Bands, Vintage Flair & More: Experiencing the Brooklyn Night Bazaar

BK bazaar flower head

Brooklyn has a variety of neat things going on. From art exhibits over free music venues to food stands – there is always something to discover, no matter what given day of the week. One great event that I like to attend on weekend nights (and whenever my schedule allows), is the Brooklyn Night Bazaar. Read More »

The Greenpoint Way of Life: Awesome Brunches and More!

Five Leaves Bloody Mary
Five Leaves Bloody Mary

Aside from Williamsburg and Park Slope, there is one more area in Brooklyn that is culturally interesting when it comes to brunch, restaurants, and other tasty eats. Greenpoint is close to the ‘burg but not quite as hipsterized and studentized as its pricier neighbor. It also has a chiller vibe to offer and lots of Polish culture. That’s right, little Poland used to be here (compare it to Brighton Beach, which hosts former Russian natives). Don’t ask how exactly this speck of New York turned into a Polish neighborhood but you can still see much of its cultural influence when you walk around and visit the small delis with Polish bread, water ( I am guessing Polish water is MUCH different from American one…), wine and more.
This post focuses more on the restaurant side of this quaint part of town. Unfortunately I have not yet been able to try out a Polish eat but other joints are just as good (if not even better). Brunch spots are blooming throughout this neighborhood, starting with the one and only…

1) Enid’s

Enid’s is right next to McCarren Park and hosts indoor and outdoor seating (great for the warm spring months to come). Occasionally, you will encounter a wait when you show up for brunch hours (which are around 1 to 2 PM), but I have never encountered a wait for longer than 10 minutes until we were shown a table. A unique part about Enid’s is their Frozen Harrison – a sweet-sour Tequila-based drink, which I have yet to try out. Aside from this, their Bloody’s rock (which are a consistent part of New York brunch culture).
For brunch, their pancakes come highly recommended. A great option for vegetarians is also the toad in the hole, offered here occasionally.

Brunch at Enid's - always eye candy!
Brunch at Enid’s – always eye candy!

I like Enid’s not only for their sweet stuff but also for their dinner. Their home-made veggie burgers are so delicious that we often just grab it as take-out if we are in the area (I therefore deem it best veggie burger in this area!).

2) Matchless

Across the street from Enid’s you will find a bar called Matchless. This one has a grungy feel and often hosts rock shows at night. It’s heavily populated with an evening crowd and has drink specials at a decent price.

During the day, it turns into a pretty decent food spot. For brunch you will find the usual options: Eggs, pancakes, Huevos Rancheros. I once tried their Nutella pancakes, which consist of buttermilk pancakes topped with whipped crème fraiche and Nutella powder. Yes, Nutella powder! Melted over the still warm pancakes they make out for a sweet sugar rush almost nothing can top! Beware that you won’t need the maple syrup right next to it, unless you are aiming towards diabetes in your 40ies…

Nutella Powder Pancakes
Nutella Powder Pancakes
Eggs and house-made biscuits
Eggs and house-made biscuits

Matchless offers all of these wonderful brunch specials at a low price, which makes it even more appealing. Eggs any style for 7 bucks? Heck yes!

3) Five Leaves

The ridiculous line in front of Five Leaves (oh, these are mostly Europeans!)
The ridiculous line in front of Five Leaves (oh, these are mostly Europeans!)

It must have shown up in tourist books and guides by now, as the lines for this place are exorbitant long! I am not exaggerating when a normal wait for brunch could take up to 45 minutes during their busiest hours. And evenings? About as bad, if you don’t know the wait staff. What could be the reason for this high interest? Their food is amazingly delicious! Heath Ledger was planning on owning it and opening it up. Unfortunately, he died before it was finished and the plan was on hook. After a short waiting period, the family decided to add the necessary funds from his legacy and the bar was opened in September 2008. The current owners add an additional flair of Australian glamour to this speck of earth. So if you are into the movie “A Knight’s Tale” and want to find out what the actor invested in, go stop by here. If you are into fabulous food, go stop by here, as well.

