The abrupt arrival of coronavirus changed the state of restaurants and how people access food overnight, and independent entrepreneurs who are pushing through the pandemic to prepare and deliver food are helping to feed hungry would-be diners faced with fewer options.
Andy Chetakian’s dream is to own and operate a small diner, but for the time-being she’s happy running her grilled cheese and breakfast sandwich pop-up The Blue Light Speak Cheesy from her Greenpoint apartment, “I kinda like the freedom of the pop-up,” she said.
In pandemic-free years past, Chetakian popped-up at Brooklyn coffee shops such as the now-closed Budin (114 Greenpoint Ave.), where she prepared signature grilled cheeses sandwiches like the Staycation with habanero pepper jack and mozzarella cheeses, grilled pineapple, and basil on sourdough bread during the week, and cheesy egg sandwiches for weekend brunch.
Originally from Southern California where she began experimenting grilled cheese pop-ups in the small college town Fullerton in 2014, Chetakian moved on a whim three times between Brooklyn and Los Angeles with her business and most-recently relocated to Greenpoint in January.
The Speak Cheesy had just begun popping up at The Screen Door (145 Driggs Ave.) serving breakfast sandwiches to-go near McGolrick Park when the pandemic hit and the ice cream shop temporarily closed along with countless other restaurants in New York.
“I spent three weeks locked in my room just like everyone else, and I didn’t think that working was going to be an option for me, but I had all this time to sit and think, and I got some inspiration from friends that were talking about how they have a hard time getting groceries and they want more food delivery options,” she said.
On Saturdays, Chetakian delivers grilled cheese sandwich kits in Greenpoint from the menu on the Blue Light Speak Cheesy website. Orders can be placed through Saturday, and she makes the deliveries herself to ensure proper service.
Breakfast pick-up is available at Chetakian’s Greenpoint apartment (complete with contact-less window drop) on Sundays between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Customers can order up to two sandwiches for pick-up and choose from time slots that are spaced out in 15 minute increments in order to prevent crowding.
While her brick and mortar dreams are on hold, Chetakian says that she’s fortunate to skip the stress of the current situation facing restaurant owners: “I feel soo bad for all of the restaurants that are trying to keep their spaces and continuing to pay rent,” adding that she hopes that government aid will be sufficient to help all affected businesses reopen.
“I think this might be a lot longer than I originally thought,” Chetakian said.
Bagel Point (699 Manhattan Ave.) will celebrate its soft opening on Thursday, July 4th, following months of renovations that combined three storefronts at the corner of Norman and Manhattan Avenues next to a G train subway entrance.
The menu features hand-rolled bagels, a variety of traditional and vegan cream cheeses, housemade lox, hand-carved roast beef, and non-processed meat options. The cafe will eventually be open 24 hours and offer online ordering and delivery, but for the soft opening there will be reduced hours (opening at 6 a.m.) and orders can only be placed in-store.
The owners of Bagel Point, Sam Kaplan and Adam Alsorra, also operate Smith Street Bagels (202 Smith St.) in Brooklyn. The new space in Greenpoint has a spacious interior with plenty of window seats and tables in the center; there’s even outside seating on the newly installed benches on the Nassau Avenue side of the building. Continue reading →
Yaki Tiki, a new edition to the A/D/O (29 Norman Ave.) outdoor space launched two weeks ago and merges Japanese yakitori-style cuisine and tiki drinks.
Yaki Tiki is a partnership between the Sunday in Brooklyn hospitality team (Todd Enany, Adam Landsman, Exec Chef Jaime Young, and bar director Brian Evans), as well as JT Vuong and George Padilla (formerly of Okonomi and YUJI Ramen).
We stopped by last weekend to try some yakitori skewers and boozy popsicles; everything we sampled was delicious, check out the pictures:
A new California-themed wine bar is opening today on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint.
Coast and Valley (587 Manhattan Ave.) will exclusively carry and serve wine from the golden state that can be ordered by taste, glass, or bottle.
The dining room features wooden tables and bright colors that evoke the simplified elegance of the Pacific coast with 34 seats between the bar and tables that have partial bench seating against the wall.
The food options at Coast and Valley are also California-inspired, “but in that all-day Silver Lake way, not in that Balsamic gastrique way,” a PR rep for the business explained in a statement. Continue reading →
A new Asian-inspired cocktail bar featuring sharable street food dishes named Sama Street (988 Manhattan Ave.) opened last Monday and is the project of childhood friends and Brooklyn residents Avi Singh and Rishi Rajpal, who met at the age of four while growing up in New Delhi, India.
