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Getting to know Greenpoint and Williamsburg

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I recently moved to Greenpoint after years in Alphabet City, which became a culinary mecca over the course of the time we lived there. I'm trying to get my bearings here (with the help of Chowhound,) and we don't have a kitchen set up in our new place so it's even more dire! We tend to eat mid-range (sit-down or delivery, but not too pricy). So here's what I've hit so far and what I'm interested in. I'm hoping to help other new Greenpointers and to hear from the old guard. Feel free to weigh in, Brooklynites!

Cafe Grumpy: Thank God for Cafe Grumpy. Leaving my beloved 9th Street Espresso was one of the hardest things about moving. I think that other than Everyman (13th and 4th in Manhattan), Gimme (Lorimer and Grand), Grumpy has the best coffee (drip, French Press, and espresso). Also, it's great to sit and do work in because the back area is kept quiet - everyone else is working too.

Eat Records: This place is cute, has okay coffee, and is a nice place to work in the mornings when I need "real" food (not just baked goods). Their breakfasts are good and not too expensive. The only problem is that the music is too good and the sound system is too good. If you're easily distracted by music, don't go there to work, just to chill.

Queens Hideaway: One of my biggest disappointments in Greenpoint. Mediocre food (we went with friends, so we were able to sample quite a few things and nothing broke the mediocrity barrier). The prices were truly outrageous for what we got, both quality-wise and portions. The service was inattentive and impolite.

Greenpoint Coffee House: I really like this place, atmosphere-wise. Okay coffee. Some of the food is dynamite (omelettes, soups, pancakes), some of it is blah (burgers, desserts). Service is good. I wish the menu were larger and more varied, but I will continue to go here regularly. I also love that they have breakfast food all day.

Brooklyn Label: I haven't tried any of their higher-end things, but their sandwiches and egg dishes are yummy. Most of all, their vegan cookies are INCREDIBLE (and I'm not vegan, but I am a serious cookie-lover). Also, their service is consistently great - perfect level of attention, uber-friendly, drink always filled, etc. Wish they were open Sundays, but I'm happy to hear they're going to be staying open later.

The Garden: Good sandwiches. Really good sandwiches. Also, good produce selection.

OTT: We chose this Thai place over the 1/2 a million others in the neighborhood for the important reason that it delivers late. Not bad, but definitely nothing special. Waited about 30 min for delivery, which seems a bit much, but not ridiculous.

Thai Cafe: Whew- spicy! I'm sure this place is more "authentic" or something, but we just about burned our mouths out. Prices aren't bad and open late, but next time we'll emphasize MILD.

Sweetwater: Absolutely perfect. On a nice day, sat outside in the back and had a sensational dinner. I recommend highly their corn-fed chicken breast over lentils and spinach (so tender) and their plum/ricotta dessert. Good beers and wines, too.

Egg: This place seems seriously overrated. My eggs were so runny they were barely cooked. My friend's biscuits were positively dough. Maybe the gas wasn't on the day we went? On top of that, after waiting for 30 min, you'd think we'd have decent service. On the contrary, the server seemed, well, . . . frustrated. Not that I don't understand how frustrating it would be to deal with that many people, but it was unpleasant.

Miranda: This place was great. The food was delicious, the wine was good, the atmosphere was lovely. The servers, in particular, were marvelous. Great special occasion place.

Oslo: Decent espresso, but overrated. Doesn't hold up to 9th St, Everyman, Gimme, or Grumpy. More equivalent to Joe, the Art of Coffee in the West Village. I like their newspaper table though and it's close enough to the train and park that it's a good meeting place.

Peter's Since 1969: Quality seems to vary here, but I love the comfort-food sides, especially their very buttery green veggies and fluffy spinach. I also love how close it is to the Bedford L stop, so I can stuff my hungry face within minutes of getting off the train.

Verb Cafe: Don't bother. Coffee is awful. Espresso drinks are awful. Music is awful. Didn't try the food and I'm glad.

McDonalds on Greenpoint and Manhattan: Now, it was late and they're 24 hours. I went in to a get a grilled chicken salad (seemed palatable) and they didn't have any chicken. So, that ought to tell you something.

Tonight, we're going to Baci & Abbracci. I'll let y'all know how it goes.

There are still a ton of places left that I'd like to try. Some of the tops: Paloma, Cafe Riviera, Enid's, Acapulco, Divine Follie, Lokal, erb, Sapporo Haru. We'd also like to figure out where to eat Polish food because the choices are overwhelming and we don't speak Polish. My hopes are high for Paloma's burgers: I need a good burger 'round the neighborhood!

