Two years ago, my three roommates and I moved to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a treasure trove of stunning Manhattan skyline views, cuisines from around the world, and culture that seeps from every nook and cranny. Located off the G train, Greenpoint can be a trek for the local Manhattan dweller or weekend tourist, and so it has remained a relatively well-kept secret. But, as all good things must come to an end—and hipsters wander their way up Bedford Avenue—Greenpoint is slowly losing that sense of quiet Brooklyn sanctuary and beginning to shift to its new look: Williamsburg 2.0.
1. Same Vibe, More Space
As the narrow yet crowded streets of Williamsburg become just a bit too popular for comfort, past Manhattanites and current hipsters move up and out of Williamsburg. Just up the river, Greenpoint offers the similar trendy vibes with hip coffee shops, cute boutiques, green parks for lazy Sundays and even its own dock and skyline view akin to that of Williamsburg’s East River State Park. Take away the overflow of man buns and topknots and you’ve got yourself a much more private, small-scale version Williamsburg. Even for those looking to settle down with their partner or begin a small family, Greenpoint offers larger living spaces for cheaper prices. However, though lower than the average Williamsburg rent, the neighborhood’s growing popularity among young tenants and new apartment complexes is slowly causing the prices to climb—better get there fast.
2. Lights, Camera … Greenpoint?
Not just popular with New Yorkers looking for space, Greenpoint has been the location for a number of recent TV series tapings and celebrity sightings. Actor and comedian Aziz Ansari set multiple episodes of his new hit Netflix series Master of None in Greenpoint bars, streets, and even a playground. Ansari has even been known to stroll through McCarran Park on the occasional sunny afternoon. Also an apparent fan of the Greenpoint scene, actress, writer and comedian Tina Fey has set Greenpoint as one of the locations for her Netflix Original Series, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Don’t be surprised if you’re held up on your way to work because Titus is shooting a scene down the block. What better reason to be late to the Monday morning meeting? Who knows, you might even bump into Lena Dunham and the cast of Girls, especially if you’re grabbing coffee at Café Grumpy. Sure, Broad City has been known to film just south in Williamsburg, but hey, Greenpoint’s got Kimmy and Hannah. Need we say more?
While the Wythe Hotel rooftop’s chic ambiance, candlelit tables and views of Manhattan are perfect for a Williamsburg date or classy night on the town, the bar fills up quickly and closes at midnight. Not to worry. Equally, if not better Manhattan skyline views can be found just a ten-minute walk away at Greenpoint’s Northern Territory. A casual yet classy restaurant and bar, Northern Territory has an open rooftop deck that stares straight at the Empire State building. Of course, there’s always the more challenging—and slightly creepy—option of befriending a local Greenpointer and scoring an invite to rooftop wine for the best view of them all.
If you can’t wait until nightfall or are looking for nice scenery for your morning jog, head to the secluded and quaint Transmitter Park, located next to the famed Ovenly bakery. Though smaller than Williamsburg’s East River State Park, Transmitter is much less crowded, filled mostly with locals looking for a Sunday picnic spot or walking their dogs. Grab an Ovenly rosemary and currant scone (spicy honey on the side highly recommended) on the way—you won’t be able to resist the smell of chocolate as you walk by—and you’re prepped for a perfect afternoon sitting under the willow tree, taking in everything from the Chrysler building to One World Trade Center.
4. From Polish to Pizza, the Food is All Here
There’s no doubt Williamsburg has a smorgasbord (or should we say, Smorgasburg?) of options when it comes to food, but it can’t compare when it comes to good old fashioned home cooking, Polish style. With generations of Polish heritage, Greenpoint knows no shortage of eastern European cuisine. From pierogies to kielbasa, traditional Polish dishes can be found lining Manhattan Avenue. Among the most recognized is Karczma Polish Restaurant on Greenpoint Avenue, known for its homey feel and traditional cooking. If this doesn’t kick your cravings, stop by Old Poland Bakery, also located on Manhattan Avenue, for a rose jelly filled doughnut. As if rose jelly in a deep-fried, sugar-glazed mound of dough wasn’t enough to win you over, they weigh in at only $1.25 per doughnut, meaning they’re right in the Brooklynite budget. For coffee, Eagle Trading Co. is a local favorite, serving everything from lattes to meatball sandwiches. It’s only location is in Greenpoint and even if it’s the only place you try, it’s well worth the trip.