Ricotta pancakes - YUM!
Ricotta pancakes – YUM!
Mushroom toast - also YUM!
Mushroom toast – also YUM!

Of courses pancakes are a must, come breakfast. Five Leaves offers a banana version: Ricotta pancakes topped with fresh fruit and sweet butter. Heavy, filling, and sweet. I once even managed to eat the entire plate by myself. Only once, though. Beware, it is a HUGE portion. Then of course there are other options on the menu. Such as a smaller plate of mushroom toast, about as equally fantastic (but not as sweet). Oh, and drinks? Try their horse radish bloody mary! Spicy and well-mixed!

4) Calexico

Last but not least, we return to Mexican Food. Or rather: Solid Tex-Mex. Calexico is a gem, albeit not hidden anymore (the last time I was here, I walked right into an elderly German couple trying to order food. “Who is giving these places away to outsiders?” I wondered.).
Calexico started out as a street cart (remember my street food post almost 1 1/2 years ago? Read more here!) and a while back the restaurant version opened. And although I wasn’t too thrilled by their street food, I am now one of their biggest fans when it comes to sitting food. My absolute favorite is their huge portion of nachos. Disregard that crappy picture I have, they look much better than that in reality. Followed by quesadillas and their Mexican corn (which is grilled corn with Mexican cheese and spices).

Crappy picture of a tasty eat!
Crappy picture of a tasty eat!

Whenever the big craving overwhelms me, I have to go and get some take-out here. In case you want to stay and sit down, try out their drinks, which are tasty and strong. For example their different versions of house margaritas. Since indoor seating is rather sparse (especially during restaurant rush hour) they have a tent-like structure in their backyard, which is heated in the winter. Still good enough, especially with the prospect of devouring some awesome food!

[For posts on brunch in other spots go to:

Restaurant Review: Williamsburg Chique and Not-so Chique!

Tasty Eats in Brooklyn: North Slope

Tasty Eats in Brooklyn: South Slope

Mouth-watering pictures guaranteed!]

Finding a Roommate in New York: The Exhausting Round 4

So here’s the deal: I am not opposed to moving. Not at all! On the contrary: I embrace the feeling of leaving a place behind to settle in a new one. Heck, I moved all across the ocean from one country to another to start a new and exciting adventure in New York.

This city, though – I don’t know what it is. Maybe a living curse. Or Karma. Or a ghost haunting me. Me and finding a room – it’s just not working out as smooth as it had before, in good ole Deutschland.

I found my first apartment within two days of being here (my personal record, by the way). But then I also ended up being robbed by my roommate’s boyfriend/ affair/ 18-year-old thief who swiped some jewelry and also almost my cell phone. After this rather bad experience, I set out to search for a decent spot in a decent neighborhood. Read all about it here. And luckily I was able to upgrade to the wonderful Slope. This is where I roomed with the Belarusians. The White-Russians were nice but it didn’t work out in the end. That one year with them is to date my top performance when it comes to living the longest in one place in Nueva York. Then came a 6-month-stint with a gay guy and his boyfriend. It was short and sweet. Lots of cooking from their side. Not so much contribution from my side. The new job and all had me pretty much occupied to my teeth. Much happens in six months. Such as their decision to finally move together – into the current apartment. Resulting in me giving up the room. Which is why I was busy for over a month in finding another spot. All of this sounds plausible. But taken together, it’s adding up to four different places in 2 years and three months. Which is also a personal record to date.

I do have to say, you start getting tired of packing your belongings and to roam from one place to another. The more you’re here, the more furniture you have. Oh how I kinda want the time back when all I had to worry about is whether or not those two suitcases would fit inside a subway or a cab …!

This time, though, the challenge was not so much in packing but rather in finding an actual room. And boy, had I looked at a bunch of crappy shitty rip-offs interesting spots. Until now I am still convinced that it must have been this time of year working against me. My opinion was assured by other people who were offering a room.

