Historically, Greenpoint has been known as a Polish neighborhood. It’s been called ‘little Poland,’ and even though gentrification has taken over, it still retains much of its Polish identity.
Greenpoint was developed in the mid-1800s, and by the 1880s, many Polish, Russian, and even Italian immigrants moved there. From then until the 1990s, the neighborhood truly was a ‘little Poland,’ and the Polish language, restaurants, and churches flourished. Because it is still a largely Polish community, Polish restaurants are still easy to find, and you can get your fix at places like Karczma – a tavern with slightly over-the-top décor and servers wearing traditional Polish garb.
It can’t be forgotten than Greenpoint is a neighborhood in Brooklyn, and in many ways, it feels like old New York. The beloved spot Peter Pan Donuts and Pastry Shop has been around for over 6o years and feels completely stuck in time – a welcome change from the fast-paced life outside its doors. Peter Pan opens at 4:30am and sells donuts for $1.10, and some customers have been coming for 20-plus years.
Acme Smoked Fish is another important NYC establishment – it’s the smokehouse that supplies lox and other smoked fish to some of NYC’s most famed restaurants and delicatessens such as Russ and Daughters and Zabar’s. One of NYC’s best-kept secrets is that on Friday mornings, Acme opens up to the public, and you can buy tons of their products at ridiculously low prices. Bring cash and go early – you’ll be amazed at how cheap it is!
But like many other neighborhoods, it’s impossible to deny the gentrification in Greenpoint. It’s now home to many young transplants, trendy cafés, and restaurants. Some favorites to check out are Five Leaves – the all-day café with prime outdoor seating – and Paulie Gee’s, which is undoubtedly one of NYC’s absolute best pizza joints.
And for a drink, check out the Nordic craft beer bar Tørst (to really indulge, head to the back room and experience a Nordic tasting menu at the restaurant Luksus) or the brand new upscale cocktail and oyster bar Sauvage.
Though Greenpoint is just a few steps away from Williamsburg (via McCarren Park – a wonderful space for a walk, a lounge, or to catch a summer movie), it feels like a very different neighborhood. Sure, gentrification has happened – there are coffee shops, boutiques, and expensive bars and restaurants – but the Polish community has not died. It’s very much alive and thriving – and the neighborhood still has an old, nostalgic feel. While some new and modern buildings have risen, the character and charm of Greenpoint still exist, and perhaps, that’s why people like it.