Greenpoint is in transition. Although Brooklyn's northernmost neighborhood retains much of its gritty industrial allure, an influx of residents over the past two decades has altered the area's character, bringing new faces to what was once a predominantly Polish-American immigrant community. Unlike in adjoining Williamsburg, gentrification in Greenpoint has occurred at a relatively modest pace, which has made for an intriguing mix of old and new businesses, side by side, that appeal to a range of interests. These days visitors are as likely to be thrilled by the au courant cuisine at Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co., a combo seafood market and raw bar, as they are by neighborhood institutions like Lomzynianka, a cash-only restaurant renowned for its inexpensive borscht and kielbasa. Whichever you prefer—traditional or contemporary—Greenpoint's homey, unpretentious vibe is palpable, and makes exploring the neighborhood a low-key pleasure.
Roughly bordered by the East River, Newtown Creek, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and North 12th Street, Greenpoint has long been celebrated for its culinary delights, and for good reason. The red-velvet doughnut at Peter Pan Bakery is that variety's apotheosis: buttery, crumbly and crimson to the core; similarly worship-worthy is the burger at Five Leaves, which arrives Australian style, heaped with pickled beets, grilled pineapple, harissa mayo and a fried egg. Those calories come in handy when attempting to enjoy the rest of the neighborhood's diversions, including some of the City's best coffee, stylish finds at affordable vintage shops, concerts at Warsaw at the Polish National Home (where “punk meets pierogies”) and artwork by up-and-comers at a variety of galleries. For more of our picks from the neighborhood, read on.
How to get there:
Greenpoint is accessible via the G train, the only New York City subway line that does not enter Manhattan. Take it to the Nassau Avenue stop, where you'll emerge at the corner of Nassau and Manhattan Avenues. (To plan your trip, visit mta.info.) Farther away but still within walking distance is the Bedford Avenue stop on the L train; stroll north from there through McCarren Park to reach the heart of the neighborhood.
Book a hotel in the neighborhood and stay near the action.
For those seeking to experience the neighborhood's immigrant heritage, its restaurants are a good place to start. Many establishments seem to have been plucked whole from the Old World, serving hearty dishes with a side of kitsch. Take Karczma, for instance, where servers dressed in traditional Polish attire dish out comfort food in huge helpings: deep-fried potato pancakes, grilled meats and stuffed cabbage among them. Lomzynianka is appointed with charmingly homespun decor—think plastic flowers and taxidermy—which makes for a perfect setting to enjoy kielbasa, bigos (meat and cabbage stew) and klopsiki (veal meatballs served in a sour-cream sauce). Another option is Krolewskie Jadlo, where statuary knights guard the main entrance and the dark wooden interior features moody portraits of armored men. The restaurant serves staples like deep-fried potato pierogi, white borscht soup served in a bread bowl and trout in yogurt-herb sauce.
Of course, the neighborhood offers non-Polish fare as well—including some of the City's best-loved pizza at Paulie Gee's, a Greenpoint Avenue institution that cooks up the sort of brick-oven-fired pies that inspire rave reviews (and long lines). Other more recent successes include Australian-hipster café Five Leaves, where diners sit at tables etched with designs by tattoo artist Scott Campbell, and Mexican taqueria Calexico, a brick-and-mortar version of the popular food truck. Locals also flock to Park Luncheonette, a new eatery housed in a space that dates back to the '30s. Located adjacent to McCarren Park, the restaurant offers lovely views of the green space and a menu that includes breakfast pizza, sandwiches and cocktails. Another relatively new gem is the Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co., a seafood market and restaurant that sells fresh fish from a menu that changes daily and prepares delectable lobster rolls, sockeye salmon crudo and spicy Thai curry mussels.
A number of Asian restaurants have opened here over the past few years, including a branch of the City's X'ian Famous Foods chain (think hand-pulled noodles and Chinese sandwiches) and Little Dokebi, an offshoot of a Williamsburg spot, where Korean banchan—kimchi, bean sprouts and a variety of pickled vegetables—is served before meals of bibimbap or Korean barbecue. Selamat Pagi, an Indonesian restaurant from the team behind Van Leeuwen ice cream, is a cozy spot for Balinese cuisine like beef rendang (braised in coconut milk) and nasi goreng (vegetable fried rice, prawn chips and a sunny-side up egg).