Such as the guy who deliberately overcharged his roommates from the start. “I am not asking you for last month’s rent or a deposit***. All I am asking for is first month’s rent and a 3 month commitment. Because I absolutely do not look forward in filling this room during the summer hole,” he sporadically announced when I walked up the two flights to the entire floor in which more than three people could have comfortably lived. In turn for his “great” offer he already made it clear from the beginning that I would be overcharged a good 100 bucks a month. Fairness of the situation? I am not so sure about that. But someone else must have thought these to be splendid terms as the room was taken the next day already (according to the e-mail I received).

You find a ton of crazy-creepy spots here in New York. My search was luckily only in Brooklyn. Which also turned out to be a real pain in the arse. Just excluding all the areas that were unsuitable: Bedstuy (ghetto), Canarsie (even worse), East New York (death sentence for a white skinned girl), Coney Island (too far), Brighton Beach (too far), Sheepshead Bay (still too far). Only a handful of areas were left. With Park Slope still being my top preference. Cobble Hills following as a second winner. And then Williamsburg, Greenpoint, maybe Bushwick. Gosh, the search was very exclusive this time. But mostly also because pretty much nothing of greater value was offered. Whatever causes the summer draught – I started believing in it. The first few rooms were among the best, but also the most overpriced expensive ones. Then I found a very nice girl in Greenpoint. Only, my room was like a studio: No separate bedroom and the entire area combined with kitchen and bathroom. Which I wouldn’t have minded if I could have had it all to myself. But not with another person walking in and out of this room randomly using my shower and the kitchen. Where is the privacy here?

I would certainly have had enough privacy in the room offered by a former real estate agent over in Bushwick. Sorry, my bad: East Williamsburg – as advertised. She had spun her net around two other girls who were desperate to find something (and who were also new to the City).
“Disregard the projects right next to our house. I find the people rather cute when I walk past them every day to the train,” she chirped. Not that living next to the socially disadvantaged would have been uhm dangerous … And I was eager to see how much more BS she was able to tell. “The pressure in the shower is the best you will find” she added. “I am notorious for not taking a shower when I am gone on the weekend because I miss this one.” Aha, random stinky roommate who does not give too much about hygiene on travels. Not to mention the sauna-like atmosphere in the apartment because of the open kitchen and her efforts of having cooked brownies. But the best part of course was the room itself! I could hardly believe it when I opened up the door: The ceiling was about as tall as my hip! Meaning you had to bend very deep (and I am tall, I almost crawled) in order to even access the room. What claustrophobic people would have done in this situation – I can only imagine. A pathetic mattress on the floor replaced the common bed. You could picture its inhabitant trying to blow out her hair in cross-legged manner on the floor. Not to mention no window (but where would the construction people have cut that out?!). Needless to say, even this room was taken within a day. Everyone is desperate in finding something, not only me. I had to pass on this great opportunity, though!

So what else was left? A bunch of windowless rooms this time around. Not that it really matters if you are living with very cool people but I would like to have a morning breeze when I wake up. Or be able to look out of the window in the winter. Just random things you would never think about because a window is pretty much a standard requirement for those $800 and up these people were trying to charge for the place. Then of course the average nutcases. The girl who lived with her dog, a parrot, and her pot-smoking boyfriend. Pass! Then the woman who had the oldest cats ever seen but whose house smelled like a constant accumulation of cat piss. Pass! A cool four-roommate-situation on 4th Avenue, but way too far from the train station. Pass!

Or the indecisive Japanese girl who pushed her decision-making off until probably today. I waited one and a half weeks for her to say yes or no but always got the same standard response: Sorry, I am still seeing a couple of people today/ tomorrow/ on the weekend/ for the rest of my life and will make a decision after those appointments. I really hope she found someone, June 1 is approaching very fast (as in tomorrow). So I grudgingly went back to looking at rooms. Until last Thursday I found what I call a decent match: Only a 5-minute-walk from the main train hub in Brooklyn. Now I can choose between 6 different trains that will catapult me to the Empire State Building in less than 20 minutes every weekday. It is half the size of the room I have now. But the area is gorgeous. Still Park Slope, only the north side. A good 15 min walk from the Park – not as bad as it could be if I were to move to uhm Williamsburg. And you just cannot beat having those 12 trains right next to you (well, in walking distance). Or a German beer bar which will show all Euro cup soccer games from June on! Win!

