, Polish kielbasa, hunter’s stew, stuffed cabbage and, yes, more pierogies — for just $13.
If that’s not your thing, head over to Paulie Gee’s at 60 Greenpoint Ave. for pizza. The Brooklyn staple is considered the best in New York City by its fans. Try the “Hellboy,” made with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, soppressata Picante, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Mike’s Hot Honey. Plus, there are a whopping 10 vegan pizzas on the menu made with NUMU vegan mozzarella cheese, including the “Jackie Green” made with vegan tomato sauce, basil and green jackfruit meatballs. Pies range from $14 to $20.
Catch a flick at Film Noir Cinema
Do something different and head to Film Noir Cinema at 122 Meserole Ave., where you’ll get to browse (and rent) lesser-known movie titles or catch a screening of a cult classic or underground film. There is at least one, sometimes two, screenings a night at 6, 7 and/or 9 p.m.
Have a nightcap at Moonlight Mile, Greenpoint’s whiskey bar
Sure, Moonlight Mile has a solid list of beers and a small selection of wines, but it’s really all about the whiskey here: There are 200 types to choose from (and the bar doesn’t serve any other liquor). Choose from a number of specialty whiskey cocktails, like The Greenpoint Sour — High West Double Rye Whiskey, lemon juice, homemade simple syrup, egg white and blueberry port.
Or plot a ‘Search Party’ of your own at Ramona (113 Franklin St.) which has been a go-to bar for Greenpoint residents long before Dory and her crew started frequenting the spot in “Search Party” as they plotted to find their college acquaintance Chantal. The bar, which boasts more than 20 specialty cocktails, is a great place to meet up with friends over a drink and gossip about someone from college you really didn’t even know that well.
Or grab a cone at Davey’s if you want to go sans alcohol
For a creative sweet treat made with locally-sourced ingredients, look no further than Davey’s Ice Cream at 74 Meserole Ave. The shop serves 10 staple flavors and two or three seasonal flavors, including favorites strong coffee, cookies & cream and speculoos chocolate chip. Davey’s also offers other treats like ice cream sandwiches made with two homemade cookies, a scoop of homemade ice cream and a topping, homemade hot chocolate, brownies and pie milkshakes.