For more delicious favorites from the neighborhood, see our Greenpoint dining slideshow.
Now that retail giants like J.Crew and Urban Outfitters have opened in Williamsburg, Greenpoint has inherited its neighbor's mantle as one of the City's best areas to discover a variety of quirky independent boutiques. Even Beacon's Closet—the vintage emporium traditionally associated with Williamsburg—moved north in 2014. But that's only the most prominent example in an ongoing trend, as vintage shops began popping up in Greenpoint, mostly along or just off Manhattan Avenue, a few years ago. One of the first was Fox & Fawn, an affordable vintage and consignment store that bills itself as a buy, sell and trade spot for those on a budget. It was later joined by boutiques like MAHPS, which stocks pre-loved looks from the 1950s to the '90s. If you have the time and patience, try your luck at Dusty Rose Vintage, where discerning shoppers rummage through bins to discover hidden treasures.
Greenpoint also features a number of boutiques that support local designers. Among the current crop on or near Manhattan Avenue are Line & Label, which sells handcrafted jewelry and accessories, and Loren, with its original, made-in-Brooklyn denim line. To the western side of the neighborhood, on Franklin Street, family-run concept shop Wolves Within sells a sharp selection of streetwear for men and women, as well accessories by Brooklyn-based artists. Another Franklin Street fixture is the Greenpoint location of In God We Trust, renowned for the jewelry it makes in its backroom studio. Around the corner you can find Alter's two storefronts, which stand roughly opposite one another. On the east side of the street is its larger shop, which stocks hard-to-find independent brands and its own high-quality house line for men and women; across from it is Alter Vintage, where you can buy used duds for men, women and children. A block down Franklin Street is Word, an independent bookstore that often hosts writing groups, speaking events and Q&As with emerging and established authors.
Greenpoint's bar scene skews toward the divey side—a relic, perhaps, of the neighborhood's working-class past—so there are plenty of watering holes where you can be guaranteed to have a good time for $20 or less. Those who frequent Capri Social Club gravitate toward $1 Jell-O shots and $5 big bottles of Zywiec (a tasty Polish pale lager with a handsome label). Bar Matchless, meanwhile, beckons with $3 Pabst Blue Ribbon cans (and various drink specials), loud punk rock on the sound system, free comedy nights and frequent live music—although its relatively intimate quarters means you shouldn't expect much room to mosh. Old favorites like No Name Bar, Manhattan Inn and Nights and Weekends also deliver the essentials for a night out: good music, refreshing beverages and kitchens that serve up food to fuel revelry.
The neighborhood has not been immune, however, to the craft beer and cocktail movement that's taken hold elsewhere in the City. Spritzenhaus, located a stone's throw from McCarren Park, serves around 20 ales on tap (mostly German or US microbrews), a number more in cans and bottles and a variety of gourmet-style sausages in an open setting, while Dirck the Norseman, a cavernous space named after Greenpoint's first European settler, features quaffs from on-site brewery Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co. (not to be confused with Greenpoint Beer Works, which is, oddly, in Clinton Hill). Those interested in sophisticated mixed drinks should make their way to Ramona, a welcoming, soft-lit two-story spot with unpretentious bartenders. Try the Death of a Ladies' Man, a smoky, Leonard Cohen–worthy tipple composed of rye, Laphroaig, maple, lemon and tobacco bitters, or the Beverly D'Angelo, an homage to Mrs. Ellen Griswold made from maple-spiced vodka, apple honey, citrus and cranberry bitters. Too fancy? You can always opt for an old-fashioned, Sazerac or barrel-aged Negroni (which the bar keeps on tap).
Greenpoint's cross-pollinating ways hit a peak at Warsaw at the Polish National Home, a large concert hall that has hosted everyone from Primal Scream to the Rapture—and is located within a venerable Polish community center, where you can get old-country snacks like kielbasa and pierogi during shows. Another idiosyncratic music venue, heavy metal bar Saint Vitus, is on the smaller side but has also featured its fair share of big names—including the remaining members of Nirvana for a concert that occurred following the band's Hall of Fame induction ceremony. If your nights out revolve around dancing, try Tender Trap, which tends toward hip-hop, or Good Room, a dance club with rotating house-music DJs.
