Category Archives: Polish Restaurants for the Budget Minded

The Manhattan skyline from Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Day Fifty: Walking Tour of with Trina Morris and F.I.T. of Greenpoint, Brooklyn July 23rd, 2016

*Blogger wants to note that the blog was updated in 2020. Many stores and restaurant have either closed or changed hands since this tour.

My second “Talk & Tour” class with the Fashion Institute of Technology took me on a full day tour of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Many of my classmates had been on the Bushwick tour with me two weeks earlier plus a group of out-of-towners. How people down South find these obscure walking tours in New York City is beyond me. Even I had to get the FIT catalog from school. What made this tour interesting was that my family lived here when they first came to this country at the turn of the last century and both my Grandmother and Grandfather on my father’s side lived here until the 1960’s.

Our Instructor for the day was Trina Morris, whom I have taken many walking tours with which covered DUMBO, Carroll Gardens, the Lower East Side, Williamsburg, and finally Boerum Hill at a time when I was writing my first book, “Firehouse 101” (See IUniverse.com for details on the book), which was set primarily in Boerum Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods.

I had used the walking tour to get a better feel for the neighborhood and after the tour was over that weekend back in 2002 came back to the neighborhood about 18 times over the course of writing the book to see the changes. Since writing my first novel, all of these areas have changed tremendously with gentrification  All of Brooklyn just keeps changing. Trina seemed thrilled that I had an autographed copy of the book ready for her on the subway ride over.

Getting to Greenpoint is not the easiest trip. We had to take the C Train from school and then transfer to the L Train (recent college train) to the G Train to get to the heart of Greenpoint. Unlike Debbie’s tour a few weeks earlier, Trina’s tour deals with going to all the best stores and restaurants whereas Debbie’s tour concentrated more on art work and talking with owners opening new businesses. Both tours showcased the neighborhoods beautifully but there were times I felt like quite the tourist. Especially when the locals looked at us like we were from Mars. I felt that way when we were in Bushwick as well as the local residents looked perplexed on why we would walk around their neighborhood.

Greenpoint Brooklyn II

Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Our tour started at the G stop on Manhattan Avenue and Greenpoint Avenue, the furthest point you can get into Greenpoint from Manhattan. From there we walked down Greenpoint Avenue and turned right two blocks away to Franklin Avenue. Franklin Avenue has been one of the shopping areas of Greenpoint for years but now newer residents are putting an upscale swing to it with boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and clothing stores giving the street a nice mix of old and new merchants.

When I did a tour of the neighborhood, I stopped at Old Polish Bakery at 926 Manhattan Avenue for a doughnut. The selection of baked products look really good but word of advice. They must do their baking early in the morning because the doughnut was dried out (see TripAdvisor review).

Old Polish Bakery

Old Polish Bakery at 926 Manhattan Avenue

Our first stop on the tour was Zoe’s Beauty Products Salon & Spa at 119 Greenpoint Avenue. This beauty spa has a full line of men’s and woman’s products as well as get a full day pampering. Take time to look at all their products as they have a full line of merchandise for every need. A very nice shop with friendly service and a good selection.

Zoe's Beauty Products

Zoe’s Beauty Products and Salon at 119 Greenpoint Avenue

Our second stop on the tour was at Budin Coffee Shop at 114 Greenpoint Avenue, a beautifully designed store with wooden shelves and an open bar. Budin is what TV would call a ‘hipster’ shop but the service was friendly and they did make a mean iced tea. They have a nice selection of drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Budin Coffee Shop

Budin Coffee Shop at 114 Greenpoint Avenue (now closed)

Check out their gift area as well. There is some unusual items. What was nice too was they let us use the bathroom and for that I give them a big thumbs up (see TripAdvisor Review).

Budin Coffee Shop II

Budin Coffee Shop is very trendy inside (now closed)

Our next stop on the tour was a small clothing store named ‘In God We Trust’ at 129 Bedford Avenue, which has a respectable line of casual wear. This biggest observation that I have found in clothing stores in these so called ‘hipster’ neighborhoods is that you can not find a size over 30 inches and a large for men.

