Cute little bars, bakeries, and butcher shops right next to the Hudson River. Italian stores paired with Arabian signs when bypassing Russian pedestrians. One of the cheapest movie theaters in town right next to a typical New Yorker bagel shop…
One of the neighborhoods that are highly underestimated carries the name of Bay Ridge. Bay Ridge is found on the last stops of the R-train at the Southwest tip of Brooklyn. It is reachable by train, bus, and car. But since it is so far off from everything else most people seldom take a trip down there (unless they live there, that is).
I had a friend who used to rent an apartment over here with her husband. The very first time I made my trip out to Bay Ridge was indeed about a year ago, in the Summer of ’11 when I was visiting the couple. The Wonderful Elena and her husband had somehow ended up here because of the affordable living expenses and recommendations from his work. While another friend had already told me about how great this area is and how she lived here for over two years of her New York time, it certainly was not on the top of my priority list to visit.
There was the exciting Williamsburg first to see, of course. Then Cobble Hills and Carroll Gardens followed. Brighton Beach and Coney Island made it on my sightseeing list way before this, too. Not to forget the culture of Park Slope (before I moved here, that is). So all together, this little part of Brooklyn had been ignorantly neglected by me for a good one and a half years. When I finally had enough reason and courage to take the R out to 95th St, I was pleasantly surprised. I had imagined a boring neighborhood with not much going on. Maybe a few people strolling the streets, but perhaps not too safe after all.
But as soon as I stepped off the subway, and walked down to 3rd avenue, I already spotted the first few bars and some traditional food shops along the way. From Bake Ridge to the small Greek place around the corner – everything was more chill, relaxed, and old-school Brooklyn than I had seen anywhere else in this borough. My first evening here was a time filled with many aahs and oohs and I swore I would come back more often than this.
I helped that the Wonderful Elena told me about this great Italian cake shop where we managed to stop by and even taken in lunch right before she left for Russia. The prices were really good for the amount of food we ordered. I bought the tasty Alaskan cheesecake here once. This was after she had given it to me as a gift before so I had the chance to try it out. A creamy, white cheesecake topped with an abundance of fresh fruits and more – I was convinced after the first bite! And all of this for a mere 18 dollars – a bargain compared to bakeries in rest of this City. Paneantico delights are a must-try for all of the food-lovers in Brooklyn!
Only a few visits out to this area won me over that this little part of New York is a true goldmine. Not only do you find everything worth living here but you have a diversity of different cultures door to door. Of course the last stop on the R is the end of it all. Going towards 70th St, I was transported into different areas every 5th Street or so. Starting out with the well-known Schnitzelhaus around 74th Street. This place is supposed to offer “authentic German Cuisine” in this area of Brooklyn. While I haven’t had the chance to try out their food yet, I have had the chance to weed through their beer list and can confirm that they have a great deal of drafts and bottles on there. The servers are not German, unfortunately, taking a bit away from their highly claimed “authenticity.”
Then past Arab bridal shops on my way to the Alpine Cinemas. This is really a great movie theater they have: The seats are comfortable, the movies are up-to-date and you pay only $9 for a screening ($12 in 3D), which is more than a three-dollar difference to the 13.50 I paid last week in the Union Square Regal. Alpine Cinema also has a summer special going on, check out their Web site to see more details about it.
The bar culture is found all along 5th Avenue. Which Irish pubs, Italian restaurants and other American joints. I have not checked out any of these yet, for lack of friends who want to join. But something I have been able to discover by my own is Century 21 – the Brooklyn equivalent to the one found in the Financial District. Bay Ridge’s Century 21 is more relaxed with fewer hordes of tourist and rude employees than you find in Manhattan. You also find more Russians here than in the City. I have spent a better time browsing the shelves of this outlet-oriented store than anywhere else. Shopping is definitely more fun when you are not shoved out of the way by Italian visitors or barked at by stressed-out employees.
And the view you have close to the Verrazano bridge! A panorama flat out towards the river and New Jersey. This view is seldom revealed as openly in Brooklyn as it is in this one little spot of the borough. There is a small park around the bridge, with some traditional elements of American history (canons, anyone?). Just a walk around the area had me transported to a very different place I had been only an hour earlier.
At some point around 60th Street Bay Ridge flows over into Sunset Park. A neighborhood of Brooklyn I have not yet been able to experience as well. And there is still so much to see in the Ridge area. The 69th Street Pier, for example, which is a long boardwalk reaching out into the river, offering a promenade and great view towards Manhattan. Supposedly, fishermen competitions are being carried out here.
This neighborhood will always be worth another visit, and if it’s only to snag another pastry from Paneantico on the last stop of the R!