Confections & Caffeine
Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop is one of Greenpoint's crown jewels. Open for over 60 years, the institution is revered for—what else?—its doughnuts. Glazed, sugared and powdered varieties, along with the popular red velvet, keep business brisk, but Peter Pan also features other items—coffee, milkshakes, breakfast sandwiches and the like. Take your food to go, or eat at the old-school counter; the space's original fixtures are a testament to its longevity. Farther east, Syrena Bakery has been the neighborhood's Polish heart and soul for around 25 years. Part wholesaler, part retail establishment, Syrena's specialties include grain breads, cheese and fruit danishes, babka and mackovia (poppy seed strudel covered in sugar glaze). All items are baked on-site and made fresh daily. Greenpoint also features a number of contemporary cafés and bakeries: Pie Corps, a quaint spot near McGolrick Park, specializes in fresh-baked pies that are both savory (wine-braised brisket) and sweet (chocolate bourbon pecan); Charlotte Patisserie is a go-to spot for French treats like macarons, fruit tarts and croissants.
The neighborhood is similarly known for its coffee. HBO's half-hour tragicomedy Girls introduced Hannah Horvath (and the rest of the world) to Café Grumpy, but Greenpoint's coffee culture extends beyond the brews and free WiFi there. The local outlet of Konditori, with its communal tables, custom-roasted blends and Swedish pastries is another favorite, as are Crema BK, selling Toby's Estate coffee and Balthazar pastries, and Propeller, which serves sweet and fragrant cups of Parlor Coffee. Cup and Champion Coffee are both known for their espresso drinks (and easy-on-the-eyes baristas), as is Búðin, where Scandinavian snacks, brews and minimalist coffee-related accoutrements from Scandinavian designers share space on the menu.
Outdoors & Recreation
Parks and green spaces give Greenpoint much of its character—and, of course, its name. In 1638 Dutch settlers took note of the abundant trees in the part of the land poking into the water and dubbed the area Hout Hoek (Wood Point). Although the environment has become considerably more urban over the past 400 years, the neighborhood still features verdant oases, including the 35-acre McCarren Park, located on the border between Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Bounded by North 12th Street, Bayard Street, Manhattan Avenue, Lorimer Street and Nassau Avenue, the irregularly shaped space features a jogging track, several baseball fields, the recently restored McCarren Park Pool, a seasonal ice-skating rink and several sunning spots.
The less crowded Msgr. McGolrick Park is where locals go to enjoy the expansive lawns, seating areas and playground. The park is named after Monsignor Edward J. McGolrick, pastor of St. Cecilia's Roman Catholic Church in East Williamsburg, and a bronze winged statue in its center honors Greenpoint's World War I veterans. A farmers' market takes place in the center of the park on warm-weather Sundays (from December through April it's held in the nearby Lutheran Church of the Messiah).
Waterside parks that provide nice views of the East River and the Manhattan skyline include Transmitter Park, named for the WNYC radio transmission towers that once stood there, and East River State Park, just over the neighborhood border in Williamsburg. Both provide open lawns for relaxing, picnicking and sunbathing.
Galleries and Art Studios
While Williamsburg garners the lion's share of press for its lively arts scene, Greenpoint has a creative side that merits just as much attention. Businesses in the area are constantly hosting open-mic nights, poetry readings and pop-up art exhibitions. One venue that brings community arts to the fore is the Greenpoint Gallery, a bi-level space that features exhibitions, studios for artists in residence and rentable areas for emerging artists and musicians to host performances. Aside from displaying work, the gallery awards prize money at its juried art competitions.
Near the waterfront, Calico Brooklyn, located in one of the rehabbed buildings of Greenpoint Terminal Market, showcases works by emerging and established artists. In the same structure, Greenpoint Terminal Gallery tends toward group shows like Calico does, but features better-known artists; Keegan McHargue and Eric Yahnker have both contributed to recent exhibitions.