In God We Trust

In God We Trust at 129 Bedford Avenue (Now Closed)

It’s like shopping at Bloomingdale’s today. They don’t want to sell to anyone who is not 5:5 and a waist of 30 inches.  Even though the selection was interesting I’m not sure who they were buying for in the neighborhood.

In God We Trust II

Inside “In God We Trust” (now closed)

A fun shop that we quickly went though was the East River Skate Shop at 86 Greenpoint Avenue. They had an interesting line of tee-shirts with unique prints and even though I am not into skateboarding, their line of skateboards would attract any adult interesting in trying the sport.

East River Skate Shop

East River Skate Shop at 86 Greenpoint Avenue (Now Closed)

Walking to the end of Greenpoint Avenue facing the East River is the most beautiful view of Manhattan that had been hidden all these years behind factories. These factories today are becoming lofts, studios and restaurants with a bar called ‘Barge’ that was very active that afternoon. I was amazed on how busy the place was considering it was the middle of the afternoon. On the sunny clear day that is was it had the most spectacular views of Manhattan and a nice soundtrack going.

Also, at the end of Greenpoint Avenue is WNYC Transmitter Park along Greenpoint Avenue, which shares the same views as ‘Barge’ and they show films there on Friday nights. They were setting up for the new ‘Star Wars’ film the night I was there and expecting a pretty big crowd. The park has beautiful views of Midtown around 34th Street. It has a nice smell of salt air as well. Frankly it could use a good weeding.

WNYC Transmitter Park

WNYC Transmitter Park

We turned the corner onto Franklin Avenue,  which is where most of the gentrification is taking place. I was able to tour the neighborhood about a week later to get a better feel for it and Greenpoint is still a neighborhood, not unlike Bushwick, that is still in transition. Many of the old residents still make their home here and you still see it on the upper reaches of Manhattan Avenue, where a sizable Hispanic population still lives for now and on the lower parts of street where a sizable Polish population still lives.

Franklin Avenue is where everyone is moving in. The block faces, along with West Street, the East River where the views of Manhattan are priceless. West Street is where all the former factories and warehouses are located which is quickly being replaced by studios, stores and small factories where the new residents live and work.

When visiting the American Playground between Nobile and Milton Streets, you can see the rapid change in the population with men in their 20’s playing basketball and young mothers with their small children having play dates. It was a mostly white crowd that differed from other parks that I visited in the neighborhood.

American Playground

American Playground on Franklin Street

On the way up to lunch, we stopped at Word Bookstore at 126 Franklin Avenue that has a great selection of independent and commercial authors and they had several local book signings set up. Its a small store with a depth to their selection and the staff is very friendly.

Word Bookstore

Word Book  Store at 126 Franklin Avenue

We then toured You & Yours Vintage Shop at 77 Franklin Street (Now Closed) and People of Tomorrow Consignment Shop at 66 Franklin Street (Now Closed) both offering a nice selection of clothing and accessories for the person and the home. You really have to know what you are looking for when visiting these shops because the merchandise is rather unique. What’s nice is that I found the service both here and at other stores on Franklin to be very personal and welcoming.

Lunch that afternoon took us to Brooklyn Label at 180 Franklin Street (changed hands since my visit there). As the kids say, OMG, this restaurant was incredible. The food was French Bistro and the brunch menu had a good selection of both breakfast and lunch items at very reasonable prices and the portion sizes were huge.

Brooklyn Label

Brooklyn Label at 180 Franklin Street

I had a Croque Monsieur ($12.00) that was out of this world. The sandwich was huge and the Gruyere cheese had a sharpness and twang to it. It was served with a kale salad that had a delicious dressing and the French Fries were cooked perfectly. The sandwich was filled with so much ham and cheese that I could barely finish it. The meal was so big I had no room for some of their delicious sounding desserts. The service was friendly and flawless. This is a definite on anyone’s list when dining in Greenpoint (see review on TripAdvisor. I gave them an Excellent).

