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Tucked up at the north tip of Brooklyn, nudged in between the BQE and the Newtown Creek (site of the largest underground oil spill in NYC history) and accessible only via the G, Greenpoint is the underdog in terms of what's considered cool and up-and-coming in western Brooklyn. In the past few years, though, it's been quietly pulling ahead of the pack thanks to an influx of high-quality, rule-breaking restaurants; destination (as well as solid neighborhood) bars; and creatively stocked and designed stores. Most impressively, Greenpoint has accepted these into its fold without sacrificing the old-world, traditional charm of a neighborhood that still has a large population of second- and third-generation natives and Polish signage. Thanks to its relative isolation, industrial remnants and stubbornly empty condos, Greenpoint might just be able to stay in this precariously balanced moment for a few years longer.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Donna Siafakas, owner, Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop
"A couple of the new stores that have moved in I like. Fred Flare. It's funny, because I haven't gone in there, but a lot of the customers come in with things from there; even the waitresses shop there and then I send them up there to get [things for me]. Recently, I bought the pens—you write on your hand or wherever, then you shine the light and it's invisible ink. We bought tons of those that I gave to my nieces and nephews. They even have a tote bag that has Peter Pan on it. It has a map of Williamsburg, and we're on it. I bought those for all the girls that work here. I called my husband: 'You're not going to believe this, we're on a tote bag!' [Laughs] He said, 'Big deal.' I'm like, 'No it is a big deal!' I loved it, I thought that was great."
Fred Flare, 131 Meserole Ave at Leonard St (718-349-1257, fredflare.com)
"I was born in Greenpoint, and both my parents are from Greenpoint. The doughnut shop has been here 60 years, I've had it 18 years. There was a movie theater next door [to where we lived when I was a child], and I used to go to the movies, and then my mother would take us here for a donut. My mother is one of 16 children, and her sisters lived in the area and used to come in as customers. The person who worked behind the counter mentioned that Phil was going to retire and he was looking to sell the store. So my aunt called us up because she knew my husband made doughnut, and we came over and we bought it."
Heather Letzkus, blogger, New York Shitty (newyorkshitty.com)
"What's unique to the neighborhood? This is an easy one, this is a slam dunk—it is called the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The Shit Tits. Where else, not just in the city but in the world, are you going to have a waste-treatment plant that not only has a visitor's center, but has a nature walk? If you have to pin me down as to park spaces I like to go—that's it. Why do I like the wastewater-treatment plant? Why do I like the Shit Tits? Why do I like the visitor's center? On the one hand, it is so absurd, but on the other hand it's actually really neat. All these new condos that are being built here—why is it that we have more thought put into the aesthetics of [New York's largest] waste-treatment plant—that, as I understand it, handles the most poop in the entire city—than the buildings that we live in? I mean, if there was an apartment building that looked like the Shit Tits, I would totally live in it. Inasmuch as they make fun of it, yes, it does go down to the water; yes, Newtown Creek is disgusting—this is not news to any of us. But it's an interesting view—you get to go on the creek, you get to see the industrial parts of Long Island City, you do have some views of Manhattan—it's a beautifully done park, just in a really, really weird location That's part of the reason I like it. I'm not one of these people that's into concerts or events at parks and things like that. I just want to sit and relax. You are guaranteed relaxation over there."
Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, Greenpoint Ave at Humboldt St; enter nature walk at Prospect St and Paidge Ave (nyc.gov/dep)
"Acapulco Deli! You could call it a Mexican restaurant, you could call it a diner. It's both. And very cheap. You can get a big stack of pancakes with strawberries and bananas for $5.25. And as far as Mexican food goes in the neighborhood, they're my favorite."
Acapulco Deli & Restaurant, 1116 Manhattan Ave at Clay St (718-349-8429)
Benjamin Harnett, cofounder, accessories and clothing line Hayden-Harnett
"There's a great record place, The Thing. To crawl down into that basement and look through all those unsorted records—maybe a couple hundred thousand. They just keep bringing boxes in and they never sort them. If you were willing to spend a few hours down there digging, you could find some good stuff. I found a bunch of old blues records."
The Thing, 1001 Manhattan Ave between Green and Huron Sts (718-349-8234)
"We used to have a warehouse on Ash Street, there's a great place there [now] called Ashbox. It has a great atmosphere, and I love that you can get interesting Japanese food and good coffee. I definitely stop by for coffee often, and if I have to meet people, I meet them there. There's also this new place, Veronica Peoples Club, that has been showing really bad movies out back. They [recently] played the worst movie ever made—Troll 2—and it is pretty hilarious."
Ashbox Cafe, 1154 Manhattan Ave between Ash and Box Sts (718-389-3222, ashboxgreenpoint.blogspot.com) * Veronica Peoples Club, 105 Franklin St between Milton and Noble Sts (718-349-2901, veronicapeoplesclub.com)
Michael Sayers, owner, Photoplay video and DVD rental shop
"One of my favorite places is Peter Pan doughnut shop. I first walked by and thought it looked like 1958 in there, with the curved counter and waitresses with the uniforms, and the window filled with cinnamon buns and doughnuts. [Laughs]. It just looked like something from the past—and then they live up to everything. The doughnuts are amazingly delicious. Their cinnamon buns are pretty great, and I'm a cruller fan myself. I do try to resist going there too often, but it's hard. If I'm walking by, I'll definitely get something."
