Barnard in the Outer Boroughs: Greenpoint, Brooklyn

By Veronica Suchodolski

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We’ve all heard of Little Italy and Chinatown, but a cultural hub that doesn’t get much press in the Morningside Heights day-to-day is Greenpoint in Brooklyn, which is referred to unofficially as Little Poland. Even though getting to Greenpoint can be a real trek involving three subway transfers (the 1 to the 7 to the G), it’s well worth the trip to get outside the campus bubble and immerse yourself in an unfamiliar culture.

When you step off your long subway journey to Greenpoint, you’ll notice storefronts written entirely in Polish, with even the NYC regulated trash cans featuring bilingual instructions in English and Polish. This can be a little overwhelming: if you count yourself among most Americans, your knowledge of Poland might begin and end with pierogies or kielbasa, with a potential reference to polka music (which is actually historically Czech!) thrown in. Luckily, you have this article to guide you through the must-see spots in the neighborhood.

To get a sense of the country’s traditional cuisine, check out the restaurant Karczma on 136 Greenpoint Avenue. Karczma offers a great mix of cultural favorites, like peasant-style lard and herrings in cream, and more accessible entrees, serving a variety of grilled and breaded meats. The appetizers will generally run you between $8 and $10 while the mail dishes are reasonably priced for the city around $15.

After dinner, skip the lackluster dessert menu at Karczma and make your way over to Old Poland Bakery on 926 Manhattan Avenue. This place is the real deal—unless you’re actively speaking English as you walk in the door, the cashier will address you in Polish. This bakery offers all the traditional fare of a cozy neighborhood bakery in Poland. If you’re new to Polish baked goods, make sure to try the pączki, a kind of glazed doughnut traditionally filled with a spoonful of homemade jam. They’ll only run you a $1 each, though watch out for the credit card minimum!

If you’re in the mood to take some of Little Poland home with you, stop by Green Farms Super Market before you head home. This little bodega offers a whole host of groceries straight from Europe. I personally recommend grabbing some pierogi to cook up at home, best served with dill pickles, a good Polish beer if you’re of age (Żywiec and Tyskie are my favorites), and some Prince Polo chocolate wafer bars for dessert. This is a cash-only joint so make sure you’re prepared, but the fact that this place caters mainly to a local audience of fellow immigrants means it won’t break the bank like Morton Williams does.

Okay, so you’ve had enough Polish culture for one day. For our over-21 readers, you can grab a flight of local brews and a nice bite to eat at Greenpoint Beer and Ale on North 15th street, a brewery in a cavernous building that blends refined wood with an industrial aesthetic. If you’re underage or would prefer to get some work done on your journey out of the MoHi bubble, check out Café Grumpy on 193 Meserole Avenue. Known perhaps unfortunately for being the cafe that Lena Dunham’s character works in on Girls, Café Grumpy is nonetheless a spacious and subdued spot with good coffee and the kind of big tables that you just can’t find in cramped Manhattan cafes.

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Wherever you choose to go, make sure to end your visit with a stop at the WNYC Transmitter Park, a small green space that hugs up right against the water and offers spectacular views of the New York City skyline. Remind yourself that, even though it can feel like Manhattan contains the whole world, it is small, and there is so much to see outside of it.

Barnard Bulletin