Brooklyn Label II

The inside of Brooklyn Label

The food and the company made the meal perfect. It was nice getting to know the people I toured with that afternoon. Some of them had such interesting backgrounds and personal stories from bankers to lawyers to nannies, all of them had a story to tell.

Porter James

Porter James Vintage Furniture at 116 Franklin Avenue

After lunch our shopping trip had us zig-zagging along Franklin Street. We stopped at Pas Mal and Pip Squeak Chapeau at 99 Franklin Street to look at their clothing lines, Porter James, a home furnishing store at 116 Franklin Street. It carries a lot of 1960’s furniture. We also visited Adaption at 109 Franklin Street to look at more vintage furniture.

Pip Squeak Chateau

Pip Squeak Chapeau/Pas Mal at 99 Franklin Street

Adapations

Adaptions Vintage Furniture at 109 Franklin Street

We stopped at the seafood store Little Neck Outpost at 128 Franklin Street, which had food for sale and lots of gifts and snacks as well. They had also have a selection of hot foods to take home.

Little Neck Outpost

Little Neck Outpost at 128 Franklin Street

On my own part of the tour, I went further up on Franklin Street to Commercial Street where the warehouses are giving way to condos and views of Manhattan and Long Island City, which was once thought to be the next SoHo.

Greenpoint Playground at 243 Franklin Street attracted the most diverse amount of children and had beautiful views of the skyline. In a few years, I predict this will be the ultimate Yuppie park as condos and renovations are taking place in the buildings surrounding the park.

Greenpoint Playground

Greenpoint Playground at 243 Franklin Avenue

Manhattan Avery Park (Newton Barge Park) at 37 Commercial Street has some of the best views of Newton Creek’s boating and sailing docks and some unique art work along the fences. Newton Creek is currently being cleaned up so much more activity is going on this side of the neighborhood as well as new condos, restaurants and an ice cream shop have opened here.

Newton Barge playground

Newton Barge Park & Playground at 37 Commercial Street

This is the tip of the neighborhood and there is a lot of renovations going on in the old factories and warehouses. Give it less than three years and this whole area will be luxury lofts. With the views of the city and access to many small pocket parks, this will become a very desirable area to move to in the future. I walked across Commercial Street back down Manhattan Avenue on the upper part of the neighborhood and you are starting to see the transformation of the neighborhood from Hispanic to a younger white crowd with more restaurant and bars opening up on this part of the neighborhood. There are still many reasonable Spanish restaurants to give a try that look quite good.

I took a detour for a snack at Franklin Pizza at 109 Franklin Street (see review on TripAdvisor) on the way back down. This slices here are nice sized and at $2.50 are a little pricey in current New York terms but the pizza is full of flavor and their sauce is delicious. It is the perfect blend of old and new neighborhood as everyone eats here and it is a good gathering place for neighborhood gossip as I found out.

Franklin Pizza

Franklin Pizza at 109 Franklin Street

Our last store in this part of the neighborhood was Flying Squirrel at 87 Oak Street, a  great little consignment store of clothes, toys and furniture for young children. The place was alive with activity as the kids seem to dominate in this store.  The owner, Kate Schmitz, was really nice and explained her concept of the store to me, mixing brand new and consignment goods to attract the young families moving into the neighborhood. She also has a nice line of books as well. It is a great rainy day store for families.

Flying Squirrel

Flying Squirrel at 87 Oak Street

We then took a turn in the block and walked down Oak Street to Guernsey Street to Meserole Street to the main shopping area of the Polish side of the neighborhood on lower Manhattan Avenue. Here we got to try two of the most well-known businesses in the Polish neighborhood, Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop at 727 Manhattan Avenue and Polka Dot Café at 726 Manhattan Avenue (See reviews on TripAdvisor).

Peter Pan Donut Shoppe

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop at 727 Manhattan Avenue

Peter Pan’s doughnuts are some of the best I have ever had. Who could make a choice? I ended up eating three doughnuts because they looked so good. I had their apple filled doughnut with a white icing, a crème filled doughnut and a glazed doughnut. It put a damper on my dinner plans but like the kids say OMG they were so good. This is one store you can not miss when visiting Greenpoint. I had heard about them for years but never realized how good the doughnuts were for munching.

