Like almost every ‘hood in New York, modern-day Greenpoint is almost indistinguishable from the Greenpoint of just 20 years ago. But through its transition from a factory-laden landscape to today, a place where you’ll find A-grade eats, entertainment and amenities, one element is as prevalent as ever.
The taste of Poland.
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Poles built this community, and it’s still thriving. Greenpoint is home to the country’s second largest Polish population (after Chicago), and Little Poland has a lot to offer New Yorkers of all stripes, whether you’re hungry for insight into the past, punk rock, or pierogi! We gobble up all three in a matter of blocks for a quick taste test in North Brooklyn.
St. Stanislaus Kostka (607 Humboldt Street)
Established in 1896 by a Polish priest who bought up ten parcels of land from local German Protestants on the down low in order to establish a place of worship for his community, Father Leon Wysiecki’s investment laid the groundwork for a thriving community of Poles in the area. His speculation was more than wise, as the church has been a magnet and a haven for Polish speakers ever since — visit today and you’ll be struck by traditions that haven’t at all been lost in translation from the Old Country.
Parts of the original construction are still in use, and parish baptism and marriage records from the turn of the 20th century have been invaluable to historians tracing in Greenpoint’s roots. So pop in during your visit to light a candle for those who came before you.
Warsaw (261 Driggs Avenue)
Formerly known as the Warsaw National Home, this venue’s tag line is “Where Pierogies Meet Punk.” As such, you can expect to catch an eclectic mix of musicians here. Coming up this month? Portland-born alt rock band The Dandy Warhols will be taking the stage on February 25 to promote their most recent studio album, Distortland.
And although punk may be playing on any given night, Warsaw still hosts Polish cultural activities and is a bustling hub of old-meets-new Greenpoint.
Karczma (136 Greenpoint Avenue)
For the past ten years, Urszula and Slawek Letowski and Krzysztof Drzewiecki have been dishing up traditional Polish meals, piping in music from “back home,” and having it served by wait-staff that’ll leave you scratching your head and wondering if you arrived with just your MTA card rather than your passport.
Word’s gotten out, so prepare for a bit of a wait on the weekends. But we promise it’s worth it. There’s a strong Polish beer selection, potato pancakes to kill for, and a Hunter’s Stew with its own Yelp fan club.
Acme Smoked Fish (30 Gem Street)
Although this particular smokehouse outlet was founded by a Russian (in 1905), on Friday mornings you’ll find a line out the door that includes a melting pot of Eastern Europeans doing their weekend brunch shopping, including several Polish Americans. They’re a cash-only purveyor of the finest smoked salmon you’ll find in the city, open to the public for just five hours every Friday.
Green Point Projects (27 Gem Street)
Just after your visit to Acme Smoked Fish, pop across the street to see the neighborhood’s newest (and still little known — for now) independent art space. If you’re a fan of under-the-radar modern and contemporary gallery shows, GPP is right up your street. They recently presented an exhibition by Magdalena Abakanowicz and Eugeniusz Markowski which was considered one of the best curations in all of Brooklyn last year by the fine arts publication Hyperallergic.
And while we’re on the topic of art … we hear from our friends at the Polish Cultural Institute of New York that there will be a surprise (shh!) celebration of 100 years of Polish independence in late April/early May at McGolrick Park, a gift to Greenpoint that will symbolize the neighborhood’s unique immigrant tradition. Stay tuned!