For the real food lovers, the culinary experiences stretch far beyond the neighborhood’s eastern European heritage. At the very tip of the neighborhood on Commercial Street, Glasserie, a modern fusion of Mediterranean cuisine, sits tucked away in an industrial style building. Emitting a dim glow, the restaurant offers unique signature cocktails and an assortment of dishes that would be hard to dream up even with the wildest of imaginations. At first glance, the menu doesn’t offer much insight as to what to expect in each dish (for a while, there was an item called “Leaves, Leaves, Leaves”) but wait staff is friendly and ready to be your guide. Whether it’s the falafel-crusted carrot, crazy lamb kabob or simply the brown bag full of the season’s selected vegetable, it’s almost impossible to leave Glasserie disappointed.
Among other cuisine options in the area are the classy yet comfortable Esme, located on Manhattan Ave.; the recently reopened Brooklyn Label on Franklin, serving special takes on traditional American dishes; and Anella, a quaint, wood paneled hole in the wall serving new American specialties, all beginning with their fan favorite freshly baked bread served in a flower pot with salted butter on the side. And for the nights when all you need is a good burger or cheese pizza, Whiskey Burger is there with a customizable burger menu and vast selection of whiskey behind the bar, and Paulie Gee’s has you covered for the pizza pie. What else could you need?
5. The Fashion of Franklin Street
There may not be streets lined with Sandro and Urban Outfitters in Greenpoint’s center, but don’t let that fool you. From fashion boutiques to vintage thrift stores, there are plenty of options for a great shopping day in Greenpoint. Concentrated mostly to Franklin Avenue—Greenpoint’s version of Bedford Avenue—the clothing shops Alter, Wolves Within, In God We Trust and Pas Mal offer modern and trendy options with a Brooklyn flare. If vintage is more your style, You & Yours Fine Vintage is an afternoon of great finds just waiting to happen.
6. Start With Merlot, End With Heavy Metal
When the Williamsburg night scene starts to get repetitive, a walk through Greenpoint at night offers a fresh lineup of bars and cocktail spots within short distance of each other. To start—and as seen in Master of None—Alameda is a small bar with an old American feel. Known for its unique horseshoe shaped bar, Alameda has bartenders serving classic cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere. Further down the street, Oak and Iron also offers a calm, darker scene for those looking for a 3 a.m. nightcap.
For something light and lively, try Ramona. The bar’s tall glass doorway exposes a stunning view of an intricately lit high ceiling. The white tiled floor gives the bar a brighter feel and its second level seating area provides space for patrons to wander and enjoy the ambiance. Get there a bit before sundown and enjoy the outdoor seating along the sidewalk, perfect for some six o’clock pinot and people watching.
While Williamsburg may be known for its large concert venues—that sometimes double as bowling alleys has some competition when it comes to up-close and personal musical nights on the town. If it’s fun and music you’re in the mood for, and you actually want to see the stage, live bands can be found shaking the walls of the heavy metal venue, Saint Vitus Bar. For volume that won’t burst eardrums, Troost hosts a range of musical groups nightly, from jazz to folk to punk-synth. Those looking to bust a move or have a casual night out with friends can find DJs and dancing at Tender Trap or the low-key bar Broken Land, which serves mulled wine in the winter. For the summer months, head outdoors to the Brooklyn Barge Bar, a small, floating bar next to Transmitter Park. If none of these sound up your alley, follow Aziz Ansari’s lead once again to Achilles Heel, a casual Greenpoint bar highlighted on Master of None, or grab a drink from Bill Murray’s son—or Bill Murray himself if you’re lucky—at his new bar, 21 Greenpoint.