Peter Pan Donut Shop

The Donuts at Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop are the Best!!

The other store we visited was Polka Dot Café,  Polish gourmet shop, that has now reinvented itself into both a gourmet shop for Polish food and a small café where you can order food. Trina had arranged for us to try some blueberry dumplings that were cooked perfectly and were delicious. I was able to down a few of them on top of the doughnuts.

Polka Dot Cafe

Polka Dot Cafe at 726 Manhattan Avenue

I was so impressed by the food that I doubled back after the tour was over and on top of everything else I ate I had chicken meatballs and a type of pancake that was filled with meat with a flavored ice tea. That chicken meatball made me proud to be part Polish and the food and the service was just excellent. I think the ladies got a kick that I was so happy with the food.

Polka Dot Cafe II

The Polish gourmet treats at Polka Dot Cafe

We all said our goodbyes by the subway as most of the people in my tour went back to Manhattan via the subway at Nassau Street. It was nice meeting everyone and Trina is a good tour guide. I am hoping that she arranges a tour of Bed-Sty next.

My last stop of the day was Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish at 607 Humboldt Street, a Polish Catholic Church that my Great-Grandmother Rock had raised money to help build at the turn of the last century. What a beautifully detailed church that my Aunt Dee later said she had been baptized in along with several great aunts and uncles had been married there. This had been our family church when my family lived in the neighborhood.

St. Saintislaus Church II

The inside of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish

I stayed for the 5:30pm mass and almost cried through the service knowing how important this church was to our family and what a big part it played in our lives. It was a nice service and the priest did a nice job with the mass but it really chocked me up to know that this was part of my past. I felt like my dad was there with me. In a way, I felt like I was home.

St. Saintislaus Church

St. Stanislaus Kostka Church  at 607 Humboldt Street, my family church

https://www.facebook.com/SSKCBrooklyn/

As for me, I was so stuffed with food from all over and it was such a nice night to walk, I walked back to Manhattan. I made the turn down Bedford Street and walked through Williamsburg through the ultimate part of the ‘hipster’ neighborhood. It was like walking through a college campus. God, did these kids make me feel old. It was funny how I never felt this way when I used to do the same thing on Rush Street in Chicago. I guess every generation goes through it.

I walked through Williamsburg and then over the Williamsburg Bridge into the Lower East Side and walked across lower Manhattan to Houston Street to see if there were any interesting movies at the Angelica. With nothing I wanted to see, I took the subway back to Port Authority Bus Terminal to go home. I felt so much better after that walk and worked off almost everything. The trip to Greenpoint was really interesting and who knew that my Great-Grandmother was so ‘hip’.

Even if you are not an FIT Alumnus, check out the walking tours that the campus offers. They are reasonable, engaging and you will have a great time.

Places to Visit:

In God We Trust (This branch now closed)

129 Bedford Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11211

(718) 384-0700

https://ingodwetrustnyc.com/

East River Skate Shop (Now Closed)

86 Greenpoint Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11211

https://www.eastriverskateshop.com/

Word Bookstore

126 Franklin Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(718) 383-0096

https://www.wordbookstores.com/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-9:00pm

Pas Mal/Pip Squeak Chateau

99 Franklin Street

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(917) 909-1514

https://www.pasmalnyc.com/

Open: Monday-Friday 12:00pm-8:00pm/Saturday & Sunday 11:00am-8:00pm

Porter James Vintage Furniture

116 Franklin Street

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(929) 337-9387

https://porterjamesofny.com/

Open: Sunday & Saturday 12:00pm-7:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Friday 12:00pm-7:00pm

Adaptions

109 Franklin Street

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(347) 529-5889

https://adaptationsny.com/

Open: Sunday & Saturday 12:00pm-7:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Friday 12:00pm-7:00pm

Little Neck Outpost

128 Franklin Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(718) 383-3080

http://www.littleneckop.com/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-7:00pm

