City Living: Greenpoint offers much for the urbanite

A.J. Cebollero, of Greenpoint, gets in some flute

A.J. Cebollero, of Greenpoint, gets in some flute practice at McCarren Park. (Credit: A.J. Cebollero gets in some flute practice at McCarren Park. (Photo: RJ Mickelson/amNY))

Greenpoint epitomizes the Brooklyn renaissance. Once a drab post-industrial and residential neighborhood, its main claim to fame was its thriving Polish community.

Quieter, and more affordable,  than neighboring Williamsburg, Greenpoint has become a destination for independent stores, varied dining — and, of course, that taste of “Little Poland.”

Greenpoint is divided geographically, and some would say culturally, by McGuinness Boulevard.

To the west lies the redeveloping waterfront, still a landscape of post-industrial decline but changing fast; the hipster haven of Franklin Street, filled with boutique stores, bars and restaurants; and the Polish community centered on Manhattan Avenue.

To the east of McGuinness lies a more chilled-out scene: delis along Nassau Avenue; mixed blocks of Poles, Italians and Hispanic families; and the much-loved Monsignor McGolrick Park.

The influx of affluent residents chasing lofts in industrial spaces — such as the Pencil Factory redevelopment on Greenpoint Avenue — has also led to changes.

Many Poles have moved to Maspeth, Queens, for cheaper rents, and many of the artists who helped spark Greenpoint’s revival in the 1980s are heading to  neighborhoods such as Bushwick, Brooklyn.

TO PLAY:

The Gutter
200 N. 14th St.,
718-387-3585
Not as well known — or flashy — as nearby Brooklyn Bowl, this is a gem of a bowling alley. The owners imported the lanes from an old-school alley in Burlington, Iowa, to add to the vintage theme. A bubble-hockey table with an old-fashioned wooden finish add the final touch.

Manhattan Inn
632 Manhattan Ave.,
718-383-0885
Opened last year, this bar has quickly proved a hit with locals — mainly for raucous sing-alongs around the aging piano in the back room. With the same owners as Glasslands Gallery in Williamsburg, it’s one of the area’s only late-night options — staying open until 4 a.m.

The Pencil Factory Bar
142 Franklin St.,
718-609-5858
A pre-gentrification drinking hole for longshoremen, this atmospheric pub is named after the shuttered factory opposite — now condos. It maintains clues to its history with original exposed brick, apothecary cabinets and photos of days gone by. New features include 24 beers on tap and $3 beer happy hours running 2-9 p.m.

TO SEE:

Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord
228 N. 12th St.,
718-387-1064
With its copper-covered onion dome, this beautifully finished place of worship is an icon of the Greenpoint skyline. Built between 1916 and 1921, it was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It’s worth a visit as the sun goes down and it takes on a brilliant hue.

McCarren Park & McGolrick Park
McCarren Park, an open border with Williamsburg, can be a victim of its own popularity but is still the place to soak up some sun or get exercise on the running track or sports field. Meanwhile, the pool there hosts free outdoor movies all summer. McGolrick Park boasts a city landmark since 1966: the classical Shelter Pavilion.

TO EAT:

Christina’s
853 Manhattan Ave.,
718-383-4382
A longtime local favorite, Christina Dura has been serving up authentic Polish dishes since 1993. Check out her wall of fame — she’s met all the Polish celebs. While the heat lasts, sample their summer specials: blueberry pierogies ($6) and borscht ($4).

Brooklyn Standard Deli
188 Nassau Ave.,
718-472-2150
Focused on selling locally sourced produce, this delightful deli stands out selling Brooklyn fare: fruits and vegetables from nearby Tenth Acre Farms, breads and cakes from Red Hook-based Baked, and Brooklyn Honey, made a few blocks away ($8).

Five Leaves
18 Bedford Ave.,
718-383-5345
The Australian owners have created a cool, laid-back cafe vibe, with great food and coffee to match. Open from 8 a.m. to
1 a.m., it’s a good choice for breakfast, lunch or a late dinner. We recommend “Devils on Horseback” — dates wrapped in crispy bacon ($7).

Paulie Gee’s
60 Greenpoint Ave.,
347-987-3747
Greenpoint’s only gourmet pizza restaurant, Paulie Gee’s opened earlier this year after a 2008 fire closed the previous eatery, Paloma. Restored with a barn-yard feel, the restaurant serves several types of pizzas. Highlights include The Greenpointer — an arugula-based thin crust ($15).

Nassau Meat Market (‘Kiszka’)
915 Manhattan Ave.,
718-389-6149
If you like pork — especially Polish-style smoked pork — this is your place. Racks of freshly smoked sausage hang above the counter, shoulders of ham adorn every shelf, and Polish stuffed cabbage is always on hand.

Peter Pan Bakery
727 Manhattan Ave.,
718-389-3676
Don’t be fooled by the no-frills vibe — the handmade doughnuts at this place mean business. Locals claim they’re the best in the city. One favorite is the Cream Chocolate Sprinkles while the latest
contender is the red-velvet doughnut — both 95 cents.
Don’t skip out on the ice cream sandwiches ($3.50).

Brouwerij Lane
78 Greenpoint Ave.,
347-529-6133
A beer merchant with a difference — you can drink the goods there or take them home with you. With 18 beers and Kombucha constantly on tap, customers can sample the finest beers and then fill up a 64-ounce growler to take home. Good ol’ six-packs are also available in the fridge.

Tags: City Living , Greenpoint

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