“We spent the majority of our childhood living in Asia and traveling around Asia, so we really wanted to bring that experience to this cocktail bar in Brooklyn,” Singh said.
“We both happened to be in New York, we wanted to get into this industry for a while and finally took a leap and decided to work together,” he said.
When looking for a restaurant space, Singh and Rajpal considered many Brooklyn neighborhoods.
“Initially we were looking all over Brooklyn; Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and a couple of places in East Williamsburg too, but the Greenpoint neighborhood just kept drawing us back,” Singh said. “The neighborhood is awesome, the people here are really nice; we’ve gone to meet with other business owners on Manhattan Avenue and everyone is very welcoming and very friendly, so this is a great place to be.”
The end of year lists and awards for new Greenpoint restaurants keep piling up. While Greenpoint has plenty of under the radar affordable eats, some higher end establishments like Oxomoco (128 Greenpoint Ave.), which currently holds the neighborhoods’ only Michelin star, continue to win praise.
French-Canadian restaurant Chez Ma Tante (90 Calyer St.) was awarded “neighborhood restaurant of the year” by Eater NY, as voted by their readers for “serving clean, flavorful fare with just enough edge to keep things interesting. That means dishes like a pig’s head terrine next to a particularly stunning Caesar salad, or a pate as an appetizer before a standout chicken confit.”
The modern Vietnamese restaurant Di An Di (68 Greenpoint Ave) was voted in the same reader’s poll as having “best design of the year,” for its “neutral palettes, neon signs, rounded corners, copper-colored accents, and lots and lots of well-placed plants.” The pho is great too.
The”top NYC restaurant newcomers of 2018” list as identified by editors in a separate Eater NY post shouts out Di an Di and Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop (110 Franklin St.) for their quality food. Hint: you should really try Paulie Gee’s Freddy Prince slice that includes a hidden bottom crust of full of sesame seeds.
Dining out doesn’t always mean shelling out exuberant amounts of money in Greenpoint. While the many newer high-end food destinations get most of the headlines and accolades, the dependable and affordable food options in Greenpoint deserve a shout out from time to time. We asked Greenpointers readers earlier this week what their favorite food options are for under $10, here are the recommendations:
Acapulco (1116 Manhattan Ave.): This Mexican restaurant on the far northern end of Manhattan Avenue was by far the most recommended by Greenpointers readers. The burritos and breakfast options at Acapulco are local picks for cheap eats: Chicken, chorizo and steak burritos are $7.25 (veggie burrito is $6) and breakfast omelet platters cost $5.50. Hours: Mon. – Fri. 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sat. and Sun. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Peter Pan (727 Manhattan Ave.) turns out classic donuts and the line is often out the door on weekends, but many people opt for breakfast sandwiches, specifically bacon egg and cheese on either a bagel or roll, which costs under $5. Hours: Mon. – Fri. 4:30 a.m. – 8pm; Sat. 5 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sun. 5:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Frankel’s Delicatessen (631 Manhattan Ave.) is a throwback Jewish-style deli that is packed with the brunch crowd on weekend mornings. The pastrami, egg and cheese sandwich is a Greenpoint favorite and costs $9. Hours: Mon. to Sun. from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Karczma (136 Greenpoint Ave.) is a bonified Polish food destination, and the menu offers delicious dishes at relatively affordable price points ( a lunch plate with stuffed cabbage, pierogis and soup costs $11.50). Greenpointers readers recommend the white borscht served in a bread bowl that is accompanied by mashed potatoes garnished with bacon for $5.75. Hours: Mon. to Thur. from 12 p.m to 10:30 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. from 12 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Sun. 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.
God Bless Deli (818 Manhattan Ave.) is a bodega with a strong local following that has Middle Eastern and American food options 24 hours/day. Everything on the bodega menu is under $10, but readers cite the falafel sandwich ($3.49) and chicken over rice ($5) as their favorites. Continue reading →
Happy Zoe Vegan Bakery will have a grand opening on Saturday, Dec. 22, at their new location at 102 B Nassau Ave. from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The bakery previously operated at 28 Herbert St. for one year on the other side of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and received positive feedback, but when the L train shutdown was announced, owners and sisters Agata and Paulina began seeking a new location. “We’ve been hearing all of the stories about the subway and it shutting down next year,” Agata said.
“We grew up strictly vegetarian in Warsaw, Poland. Our parents are very, very compassionate about animals, so we grew up loving animals and that’s how it started in our home,” she said.