Flying Squirrel

87 Oak Street

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(718) 218-7775

http://flyingsquirrelbaby.com/

Open: Sunday 11:00am-6:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm

WNYC Transmitter Park

Greenpoint Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11211

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/transmitter-park

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-10:00pm

American Playground

Milton & Franklin Streets

Brooklyn, NY  11211

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/american-playground

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-9:00pm

Greenpoint Playground

243 Franklin Street

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/greenpoint-playground

Open:  Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-9:00pm

Manhattan Avery Park

3 Commercial Street

Brooklyn, NY 11222

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/newtown-barge-playground

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-9:00pm

Saint Stanislaus Kosta Church

607 Humboldt Street

Brooklyn, NY 11222

(718) 338-0170

https://ststanskostka.org/

https://www.facebook.com/SSKCBrooklyn/

Open: See church website for the mass times

Places to Eat:

Old Polish Bakery

926 Manhattan Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11222

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Old-Poland-Bakery/288782161332865

(718) 349-7900

Open: please check their website or call them

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d5540706-Reviews-Old_Poland_Bakery-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

Budin Coffee Shop (Currently Closed)

114 Greenpoint Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(347) 884-9639

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d7284898-Reviews-Budin-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

Brooklyn Label

180 Franklin Street

Brooklyn, NY   11222

(347) 689-4072

https://www.brooklynlabel180.com/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-12:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d890612-Reviews-The_Brooklyn_Label-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

Franklin Pizza

109 Franklin Street

Brooklyn, NY  11222

(718) 349-2472

Open: Sunday 12:00pm-9:30pm/Monday-Thursday 12:00pm-9:30pm/Saturday 12:00pm-10:30pm

https://www.franklinpizzamenu.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d4457313-Reviews-Franklins_Pizza-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

Polka Dot Cafe

726 Manhattan Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11222

(718) 349-2884

http://polkadotgreenpoint.com/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 9:00am-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d10636693-Reviews-Polka_Dot_Cafe-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop

727 Manhattan Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11222

(718) 339-3676

https://peterpandonuts.com/

Open: Sunday 5:30am-7:00pm/Monday-Friday 4:30am-8:00pm/Saturday 5:00am-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d1458238-Reviews-Peter_Pan_Bakery-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

Day Forty-Seven: Exploring Bushwick, Brooklyn on a Walking Tour with Deborah Geiger and F.I.T. July 9th, 2016

Touring Bushwick, Brooklyn with Deborah Geiger
Our tour group picture with Deborah Geiger, tour guide extraordinaire.

As part of my exploration of the city, I took a break from my usual walk of Manhattan and went on a walking tour of one of the city’s most up and coming neighborhoods, Bushwick in northeastern Brooklyn. When I started working in the city in 1990, you would not be caught dead in Bushwick let alone be dead if you went there. It had the highest amount of crime, child mortality, AIDS, drug and gang problems in the whole city and sensible people stayed away. With Greenpoint and Williamsburg now gentrified and everyone pushing east and south, the northern parts of Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East Greenpoint and finally to Bushwick.

I took the tour through the Fashion Institute of Technology (I am an Alumnus Class of ’93) in their ‘Hot Topics’ Talks and Tours program and we had an excellent tour guide, Deborah Geiger who is the Director of Content for Envirosell, a consumer shopping behaviorist, who just happens to live in the neighborhood as well. This was her third time moving there since 2001 and she said she has seen the neighborhood quickly change.

I had been Bushwick once years ago when writing my novel, “Firehouse 101” (IUniverse.com 2005), when the protagonist’s neighbor goes there for a late-night party, and he thinks she is out of her mind.  While the neighborhood is still a little sketchy, like all places in New York City, it’s best to look over your shoulder every once in a while, and still keep the eyes in the back of your head.

Our trip started at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I got there so early that I was able to tour the ‘Uniformity’ exhibition at the Fashion Institute Museum. This little museum is a true gem and my three years there as a student I never once went inside.

The school did a nice job with displaying the history of the uniform and the role it played in corporate, government and school structure. I was most impressed with the airline uniforms for stewards and the original McDonald’s uniform. It is a small but very detailed exhibition and should not be missed if you are in the area (located in the Shirley Goodman Building on the FIT campus).

