Hello friends. It’s been awhile.
A few months later, I have finally made my move from Greensboro to Greenpoint, Brooklyn and am now sitting at a Cafe Grumpy conveniently and literally 135 feet away from my new home away from home. The coffee is intensely bold and its complex flavors dance around on my tongue- they roast their own beans here. I’ve already started a frequent customer punch card here and after just two days of strolling up and down these strange streets, exploring my new hood, I’ve acquired a comforting sense of my bearings and a fondness for the intersection of Leonard & Norman.
Monday night, our driving weary souls were serendipitously shepherded into Calexico for a late night post moving and unpacking meal and some much needed drinks. I had eaten at Calexico’s food truck a few years ago and remember hungrily devouring some carnitas under an awning during a spontaneous afternoon shower. They were messy but delicious. Jay had a pulled pork torta and a beer and rye and I had the baja fish tacos and Mexican corn and a killer frozen margarita that would have been so glorious a few hours ago when I was walking around for two miles outside, melting like a snow cone in what feels like an infernal oven. It was just the meal we needed and the fact that this place is so good, close and cheap and that they have a little take out window, I have a feeling I’ll be back again very soon.
Yesterday morning we walked just a few blocks to Five Leaves, a nautical themed little bistro in my neighborhood that was posthumously opened a few years ago by Heath Ledger’s business partners, just after his death. Situated on a corner, right across from McCarren Park, it’s trendy but unpretentious and has a very mellow vibe that matches its rustic decor, Bob Marley esque music and insouciant waitresses. It’s just the kind of place you would have expected Heath Ledger to hang out in.
I ordered ricotta pancakes with honeycomb butter, bananas, strawberries and blueberries and Jay ordered toast, fried tomatoes, bacon and eggs. Both were incredible, particularly the thick applewood smoked bacon and the fluffy pancakes with honeycomb butter, which by the way is my newest obsession. I marveled giddily, over the tiny jar of Bonne Maman jam that was placed on our table and lusted after the vintage map of NYC that adorned the wall near our table. I can’t wait to go back, next time on an evening, for a post internship glass of wine, some grilled peaches and the house made ricotta with fresh figs, thyme, honeycomb and maldon sea salt.
After breakfast and errand running, we briefly ducked into Lunchbox Brooklyn, for mid-afternoon escape from the heat and shared a refreshing not too sweet mango smoothie. It’s a cute little breakfast/lunch/smoothie/deli shop a couple blocks around the corner from me and I foresee many early morning stops here for breakfast sandwiches or salads to go, on the way to work.
Finally, this morning we went to Peter Pan Bakery – a family-owned Polish bakery and veteran institution in this neighborhood that has been serving up classic doughnuts to loyal patrons for 60 plus years. Manhattan may have their Doughnut Plant but Brooklyn certainly has Peter Pan and lucky for me, it like everything else I have visited in the last few days is also in my hood.
Everything about his place is old-school and authentic, from the outdated, unfussy interior to the Polish family congregating around the old counter over breakfast and newspapers. Even the waitresses are Polish, adorned in matching diner-like uniforms, and while they aren’t quick to crack a smile, they treat you well and magically know just how to prepare your coffee. The doughnuts are true to tradition and are mostly cake, including classics like the cruller, sour cream cake and jelly, with a favored newcomer here and there such as red velvet. They also make bailies, bagels, muffins and other pastries and once one doughnut flavor runs out, they don’t close shop. They waste no time hustling proudly forward from the kitchen, boasting a new tray of fresh doughnuts that will undoubtedly be depleted in a moment’s notice.
I had both a sour cream and a red velvet doughnut and both were equally delicious, their thin layer of crunchy sugary glaze cracking under my bite, giving way to a soft and buttery cake crumb.
But even more than these amazing doughnuts, I think I enjoyed observing the customers who kept filing in. NYPD cops, friends and family of the shop’s, and old Polish citizens who surely have seen a lot as their neighborhood’s transformed over the years but this shop and social hub have remained the same. Practically all neighborhood regulars, exchanging friendly “how are you’s,” laughter and comments on the weather, these people knew everyone and for them, it was just another morning at the donut shop. I sat and watched the action around me, seemingly routine and unimportant perhaps to most but I couldn’t help but notice it felt iconically New York. It made me smile. My eyes followed one of the older women who had been chatting with the breakfast/newspaper group at the end of the counter, as she made her way out the door, calling over her shoulder, “Bye guys, I’ll see ya tomorrow.”