Greenpoint feels a bit like a small town trapped in a different era, but in that warm and welcoming everybody-knows-each-other, life-is-fine-and-dandy kind of way. It could be that many of the cafes and storefronts along Manhattan Avenue offer the same services by the same families as fifty years ago; or perhaps it's because the area's single subway line is the only train that does not run into Manhattan. Though Greenpoint has seen an influx of younger residents over the last decade bringing with them new restaurants and bars, at Brooklyn's northern most point, the new and the old fit together, creating a friendly, vibrant community. Here you can visit the bars, shops, and eateries that belong to the Greenpoint Business Association.
Skip that hipster brunch spot and start your day in Greenpoint at Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop. For more than 60 years, this little bakery has been serving the best (seriously, on Yelp, it has 4.5 stars with 161 reviews) doughnuts in the whole world. Baked fresh every morning, these doughnuts come in all your favorite flavors, from classic glazed to cream-filled to chocolate frosted with sprinkles, and they are served to you by the sweetest Polish ladies this side of the Atlantic. Grab a coffee and enjoy your cheap – most are only 85 cents! – sweet delight where the locals do. If you want something savory to go with your doughnut, they also offer breakfast sandwiches. Try the grilled deli ham with egg and cheese on a roll. You won't miss the bacon.
Spend the rest of your morning hitting the shops along Manhattan Avenue. Chopin Chemist carries a fantastic selection of bath and body products, from salon-grade shampoos to holistic vitamins to all-natural lines of body cream. One guest told us she feels like she's shopping in Europe when she shops at Chopin. Cato's Army and Navy is exactly what it sounds like. For 25 years, the Veneziano family has owned the army and navy store, which also offers regular men's clothing. Neighbors in the area use the store as a gathering place; the son who manages the store told the Greenpoint Gazette, "Sometimes I feel like this is a senior citizens center, because all of mom’s friends come into Cato’s and chat."
For women's clothing, Fred Flare is the place to go. They have a small, but well-chosen selection of classic fashions, like cocktail dresses, boyfriend sweaters and trench coats. The store also carries fun and quirky accessories and home decorations, like spatulas shaped like guitars and cupcake flavored mints, making this the perfect place to buy gifts for that person who has everything. Jozef and Sons jewelers is your standard family-run jewelry store, but this Saturday, they're offering 15 percent off purchases of $30 or more and your choice of a sterling silver charm as a free gift with any purchase. For record enthusiasts, The Thing has more than 130,000 records for sale at flea market prices. When you go in the front door, it seems like your average thrift store, jam packed with housewares, clothing, and random treasures. But if you walk all the way to the back, you'll find the stairway to record heaven.
Once you've worked up an appetite again, stop at Lomzynianka, a delicious traditional Polish restaurant. This cozy six-top cafe is loved by Poles who moved here 60 years ago and newbies who've never tasted kielbasa — until coming here, of course. The Polish platter is definitely the way to go. For around eight bucks, you get a wonderful sampling of Polish delights: three pierogies, kielbasa, stuffed cabbage, bigos, and mashed potatoes. And definitely order a blintze, a cream or fruit filled pastry, for dessert. Now, a hefty Polish meal in the middle of a summer day may not be for everyone, so if you're looking for lighter fare, walk up the road to Ashbox Cafe. They serve healthy breakfast and lunch entrees, with a tinge of Japanese influence. The turkey sandwich with wasabi mayo on ciabatta is delightful, as is the free-range egg salad sandwich and kimchee. They have a large selection of teas, and the quite backyard is the perfect place to sip your chai in peace. But because the place is small, sometimes finding a table can be a challenge, so get your food to go and walk a block to the small park at the very tip of Manhattan Avenue.