Museum at FIT

The Museum at FIT at 227 West 27th Street

https://www.fitnyc.edu/museum/index.php

We took the A Train to the L Train when we transferred at Union Square. I swear to God when you travel on the L Train it is like being on a college campus. Everyone looks like they are in their 20’s or else trying too hard to be a ‘hipster’. I have been on the L train a few times and it is like they cloned the some guy  and kept manufacturing him. Everyone has the same beard and glasses. At least it is so hot outside that the knit hats are put away (or Thank God that trend is over). The herd seems to get on and off at Bedford Avenue, the heart of Williamsburg. As you go further west, it starts to change again and more diverse once you hit East Williamsburg and Bushwick.

We got off at the Bushwick Avenue and Montrose Stop just above Flushing Avenue which according to the New York Times Real Estate section is the border between East Williamsburg and Bushwick. I guess there is a debate on where Bushwick really starts. We started our tour walking up Bushwick Avenue to  Meresole Avenue to look at the street art and the new breweries and clubs opening up along the street. It is amazing what these entrepreneurs are doing with these old factory buildings.

Our first stop  the tour was the City of Saints Coffee Roasters at 297 Meresole Avenue. The City of Saints has three locations, here in Bushwick, one in the Village and the other in Hoboken, NJ. This is the main processing plant for the coffee. We were met by Jim Osborn, the head roaster and a partner in the business. He explained to us the whole procedure of how they find the beans in Central America and Africa, how they work with the exporters and then how they are received. We then discussed the process of how the beans are roasted, tested and blended to make the perfect coffee flavor. We then had a tasting of some of the blends and even though I am not much of a coffee drinker the way they mixed the beans in some of the coffees was very impressive.

What I like the most about the store was the artwork and the way the store was set up. The graffiti art was interesting and the open air café really welcomed in the community. You got to see how the whole process was done while enjoying the atmosphere of a coffee shop in Bushwick.

City of Saints Roasters

City of Saint Coffee Shop at 297 Meresole Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn

https://www.cityofsaintscoffee.com/

We toured around the neighborhood walking down Johnson Avenue to Varick Avenue then down Ingraham Avenue then back to Morgan Avenue on to Bogart Street to see street art that is on walls around the neighborhood. Some of the street art is interesting but most will be gone as it gets painted on top of by other artists.

Our next stop was the Odetta Gallery at 226 Cook Street. This small gallery faced outside walls filled with more art. It really fit into the neighborhood. The owner of the gallery was explaining how she opened the gallery in Bushwick  to be in the middle of the art explosion in this section of Brooklyn and the center of art innovation.

Odetta Gallery

Odetta Gallery at 226 Cook Street

http://www.odettagallery.com/

Her current exhibition was by artist Kurt Steger whose exhibition ‘Scribing the Void’ with original musical composition  by RSM was on display. The work was very original in that the piece on display was the outline of a rock in Central Park which I thought was a very original idea. What Mr. Steger did over a series of days (he had to work quickly in the park) was take an outline of a rock formation near the middle of the park and then recreate the outline in a pattern in a series of pieces put together in one form. The music came about based on the outline of the piece formation of the rock. The two interplay with each other in the exhibition.

Kurt Steger Scribing the Wall.jpg

Kurt Steger’s “Scribing the Wall” at the Odetta Gallery

Mr. Steger came to the gallery to talk to our group and that was a real treat as it is always nice to get the artists perspective on their work.  I had a nice conversation with him on where the idea for the project came from and some of the art he created. I thought  it was interesting when he told me that he created a 9/11 structure that was used as a healing tool by people affected by the tragedy.

Kurt Steger

Artist Kurt Steger

https://www.stegersculpture.com/

He would do readings by the sculpture to help with the healing process. The piece was  eventually bought by a hospital to use for that purpose. His work really transcends the overall look to it. His outlook on his work and its meaning was insightful. He and the gallery owner were looking to sell this particular piece to one of the museums that faced Central Park. He was fascinating to talk to that afternoon.

Mr. Steger is originally from California and has lived in Brooklyn for years. He and his wife, Meg Hitchcock have recently moved their studios to the Hudson River Valley. His works are intended to heal our inner nature (Kurt Steger Bio).