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  1. Baci & Abbracci was great. We sat outside. We each had pasta entrees, per suggestions from other Chowhounds. My cavatelli w/ broccoli rabe and sausage was wonderful. Great wine, tiramisu was HUGE. Best of all: the service. We'll definitely be back.

    1. a few polish spots: karczma (on greenpoint ave), happy end (manhattan ave) for pierogi, old poland (nassau and humboldt) for soups and chicken/pork cutlets, damis (manhattan ave) for the whole trout in garlic butter, and lomzynianka (manhattan ave).
      if you search on this board for greenpoint polish restaurants/butchers, you'll find a ton of information. here's a general thread about the neighborhood from last year with a lot of tips: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/403116
      also, there's a farmer's market on saturday in mccarren park. it's small, but worth visiting.

      4 Replies
      1. re: wleatherette

        That farmer's market seems to be growing. But any particular reason to go there versus Union Square besides avoiding the subway?

        ...And I need to throw in a plug for the "bigos" at Old Poland Foods on N.8th. Still the best in the area.

        1. re: Silverjay

          no, the main reason to go to the mccarren market (aside from supporting it) is proximity. it can't compete with union square and is definitely not a destination greenmarket. that said, there are some very nice things: the fishmonger, the vermont cheesemaker who has recently started selling, the meat man (quality though expensive), ronnybrook... it's nice to be able to stroll up to the park and come home with eggs, milk, yogurt, a nice hunk of cheese, some skate for dinner, etc.

          1. re: Bob Martinez

            Thanks for the explanation of the Polish places, all!

        2. Got an Americano at Uro - it was good, but it wasn't the kind of place I'd want to stay and sit and work. Much more grab-and-go.

          Tried Ella on Bedford for dinner and it was awful. I got a burger, which was clearly unseasoned. He got the roasted chicken which was also not good, though the mustard spaetzle was delicious. Service was poor.

          We'll probably give Enid's and Lokal a try this weekend.

          9 Replies
          1. re: lucye

            enid's has been mediocore the couple of times i've tried it, but i'd love to hear that it has improved.

            i'd add lamb + jaffy to your list. after a few ok to meh brunches there, we had a great dinner recently. the chestnut-crusted sweetbreads and salad with pear and crispy prosciutto were especially good. also, it's byo.

            1. re: wleatherette

              Wleatherette, Lamb + Jaffy will definitely be up ahead. Thanks for the recommendation.

              This morning, we tried brunch at Lokal and it was another disappointment. The worst part was the service: they were sweet, polite, but not attentive. Getting a refill on my coffee took 20 minutes. The food was mediocre. I got a chicken "panini" (it wasn't a panini, just a regular sandwich on a roll) with fries which was more than enough food, but my partner got huevos rancheros which was pretty small. The decor is also strange. We will go back at some point because their dinner menu is interesting - the casseroles intrigue me.

              Walking by Peter Pan bakery every morning has been more than we can resist - we are planning some doughnuts there tomorrow first thing.

              1. re: lucye

                enjoy. PP is one of the best in the area.

                1. re: wleatherette

                  Sour cream doughnut from Peter Pan: pure heaven. Mmmm-mmm.

                  Their bagels actually looked good too. May have to try on another day.

                  1. re: lucye

                    As I recall, the bagels aren't too great. I do however, love their greasy egg, cheese and bacon on a roll.

                    Good bagels however, can be found at Syrena bakery which also has many Polish delights. Syrena is at Norman and Humboldt.

              2. re: wleatherette

                I went to Lamb and Jaffy last night and it was pretty good. My major complaints were that our server was weirdly snooty (snipping at me to insist that all risotto is made with cream) and the food took quite a long time. That said, my friend had the cold beet salad with goat cheese and dill, which was simple and divine. I had the roasted guinea fowl with preserved lemon and coriander spaetzle -- also tasty and excellent. I will likely return. The only caveat is that if I have a craving, it's usually for a certain type of ethnic food. Many "posh American" places blend together in my mind -- like Dumont, Diner, Paloma and now Lamb and Jaffy -- so I rarely have places like that as destinations spots.

                1. re: chompchomp

                  Ive been meaning to check out palmo since it is down the block from me, any recomendations?

                  1. re: chompchomp

                    yeah, they tend to be pretty slow. glad you enjoyed overall, though. the guinea fowl is on my list to try, along with the lamb chops, which looked fantastic on our last visit.

                    1. re: chompchomp

                      I make risotto nearly weekly and have yet to use cream in it.

