Pierogis, vintage shopping, and destination-worthy cafes


Once the home of Brooklyn's wartime shipbuilding business and the nation's largest pencil factory (now a bar, of course), Greenpoint built its mid-century industrial identity as a working class Polish immigrant community. Though you can still see (and smell) Pierogis, Borscht, and all other things Polish, delicious, and home-cooked, rising rents in neighboring Williamsburg and other Brooklyn neighborhoods are pushing the hipsters North. This is most obvious in the rapid development of Franklin Street, now dotted by a string of beautiful independent restaurants, cafes, book stores, and shops, many of which also have attached studio space for local makers.

Since my first visit to Greenpoint about a year ago (a response to an exciting invitation from David Wagner to check out some weird stuff in his neighborhood, including a 48 hour live reading marathon), I've enjoyed researching the historic Polish establishments as well as exploring the new gems on the waterfront. Below are a few of my favorite spots as of now, but I have a hunch I'll be adding quite a few more in the coming weeks!


The walk from Williamsburg to Greenpoint

Walking from Bedford Ave to the heart of Greenpoint's Franklin Street district feels almost like traveling back in time into a not-so-far-away Williamsburg past. The area in between these two neighboring communities is a deserted expanse of waterfront warehouses, covered in impressive graffiti and kept company by freight trucks plastered in tag-covered cartoons. This middle terrain of potholes, packing crates, and cigarette buts feels a lot like pre-Urban Outfitters Williamsburg and even like some of the streets that have yet to be redeveloped. Definitely a fun place to wander around if you like street art and are in the mood to time travel a bit.

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Morning pick me up: Peter Pan Donut

Home of the old fashioned cake doughnut and that New York fizzy, milky, chocolaty delicacy, the chocolate egg cream, Peter Pan Donut is truly one of those classic New York establishments that more than deserves its devoted following. Stop by in the morning for a just-out-of-the-oven warm and sugary treat, and - pro tip - grab a coffee for dipping. Enjoy!


Vintage shopping and cafe hopping on Franklin Street (and beyond!)

The first time I visited Franklin Street, I spent hours exploring all the little shops, bakeries, and cafes while simultaneously conquering the majority of my Christmas shopping (a serious win). Below are a few highlights, but there are easily 5 or 6 more that I could add to the list of favorites. Start at Franklin and Oak Streets and walk all the way down to Green or Freeman, finishing up with a coffee or a glass of wine at Milk & Roses which is a block over at Manhattan and Clay.

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Old Holywood: This little vintage shop has everything from tarrot cards, to jewelry, to Brooklyn-made candles -- a great place to stop by for unique gifts or a quality piece of vintage clothing. Heads up though, Greenpoint definitely isn't exempt from Williamsburg-worthy prices.

People of 2morrow: This beautiful shop buys and sells a well-curated selection of vintage clothing, accessories, and furniture. You'll also find a lovely selection of hand-crafted jewelry, home decor, and even a few insanely creative house plants

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Spina: Spina has to be one of my top five favorite cafes in the city. Combination cafe, flower shop, and paperie, this lovely little spot has everything you need for a Sunday afternoon stroll. Paper products from Rifle Paper Co. are displayed next to a beautiful selection of succulents and little flower pots, a perfect accompaniment to the delicious selection of teas (try the Rooibos) and of course, Blue Bottle Coffee. 

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Ovenly: Named best bakery in the city by Time Out, Ovenly has been known to have lines out the door, with eager customers waiting for currant rosemary scones, cornflake blueberry muffins, pumpkin olive oil bread, and a host of other sweet & salty confections.


Milk & Roses: Coffee shop by day and wine bar by night, this charmingly unassuming spot is the epitome of a term I've recently been introduced to... bookshelf porn. Hardcover books fill floor to ceiling shelves and beautiful flowers and candles make for a homey atmosphere, day or night.

Bellocq's "Tea Atelier" is one of the most unique spots in Greenpoint. Enter by ringing a giant bell in the shape of a tea pot and you're transported into a tea heaven, with some of the finest teas sold here and available to taste. The Milk Oolong is phenomenal.

Weekend events at Greenpoint Terminal

This former industrial powerhouse and maritime manufacturer of rope is the latest and greatest in magical event spaces. Things crop up periodically, including the Valentine's Day maker fare earlier this year as well as a few new gallery openings in the building. Either way, stop by to pop your head in this gorgeous space and see if anything's going on for the day. Its also worth stopping by From the Source, an awesome vintage furniture store downstairs.

The local art scene at Greenpoint Open Studio

Though Open Studio only occurs once or twice a year, the large art warehouses in this lovely hood occasionally also open their doors for public events. Pictured below are some beautiful studio spaces in the Pencil Factory and some of the other warehouse buildings surrounding. Open Studio is a magical day if you ever have the chance to go! Its a great place to meet the heart and soul of the creative scene here and to get a sense of the vibrant pulse behind this neighborhood's charm. 


Afternoon views or evening sunsets at Transmitter Park and surrounding waterfront piers

Originally the home of WNYC's transmission towers, this section of the waterfront was transformed from a decaying industrial space (as much of the Greenpoint waterfront still is) into a beautiful green space now called Transmitter Park. Thanks to a $12 million renovation before the park's opening in 2012, this stretch of the waterfront now features stunning views of the Manhattan skyline.


This particular spot below is right near the park, and if you're lucky, the gate might be open just in time to sneak a stunning sunset view from the little chair on the water. It's behind the Hollywood Stunts Studio which is also an awesome spot. Upon walking in, the guy asked me if I was ready to fly. Um, yes.


Traditional Polish eats at Lomzynianka

Look no further for delicious, home-cooked Polish food than Lomzynianka, one of the neighborhood's most celebrated spots for an authentic meal. Been here already or not a fan of pierogis, stuffed cabbage, and beef goulash? Have no fear - there are plenty of other delicious Polish and non Polish eats I've been dying to try in the neighborhood as well. A few favorites from Serious Eats here, including a promising new restaurant in a former glass factory.

 Photo credit: Yelp

Photo credit: Yelp

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Fancy cocktails at Romona, the Greenpoint sister to a Manhattan favorite (Elsa!)

Romona is the sister bar to one of my favorite East Village haunts, Elsa. Home of the S.M. Jenkins cocktail (of course served in a mason jar), this surprisingly spacious bar is a great spot to grab a table and catch up over delicious drinks with friends.

 Image Cred:  Design Sponge

Image Cred: Design Sponge

Mapping your trip

Greenpoint is a lovely place to stroll around, and you really can't go wrong just starting on one end of Franklin Street and exploring its 20-30 wonderful shops, cafes, and bars. Even so, below is a map of everything featured above (plus a few). Enjoy!

Posted on December 15, 2013 .