In the nearly 30 years he's lived in Staten Island's St. George neighborhood, photographer Theo Dorian has heard plenty of rumors about impending gentrification - that the area is primed to be the future Park Slope, the next Williamsburg and so on.
But Dorian has learned to ignore the talk and just enjoy his community, with its small-town vibe, landmarked houses, developing artist community and growing number of restaurants.
A day in St. George encompasses culture, history and good food. Here's how we recommend spending a day in Staten Island's hippest neighborhood.
9:30 -- Catch the FREE Staten Island Ferry from Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan. The 25-minute ride offers great views of New York Harbor, Ellis Island and Lady Liberty. There are also coffee and snacks available for sale on the boat.
10:00 -- When you disembark from the ferry, walk along the North Shore Waterfront Esplanade to the Staten Island September 11 Memorial. The memorial, designed by Masayuki Sono, features two large, thin white structures resembling wings or blooming flowers. There are nearly 270 granite plaques, each bearing the name of a Staten Island resident killed on 9/11. You'll also pass the Staten Island Yankees ballpark - the largest minor league park in the country.
11:00 -- Walk up Hamilton Avenue and turn right onto St. Marks to enter the St. George Historic District, where landmarked houses look plucked from a fairytale book. The picturesque (and often very large) houses run from Nicholas Avenue to Westervelt Avenue.
12:00 -- To head back to St. George's commercial district, turn left onto Hamilton and right onto Daniel Low Terrace (keep an eye out for tudor homes and mansions on this street). Turn right on Fort Hill Circle, and follow the circle until it meets back at Daniel Low Terrace. Take Daniel Low to Fort Place and make a left on Fort Place. Then, make a left onto St. Marks, and a right onto Wall Street, all while taking in the water views.
12:15 -- At the corner of Wall Street and Stuyvesant Place, you'll find the Staten Island Museum (75 Stuyvesant Pl., 718-727-1135), which features rotating temporary exhibitions, as well as exhibitions on the Staten Island Ferry, the Lenape Native American tribe (the first residents of Staten Island), and local natural history. Recommended admission is just $3.
1:15 -- Make a left onto Wall Street, a right onto Richmond Terrace and a right up Schuyler Street to Beso (11 Schuyler St., 718- 816-8162), a Spanish restaurant with a cozy, exposed-brick interior that's known for its tapas ($8-$10.95), Cuban pressed sandwiches ($8.50) and impressive beer list.
2:15 -- If you're visiting St. George on a Tuesday through Saturday, check out the funky SHOW gallery (156 Stuyvesant Pl., 718-448-5878). At the moment, the gallery has been transformed into a quasi-supermarket, pizzeria and burger joint for "SuperJeffuBurgerMarket," a show that pokes fun at our consumer culture, with tongue-and-cheek "products," such as cans of "refried ideas."
3:15 -- Head southeast on Stuyvesant and make a right on Hyatt Street to check out the St. George Theatre (35 Hyatt St., 718-442-2900), a recently renovated 1920s Rococo-style theater that has hosted the likes of Tony Bennett and Al Jolson. While you're there, take a look at the impressive Spanish and Italian Baroque interiors, complete with large stained-glass chandeliers.
3:45 -- Head northeast on Hyatt Street toward Bay Street/Stuyvesant Place and make a slight right onto Bay Street. At 70 Bay St., you'll find Art at Bay, a two-floor gallery showcasing the work of local artists (about 10 to 16 artists at a time). The gallery is open Fridays through Sundays. The official opening receptions are the first Saturdays of the month. On the second Sundays of the month at 3 p.m., literary readings and musical performances are open to the public. ART at Bay is also a participating gallery of "Second Saturday Staten Island" Art Walk (secondsaturdaystatenisland.com/).
4:30 -- Head up Bay Street a bit and grab a drink at the bar at the Cargo Cafe (120 Bay St., 718-876-0539), which has plenty of board games available for playing. There are also plenty of bar snacks available at this full-service restaurant. The burger and fries are big draws.
6:00 -- We're going to give you two options for dinner - one casual and one more upscale. First, the casual choice: grabbing a slice at Pier 76 (76 Bay St., 718-447-7437). The thin-crusted slice wins plenty of accolades, and what's a trip to Staten Island without a slice of pizza? If you're looking for something a bit more formal, head back to Hyatt Street (a few steps from the St. George Theatre), to Enoteca Maria (27 Hyatt St., 718-447-2777), an Italian restaurant with a unique premise: The menus and chefs change daily, and the chefs are "nonnas" (Italian for grandmothers) who hail from different regions in Italy. One recent menu featured Coniglio alle Verdure, rabbit cooked in white wine, black olives, artichoke, carrots, celery, garlic, onions and rosemary in white sauce. ($22).
7:00-8:00 -- Catch the ferry back to Manhattan. Note that on weekends, it runs once an hour after 7 p.m.