I emerged from the underground G train at the Greenpoint Avenue stop last Tuesday afternoon, shades in place and sense of curiosity in tow. I had 10 minutes to kill before my friend and explorer-in-crime was due to meet me at that exact spot, so I wandered west on Greenpoint Avenue in this new-to-me Brooklyn neighborhood. Within five minutes I hit the East River, the Empire State Building looming almost immediately across the way.
The combination of the sunny weather and the new energy of Greenpoint (just three miles from my apartment, but yet so foreign) fully aroused my inner explorer. I met Aly and we set off down Manhattan Avenue into the heart of Greenpoint, and consequently, into the heart of Poland.
Now, my neighborhood in Queens is known for its Greekness. You can buy baklava at the corner bodega, and Greek flags do fly, but so many young’ns have moved in that you’re just as likely to hear hipster-speak or Japanese or music blaring from someone’s too-expensive headphones as you are to hear a convo in full-on Greek. In Greenpoint, it seemed every interaction flew straight over my head in an Eastern European slur. You even have to order lunch in Polish, I guess.
After a quick step into a floral shop (“quick” was long enough for me to find two mini plants for my apartment — whoops), we found a Polish bakery, and then two more, all of which we toured in a less-rushed fashion. Everything was very reasonably priced, and though all goods were not baked on premises, everything looked top-notch and quite tantalizing.
The further we wandered, the more it became apparent this neighborhood’s Polish roots were still deeply in tact, but it was also somehow stuck in a decade long before my time. “Modern” was not a word we chose to describe the facade of the storefronts, or the attitudes of the business people, and surely not the interior of the famed Peter Pan Bakery. (My red velvet donut was fresh, modern, and very American, however. Loopholes in even the best stories.)
But then it was lunch time, and thanks to some expert Yelping skills, we found our way to Lomzynianka, which I’m pretty sure translates as: the kitchen of the Polish grandmother you never had. Hole-in-the-wall? Yes. Hopping with locals? Of course. Delicious food? Uh, yeah. For like, $10 dollars each we got ourselves into a whole mess of beet-y, meat-y Polish goodness, with leftovers to boot. The salad plate:
And the Polish Platter, complete with a cabbage roll, pierogies, kielbasa, potatoes and bigos, a pork/sauerkraut concoction. I will say that I reached my meat capacity for about a month, but I did enjoy the clearly authentic cooking and no-frills approach of this food.
Both of us were ready for a nap after such a hearty meal, but we refused to let Greenpoint defeat us and pushed further down Manhattan Avenue. As we moved away from the heart of Greenpoint and into the fringes of Williamsburg, things became a little less frozen in time; a little wilder. For instance, the “junk” shop–a large retail space in which junk of any and all varieties littered the floors. The owners were literally tossing books and other products from one end of the store to the other (it’s all about product placement, man), all to the tune of heavy metal like I’ve never heard it before. Fittingly, just up the street was a quaint vintage shop, complete with “cool” old clothes, an twenty-something owner diligently working on a craft project behind the counter, and an indie soundtrack rolling the whole time. I almost felt comforted by the sight of this 1856 church as we ambled back toward the G train.
Confused on the decade and complete with a confusing mix of young and old personalities, the appeal of Greenpoint only grows on the visitor. It’s vibe is unique to itself and already has me eager to come back for another 50 cent pastry and 3 dollar bowl of borscht. But friends, get it while it’s hot–in a place like NYC, one can never be sure just how long a place with such allure will last.