, 727 Manhattan Ave between Meserole and Norman Aves (718-389-3676)
"Permanent Records is a great record store—a great place to kill a few hours. The woman who owns it knows a lot about music and has a lot of vinyl. As for music, I'm all over the place, from rockabilly to punk to R&B. I just got this big box set of '50s and '60s hits, which had a lot of vocal-group stuff and girl groups. There's something really beautiful about those two-and-a-half-minute pop songs."
, 181 Franklin St between Green and Huron Sts (718-383-4083, permanentrecords.info)
Justine Carroll, blogger, Greenpointers (greenpointers.blogspot.com)
"I was born and raised in Greenpoint, I'm third generation. I'm spent my twenties living in Staten Island but moved back four years ago. I [hang out in] old-school and new places. For new places, I really love The Habitat. That's my favorite: The owner is nice, the food is good, there's always something fun going on. They do the wings-eating contest, but they do a trivia night on Wednesday nights. When you go in there, they always change the look of the place. I like to go in on Halloween, they go all out and it's different every year: stuff all over the walls, a corpse in the middle. I enjoy it, and the sangria."
The Habitat, 988 Manhattan Ave between Huron and India Sts (718-383-5615, thehabitatbrooklyn.com)
"If I'm going to stay local, it's Connie O's. That's my home bar, where I'll shoot my darts, get my beers, hang out with my friends. I can go there on a Saturday afternoon and see my friend's father there, and I can go in on Saturday night and then my friend is there. Sometimes, you'll go in and there's new people and that's fine too. They have TV, a pool table, it's small and quiet, they have a good jukebox—one of the online jukeboxes. It's a family-owned dive bar with $3.50 beers and buy-backs—old-school. It's owned by someone who's lived in Greenpoint forever, and anytime I go in there I'm going to know somebody."
Connie O's, 158 Norman Ave at Newel St (917-578-7959)
Sheryl Yvette, blogger, Bitchcakes blogs (msbitchcakes.blogspot.com, bitchcakescommutes.blogspot.com, abitchcakesworld.blogspot.com)
"I love Blackout bar. It just has a nice vibe, it's not too fancy, the bartenders are super-friendly and remember your order. I walked in and they had it on the bar before I even asked for it. And I love that they have the original tin ceiling. I think it's the best ceiling in Greenpoint. I also love Matchless because it's dirty and rock & roll. They're the only place in Greenpoint that serves Brooklyner Weisse on tap. And they also have the best french fries—they're just perfect, the right thickness, the right amount of salt, crispy on the outside and mushy on the inside."
Blackout, 916 Manhattan Ave between Greenpoint Ave and Kent St (718-383-0254, blackoutbar.com) * Bar Matchless, 557 Manhattan Ave at Driggs Ave (718-383-5333, barmatchless.com)
Christine Onorati, owner, Word bookstore
"Even though Williamsburg is a little more fabulous, Greenpoint just really holds its own. The neighborhood is so amazing. We make jokes here on a daily basis, there's little weird things that always make us say, 'Well, that's Greenpoint!' For example, one of my coffee places is Cookie Road, which opened up last year a couple of blocks down from me. So I went to get a coffee for myself and a chai latte for my manager one morning. I was walking [to Word] and dropped her chai latte on the stoop. By the time I went back to clean it up, the owner of Cookie Road—I guess he had been walking past my store—saw that I dropped the chai latte and brought us another one. We looked at each other...and that's Greenpoint. There's so much community here, it's like a little small town but in the middle of the city. And I do love Cookie Road; they're a perfect example. They own that building, have lived here for years, a nice Polish couple. She always was a baker and they just opened their own bakeshop and coffeeshop in the downstairs part of their house. She makes everything herself. I'm eating a sandwich she made right now, for lunch."
Cookie Road, 94 Franklin St between Noble and Oak Sts (718-383-8094, cookieroad.com)
"The pioneers of Franklin Street are Delaga and Alter. Delaga convinced us to open our shop here. I went in to talk to the couple who own Delaga—then I saw [our] space that night and rented it the next day. They talked so glowingly about Franklin Street that we just did it. The Franklin Street businesses always stay connected and work together. For the holidays we'll probably do a late-night shopping event together and things like that."
Delaga, 150 Franklin St between Java and Kent Sts (718-389-4049, dalaganyc.com) *
Marjorie Eisenberg, owner, Permanent Records
"[I always try to] get a DVD from Photoplay before I go home. [Owner Michael Sayers's] selection is just great, and he's super-knowledgeable. His background is film [he used to be a programmer at Film Forum]. When I first went there I was actually surprised how he has a little of everything; I mean, he has obscure stuff, but he has stuff that appeals to everyone. I went through a Truffaut phase, so Michael was recommending this, this and this. And then he'll ask for a full review and we'll just talk about [what I watched]."
Photoplay, 928 Manhattan Ave between Java and Kent Sts (718-383-7782)
My best recommendation—because we have all our Christmas parties there—is Lamb & Jaffy. The food is consistently good every time you go."
Lamb & Jaffy, 1073 Manhattan Ave between Dupont and Eagle Sts (718-389-3638)