Our next part of the tour took us around the industrial part of East Williamsburg to our next stop to the Brazilian bakery ‘My Sweet’, where the owner Paula Barbosa created her small candy and sweet shop at 630 Flushing Avenue. She is known for her delightful little treat, Brigedeiro, which is a type of Brazilian truffle made with condensed milk, cocoa and butter and slow cooked.

These little treats are cooled, rolled into balls and then rolled in nuts or sprinkles. Each is made by hand with much care and each look like a little jewel. She also has a line of flavored homemade popsicles and Brigadeiro bark made with a combination of the mix with cookies. The prices reflect the work going into them as each Brigadeiro is $2.00, the popsicles are $4.00, and the bark is $3.00 per bag.

My Sweet Bakery

My Sweet Bakery Bushwick 630 Flushing Avenue

https://mysweet.com/

She got into the business when she was giving them away as gifts and people started asking for them. She then took them to a food fair and got a wonderful write-up from the New York Times and the business just took off. She said she was getting calls from people and could not fill the orders fast enough. Now in a three-man team she turns out these special treats to her customers. I wolfed down a bag of her ‘bark’ in about 15 minutes with the help of many of our touring group. A little expensive but well worth it to visit this quirky little shop in the middle of what looks like a happening area. Plus Paula is charming, welcoming and a pleasure to talk to about her product.

We double backed on Grattan Street to Bogart Street and passed the famous pizzeria Roberta’s. I have been wanting to try their pizza for a long time but good luck snagging a table.  The tour guide said it is tough to get into on a weekend. So our trip took us up the road to ‘Syndicated’, a unique restaurant concept at 40 Bogart Street. It is a bar, restaurant and movie theater rolled into one. The front of the building houses the restaurant and bar and the back section is a very nicely decorated theater concept.

Under the direction of Chef Bret Maeris and Managing Partner Tim Chung, they opened this year a very unique watering hole for the neighborhood. Wanting to keep with the tradition of a small independent theater in a neighborhood sorely lacking a movie theater, for $3.00 you can see a movie and order small plates too much on while watching the film. Dennis explained that they are trying to cater to the Millennium crowd while not alienating the older clientele in the area. They had a  Keanu Reeves retrospect recently that was very popular. Like Tim explained to us, the current audience were kids when these movies came out and are nostalgic for them. It is pricey with entrees starting  between $13-$18 but worth it to try for the experience.

Syndicated Theater Bushwick

Syndicated Theater at 40 Bogart Street

Tim explained to our group that they are trying to fill a need in the neighborhood. There has to be more entertainment in Bushwick besides bars, so they filled it by adding the theater. The goal is to expand the Bushwick Film Festival and have more places to show movies. Add in people’s love for solid American food and you have a very entertaining concept. The menu includes classics such as fried chicken, burgers, fish and chips and grilled cheese. Great comfort foods for an evening out.

We finally crossed over the border of Flushing Avenue to official Bushwick and turned onto Wyckoff Avenue into an area called ‘JeffTown’ by our tour guide named such because of the subway stop at Jefferson Street. This is where you start to see the more residential side of the neighborhood and the more trendy coffee shops, restaurants and stores. This is the Bushwick that I imagined.

We took a quick tour through the Brooklyn Pop-Up Market at 49 Wyckoff Avenue and explored where small business owners are opening their businesses for the first time to test the waters. It is a unique building of small stores, interesting concepts and people trying to create businesses for the first time. It is worth the trip just to see some of the new food concepts that are opening and interesting gift stores.

Brooklyn Pop Up Shop.jpg

Brooklyn Pop-Up Market at 49 Wyckoff Avenue

https://www.brooklynpop-up.com/

As we turned the corner on Troutman Street, we passed an artist who was commissioned to do a painting on the side of the building and he stopped and graciously stopped to explain the project to us. Debbie, our tour guide explained to us that some ‘street art’ just appears and then is painted over and over again and sometimes the owners commission it. How long this painting would last, who knows? In a neighborhood where ‘taggers’ rein you never know.