                2. You've hit a lot of decent spots. I personally love Marlow and Sons, the bourbon selection at Fette Sau, Aurora, Baci and Abbracci, the atmosphere at Moto and the Oak Cafe -- all in Williamsburg. I've found the best food in Greenpoint is at Pio Pio Riko on Greenpoint Ave. The Colombian place, Cafe Cafecito has surprisingly delicious cookies. Opposite of you, I really like Egg and think Brooklyn Label is just OK.

                  Another great tidbit is that we are also proximate to Acme fish on Gem Street. On Friday mornings, they open to the public and it's a great way to stock up on all your smoked fish for quite cheap.

                  And, some others have been discussing the greenmarket in McCarren Park. I know it's small, but we love it because it's so close and seems to have 1-2 stands of all the basics -- fruit, milk, meat, veggies, fish and flowers. It's a lot less overwhelming than Union Square and a lot less work to schlep the wares home. As I mentioned below, we regularly go to Syrena on Norman for baked goods.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: chompchomp

                    Chompchomp, thanks for your reply. I have heard a lot of good things about Pio Pio Riko - that's definitely coming up. Also - great to hear where the good bagels are + smoked fish (I sense a delicious weekend breakfast in our future!)

                    Last night, we got delivery from Great Wall No. 1. It was good in a pinch (late, didn't want Thai) but probably will only use it in emergencies. It took 40 minutes (we're about 2 blocks away - should have gotten take-out, but we were glued to the TV) and was mediocre.

                    1. re: lucye

                      acme is a wonderful resource. the retail hours on friday are from 8am to 1pm. fresh smoked salmon is $12/lb. the quality is top-notch.

                    2. re: chompchomp

                      Pio coming up? Hmmmm...trying to cater to yuppie hipsters, perhaps, but coming up in terms of food? Peruvian is one of my favorite cuisines and Pio Pio "riko" (a misnomer) is best treated as a chicken joint. The lombo saltado is in fact very good, almost like Lima. But the ceviche is awful--old fish--and the sopa a la minuta, while large and full of color, was made from farily old meat the other day. Then the waittress brought us our ceviche and lombo (entrees) before the soup or tamal (which was crumbly, dry, and ages old...worst I've ever had in NYC). The soup came last, at the end of the meal. Then the bill came and no tax was charged but a 15% gratuity was added in place of the tax, something I believe is illegal in NY. And we didn't even complain! I guess they saw from our expressions that unlike the majority of 20-something skippy-doodleheads in the restaurant we actually knew what Peruvia food should be and prepared for the worst...Yikes.

                      1. re: zemilideias

                        O quiza te vieron la cara de tacaƱo.

                        1. re: zemilideias

                          Z -- I think you can share your opinions without insulting your fellow diners. No need for such hostility.

                          1. re: chompchomp

                            Yes, Z, skippydoodle is ascendent. Get used to it. Your mucho authetico ways are dead and corrupt, like Fujimori and Anibal Guzman.

                      2. We tried Enid's yesterday for brunch, having heard many raves. It was pretty awful, actually. Terrible coffee. I got pancakes which must have contained a pound of butter each, were not fully cooked, and the fruit on top must have been sitting there for awhile before it got to my table, as the juices had soaked through, leaving the pancakes soggy. My dining partner got the leek and potato hash which was seasoned in a way he called "experimental" - I guess we didn't expect cinnamon to be a key ingredient.

                        The atmosphere was also not really to our taste - too dive-bar-like.

                        Now, I know the biscuits are supposed to be great and we didn't try those. Nor did we try the huevos rancheros, which looked pretty good. We probably won't go back unless a friend insists, though.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: lucye

                          for what it's worth, it is a cheap bar!

                          1. went to Divine Follie for moms day, it was ok, very inexpensive, the service was lacking but a good bang for your buck.
                            Chinese musican is my fav chinese in the neighborhood
                            Sapporo Haru is my favorite japaneese in NYC, hands down
                            Thai cafe is the best thai in the area
                            had dinner at brooklyn label, i hear they are getting a new chef so i have high hopes their dinner will improve.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Asumnuthin

                              we love sapporu haru's sushi - awesome! but for other great japanese, you should try zenkichi. great atmosphere, great food, great sake list.

                              1. re: sir chowalot

                                we actually went for brooklyn rest week, very nice, different atmosphere

                                1. re: Asumnuthin

                                  does sapporu haru deliver to northern greenpoint? if not, any recs for a place that does? i just moved from the east village and see myself going through sushi withdrawal very shortly. also looking for a bakery in the neighborhood that has whole wheat/mixed grains loaves. thanks!