To continue your shopping expedition, head to Franklin Street, Manhattan Avenue's hip younger sister. Julia James Boutique just opened on the corner of Greenpoint Avenue two months ago. Shop owner Julia Young — who moved from Hawaii to Brooklyn to open the shop — has fabulous taste for the latest women's fashions. As part of the Last Saturday's event, she's offering steep discounts on Lenora Dame Vintage Fabric Cuffs and Necklaces. The strip's staple shop for hip men and women is Alter, with two separate storefronts on Franklin. Alter's owners order pieces from designers across the globe, resulting in a hip collection of semi-affordable duds. The boutiques Dalaga and Old Hollywood also have great vintage pieces and clothes from indie designers, but our favorite store on Franklin Street has nothing to do with clothes. WORD Bookstore is one of the best bookshops in the whole city. They never fail to have every title we're looking for, plus they have an awesomely nerdy dating board, where you can connect with people via what type of literature you like. They constantly host fun events so check their listings.
If you're all shopped out, spend the afternoon relaxing in one of Greenpoint's parks. At the southern end of the neighborhood, McCarren Park has a seemingly unlimited number of benches and multiple playing fields and courts. There's always a soccer game or kickball tournament to watch or you could bring your racket and play a match of doubles on the tennis courts. If you don't feel like playing, grab a few treats from the Greenmarket held in the park every Saturday and head over to the track to people watch. The turf provides an curious meeting ground where Hasidic Jews in full garb walk around the loop beside Hispanic mothers pushing strollers, chatting in Spanish, while runners zoom past them doing laps. If you're looking for a quieter park scene, head to the end of Greenpoint Avenue, where Transmitter Park provides picnic tables and a quiet place to read a book or just enjoy the view of Manhattan.
We always have a hard time deciding where to eat dinner in Greenpoint because there are so many great places, but Paulie Gee's is definitely one of our favorites. Paul Giannone, a pizza community star from New Jersey, opened this wood oven pizzeria just this past March, but he already has quite the fan base, as he should. His Neapolitan-style pies are crusty and fresh, made with only the best ingredients. Our favorite is the King Harry – fior di latte (mozzarella made from fresh cow's milk), Italian tomatoes, prosciutto di parma, Pecorino Romano, olive oil and fresh basil. Another favorite restaurant of ours is the Black Rabbit, whose Black Rabbit lager is only $3. Plus, they'll have $5 bratwurst and $5 watermelon margaritas, but the real deal happens when the bar hosts its Lobster Roll and Maine Beer Fest. Twenty bucks will buy you a lobster roll, beer from Alagash Brewing Company, and a seasonal side dish.
Save room for dessert because you'll definitely want to stop at Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream. Known for their custard yellow trucks, Van Leeuwen opened their flagship store in Greenpoint this past February. The ice cream is made with only three ingredients — fresh milk and cream, egg yolks, and pure cane sugar — then flavored with carefully sourced ingredients from all over the world: handpicked pistachios from Italy, red currants from the Hudson Valley, vodka-aged Tahitian vanilla beans, and chocolate from a small town in Northern France, just to name a few. The final creamy and delicious product is a richly flavored ice cream that's 18 percent butterfat. Try a scoop of the currants and cream, a summer-only flavor, or indulge in a sandwich made with Earl Grey ice cream and fresh baked ginger cookies or a traditional chocolate sundae.
Greenpoint doesn't have nearly the same amount of bars as its southern neighbor Williamsburg, but the 'hood still has some top-notch places to drink until the wee hours. Bar t.b.d. wins in our book for the neighborhood vibe – the owners live just down the street and the ping pong table, and huge backyard garden make for an inviting space. Plus from midnight until closing on the weekends, all drafts are half price. For live music with your drinks, spend the night at Coco 66. Sick of live music? Hit up the local chill spot The Pencil Factory down the street. Greenpoint's pioneer venue is Warsaw featuring decent line ups of nationally touring bands and hip local fare. By day, it functions as the Polish National Home, and by night there's a line around the block for shows and yes, perogies — the perfect blend of past and present Greenpoint.
This post was updated Spring 2012.