Our tour was supposed to end at Union Pizza Works at 423 Troutman Street, a neighborhood pizzeria but everyone had other plans that evening. We took the above group picture in front of a mural on Irving Street and then took a quick walk to the end of our tour at Maria Hernandez Park in the heart of Bushwick. This is where the neighborhood comes alive. We all said our goodbyes here with hugs and pictures.

After everyone left,  I have to be honest, I did not want to go back to some of the restaurants I passed with the $17 pizzas and $12 hamburgers. I wanted to see what the neighborhood was really all about and you see that in true Bushwick with the residents who have been here for years. I entered the yet to be gentrified east side of Bushwick where the Spanish population dominates and ate locally.

Amanda's Kitchen

Amanda’s Kitchen Bushwick at 264 Suydam Street (Closed in 2022)

https://www.menupix.com/brooklyn/restaurants/251120744/Amandas-Kitchen-Brooklyn-NY

I grabbed some baked goods at Gaby’s Bakery at 238 Knickbocker Avenue on the other side of Maria Hernandez Park and then picked up empanadas’ at Amanda’s Kitchen at 264 Suydam Street and sat in the park and watched the world go by which is something that a $12 hamburger with people who are trying too hard to be hip can’t accomplish. Here was the true Bushwick with everyone intermingling and trying to figure it all out. Even Amanda herself seemed pretty proud when I ordered from her with my broken Spanish. She seemed impressed that I tried so hard.

Gaby's Bakery

Gaby’s Bakery Bushwick at 238 Knickerbocker Avenue

https://www.facebook.com/gabysbakery238/

After devouring the Mexican pastries and meat pies, I joined the neighborhood block party that was going on between Knickbocker Avenue and Irving Avenue on Suydam Street. I saw families going about life without a care in the world. Maybe things will change for them in a few years as the gentrification of the area continues and their buildings become more desirable being on the park. For now, they were having a good time just barbecuing, playing games and gossiping with their neighbors.

Isn’t that what life in Brooklyn is all about anyway?

This tour was taken through The Fashion Institute of Technology’s Hot Topics ‘Talks & Tours’ program and was conducted by Deborah Geiger, our tour guide, who is the Director of Content for Envirosell, a consumer shopping behaviorist.

Places to visit:

City of Saints Roasters

297 Meserole Street

Brooklyn, NY  11206

(929) 900-5282

https://www.cityofsaintscoffee.com/

Open: Monday-Friday 7:00am-6:00pm Saturday-Sunday 9:00am-6:00pm

Odetta Gallery

226 Cook Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11206

(203) 598-1517

http://www.odettagallery.com/

Open: Friday-Sunday 1:00pm-6:00pm/Closed the rest of the week

Syndicated

40 Bogart Street

Brooklyn, NY  11206

(718) 386-3399

Open: Monday-Thursday 5:00pm-12:00am/Friday 5:00pm-2:00am/Saturday 3:00pm-2:00am/Sunday 3:00pm-12:00pm

Brooklyn Pop-Up Market

49 Wyckoff Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11327

(347) 560-6737

https://www.facebook.com/events/291975887940198/

Places to eat:

Gaby’s Bakery

238 Knickerbocker Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11237

(718) 418-8821

Amanda’s Kitchen

264 Suydam Street

Brooklyn, NY  11237

((347) 488-6297

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d5031796-Reviews-Amanda_Kitchen-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

My Sweet Bakery

630 Flushing Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11206

(347) 946-7460

info@mysweet.com

Open: Sunday Closed Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm/Saturday 12:00pm-3:00pm

Roberta’s Pizza

261 Moore Street

Brooklyn, NY  11206

(718) 447-1118

http://www.robertaspizza.com

Open: Monday-Friday 11:00am-12:00am/Saturday & Sunday 10:00am-12:00am

Union Pizza Works

423 Troutman Street

Brooklyn, NY  11237

(718) 628-1927

http://www.unionpizzaworks.com/

Open: Sunday-Thursday 12:00pm-11:30pm/Friday & Saturday 12:pm-12:00am