Agata and Paulina’s mother and Agata’s 12-years-old daughter also help out with baking, “It’s a three and a half women operation…all of us are vegan, for the past 15 to 20 years,” Agata said.
Greenpoint has a long Polish history and many Polish-owned businesses have closed in the area recently, but the local community wasn’t the deciding factor on their new location as much as a fair rental price. “Growing up our parents were in the states, and when we moved here, they moved back,” Agata said.
Birthday cakes, cheesecakes, cannolis and crepes are the bakery’s best sellers, but are not the types of food that come to mind when omnivores think of veganism, leaving some customers skeptical at first. “People always ask if the food is really 100 percent vegan,” Agata said. Continue reading →
On Friday mornings, especially during the holiday season, a long line of people magically appears Friday mornings at 30 Gem St, a typical industrial street of non-descript warehouses. You can observe a large diversity of people in the line and it is clear that many of the people in line are not locals. They wait stoically, even in the coldest weather, in lines that sometimes can include 50 or more customers.
There was something definitely fishy about the odor of smoked fish (pun intended) and this mysterious line of people so I had to check it out. What I learned is that the diverse group of people standing in the freezing weather had discovered the amazing open secret that is Acme Fish.
The rest of the week the Acme building functions as a long-established wholesale outlet selling smoked huge quantities of fish to some of New York’s finest shops, like Zebras and Barney Greengrass and to upscale restaurants. The legendary smokehouse at 30 Gem Street has been around for four generations; if Acme opened today the smokehouse would probably face huge licensing hurdles, but thankfully Acme predates smokehouse permits.
Although the business dates from 1954, about 25 years ago, Acme began opening its doors on Fridays to serve the general public at steeply discounted prices that range from 20 to 50 percent off the price of their products in retail stores. Acme does not advertise its Fish Fridays that run 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., but then again the business does not need to, as the line of customers outside the warehouse proves.
You wait in the nippy cold air impatiently, but finally, you reach the doors and enter. When you get inside the warehouse, you are aware that the temperature is still a brisk 45 degrees or so. The chilly temperatures are ideal for preserving the fish that you still cannot see. Then, at last, you pass through a plastic screen and finally spread out before you on wooden tables is a wondrous assortment of different kinds of fish, some pre-packaged, some fish in bottles and some smoked fish being sliced right in front of you. There is also an array of different kinds of fish: Salmon, white fish, herring and whiting, amongst others.
While Greenpoint is still a bastion of Polish food, community, and culture, there was a time when pierogi purveyors were more ubiquitous than banks and drug stores, longtime neighborhood resident Richard Humann recalls. In the 1980s, the large population of single Polish men working for the American dollar made for a pierogi paradise, with bare-bones cafeterias selling the dumplings for cents at seemingly every street corner. The combination of gentrification and more opportunities to make money following the fall of communism led to the departure of many of the Polish men and the resultant closure of many pierogi vendors.
In 2018, there’s still cause for indecision when picking a pierogi spot in Greenpoint, even if the dumplings today are a bit pricier and a bit more infrequent. Below, a guide to the best local pierogis.
Opened by Krakow native and restaurant namesake Krystyna Dura in 1993, Christina’s is known for its no-frills food in a charming, but tacky diner-like space. The table service is speedy and the plates will reliably fill you up faster than you think. Sour cream will cost you 50 cents extra.
While the pierogi options at Karczma are limited, what they do have delivers. The waitresses are all dressed in traditional outfits or school uniforms and the restaurant itself feels from another era. The borscht bread bowl isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s worth a second trip back to experience it.
The pierogi here qualify more for their price and location than quality, although they’re certainly tasty too. In the back of Krajan, a Polish bodega of sorts, fridges sit full of soup, milk, meat and boxes of pierogi, $8.99 for 12, meat or cheese. Nab some cow caramels on your way out: a medium-sized bag filled with them will run you just $2.99.
Commonly known as some variation of “The Knights” due to the armored figures guarding its entrance and the hard to pronounce name, Krolewskie Jadlo is a neighborhood landmark. It earned this status not only through its memorable front but also its authentic atmosphere, hearty food, and warm environment.
The name and homey but chic decor make Polka Dot seem a bit out of place with the neighborhood’s food scene at first glance. A look at the prices and offerings will show you otherwise. If you’ve got room post pierogi, try the zucchini pancakes – like a lighter latka.
This cafeteria-style eatery hasn’t been updated in decades, prices included. The atmosphere alone is worth a visit. Don’t get too comfortable while you wait for your order – it’ll be called out in Polish when its ready for pickup at the counter.