                                  1. re: emma

                                    s.h. should deliver, but i'd recommend eating there as opposed to ordering out. i've had several bad experiences with delivery - incredibly sloppy rolls, everything very carelessly packed, and they're quite slow to boot.

                                    hearty whole grain bread, unlike sushi, is a strong suit of the neighborhood. the garden (manhattan and kent), donna market (manhattan and noble) and associated (manhattan and calyer) all have a good selection from various bakeries. syrena bakery on norman is another place to try.

                                    1. re: wleatherette

                                      i found a great 7 grain loaf from the polish bakery next to photoplay!

                                    2. re: emma

                                      I live on milton and they do deliver to me, although i find it faster to go and pick it up myself, it seems to take less time that way. Most of the time we dine in though, all the waitresses are very nice and knowledgeble on whats fresh

                              2. I'm always surprised when I hear negative reviews of Queen's Hideaway, perhaps it's a matter of having incredible luck whenever I go there - because the food has always been good, and the atmosphere fun - whether inside or outside in the lovely backyard. Granted I can say you're going to throw down some money there - but I've always had a great time doing it!

                                1. If you haven't tried Aurora yet, please do, it is one of our favorite restaurants in the entire neighborhood and has fantastic, rustic, fresh italian food.

                                  Dressler is super high-end, but also very good, though it has been a while since I've been there. The two meals I have had were both the best I've had in Williamsburg though.

                                  Used to love Diner, now have a love/hate relationship with it. Seems very hit or miss these days.

                                  Egg has great OJ, good pancakes, and the Eggs Rothko are one of my favorite breakfasts, but I also believe it is a tad overrated. They have outstanding Fried Chicken for dinner though, and really the only option since Pies & Thighs closed down.

                                  We didn't love Sweetwater the one time we ate there, FWIW.

                                  Fette Sau has good BBQ if that is your thing, plus a great beer/bourbon selection and a cool space.

                                  Dumont is a neighborhood classic, and worth at least one visit.

                                  Bonita is solid, and I love their Huevos Rancheros for brunch. Endless Summer has better tacos though.

                                  1. Best bagels in Willi/Greenpoint, hands-down: Manhattan ave., between Meserole & Calyer--better than the Bedford Ave. joints . . . nobody mentioned Park Luncheonette (right near Enid's) for brunch? Quite good . . . was even more impressed recently by the French toast at Brooklyn Label . . . ice cream joint on Commercial st. at the top of Greenpoint . . . Fanny a good bistro on Graham (Williamsburg), but no a.c. . . . new joint (Variety) on Graham betw. Skillman & Conselyea: coffee on the level of Grumpy/Gimme/El Beit . . . Amarin has very good pad thai . . . great vietnamese place that used to be Oznot (9th/Berry) . . .

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: bake

                                      Based on this recommendation, I tried Variety cafe on Graham. The coffee, at least the espresso, is not even close to being at the level of Grumpy/Gimme/El Beit.

                                      On a side note, I wish people here would start new threads for Williamsburg/Greenpoint restaurant reviews instead of prolonging these Welcome to the Neighborhood-type things.

                                      1. re: PAL

                                        Barista Dan Griffin set up the coffee operation at Variety, as he did at El Beit. I only tried the regular brew, and found it to be the equal of the other places.

                                        1. re: bake

                                          I should amend my original take on Variety. They are now using Stumptown beans and I've had some pretty good espresso there.

                                    2. Greenpoint has one of two NY entries in Saveur's top one hundred favorite food, food people, and food things in the world, a drink at Reben Luncheonette. Here's a link:

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: porkified

                                        going by the address (which is havemeyer, not hevemeyer as ny mag has it spelled), reben luncheonette is actually in south williamsburg, not greenpoint.

                                        1. re: wleatherette

                                          True, Its right next to the McDonald's under the J, the drink means to die dreaming, or somthing

                                      2. I lived in Greenpoint for a year and your post made me very nostalgic now that I have been back in Australia for a year and am missing all the food of NYC.

                                        My favourites were Pio Pio Rico and OTT because when I was feeling lonely and missing home they were so warm and friendly and I didn't feel so isolated. Also that it was pretty good food for stupidly cheap prices.

                                        Some good ones I haven't seen listed, Dokebi, the Korean place in williamsburg, Anytime (or as I liked to call it the stoner delivery service because you could get anything from sandwiches to cigarettes at 4am), Roebling Tea Room (amazing range of teas), Wasabi, Wild Ginger, and if you live on the North side of greenpoint, it's a quick and scenic walk over the Pulaski bridge to Cafe Henri in Long Island City.

                                        The website called Free Williamsburg has a list of just about all of them and I always used it to find restaurants and bars in the area.