So I guess I am settled. I was about to despair and call myself homeless. I even started eyeing those bridges that were not yet taken by other bums. Finally I found something. We will see how long it will last this time. I will keep you updated.

Round number four: It has been the most exhausting and extensive search so far. And also the most fruitless. If you want to move in New York, try to avoid the awful summer hole – that is the only piece of advice I can give you this time!

[*** It is not uncommon to pay a three-month-fee (first, last, deposit) when moving with roommates in New York. Some people, including myself, simply don’t have a total of $3,000 or higher all at once – especially when you’re struggling to make it here. That’s why this arrangement could be seen as a “deal” by some people. Not by me, though. I don’t mind paying less a month but getting my deposited money back.]

Independence Day Stories

4th of July Weekend is coming up, and with it the entire package of festivities, BBQs, and down days at work, which are connected to the holiday.

For all of you who do not know by now: 4th of July is a HUGE celebration in the States (you don’t have anything comparable in Germany, and NO, the day the wall came down does NOT measure up to it!), as many excited Americans are celebrating the day of independence from the British Empire. This year, July 4, 2011, will be the 235. anniversary of the date the first 13 American colonies gained freedom from Great Britain. This so-called Independence Day has ever since been a national and federal holiday, on which patriotic symbols are displayed – the American flag being among the most typical ones, of course. You find the notorious Stars&Stripes in various forms, not only in its original one, so do not be surprised if it shows up on a cake on the buffet table or is worn as a funky motive on a shirt or body painted on some American faces. Yes, the US is a very patriotic country, and this is especially revealed on their biggest day of the year.

Macys contributes to the annual insanity surrounding the 4th of July celebrations by paying over half a million of dollars for the biggest firework of the nation on Hudson River (it used to be facing the East River, but they switched locations a few years ago). It is perfectly viewable from the New Jersey waterfront, at which most camera teams and reporters tend to pitch their tents hours before sunset. The view is the best, I have to admit, and if you want to see it, go to Weehawken or Hoboken. My friend and I made the bad mistake of actually staying in the City last year and trying to catch a glimpse of the colorful sparklers at Time Square! BAD DECISION! He was double pissed, as he lives in Weehawken and could have seen it perfectly relaxed from his great window view or roof! O well, it’s never too late to learn.
So we ended up being smashed in a crowd of mostly tourists and people from Queens and Brooklyn, having to tolerate sweaty bodies, screaming infants, and ruined shoes as one foot after another tried to shove through the crowd and happened to find my bare toes. Yes, it wasn’t too nice, but now I know better. And the highlight of our adventure was that we couldn’t see half of the fireworks for the police only let us through to 10th Avenue and the massive buildings ahead of us blocked out the best part of it – or so it seemed. Needless to say that I didn’t take one decent picture from the spectacle, as it was too much of an effort to navigate my arm around the tightly pent-up crowd. Uff, just thinking about this makes my heart race again!

The day by itself had been pretty eventful: I got to check out numerous BBQs, but unfortunately nothing resembled the “real American experience,” as I like to call it. We first went to a private party in Greenpoint, to which we made our way from an overheated subway station through the hot streets of Williamsburg. In case you forgot, last year was the big heat wave season throughout the East Coast, and July was consistent with this. When we got to our friend’s house, we were welcomed by a crowd of only two people. Oooops, seems like they were let down by quite a few of their friends on that day! Well, they definitely tried to make the best out of their situation, as they had their own little BBQ going on. We ended up staying for a chat, while they switched my water glass up to an Eggnog mix, which is great to drink during the summer, believe it or not. After some time more people showed up, so we excused ourselves (my friend was bored) and returned back to Prospect Park, where we took part in a bunch of other BBQs. Since we were on the Haitian side of the grounds, almost every other family had their own party going on, and we wandered from crowd to crowd, being invited to eat and drink and thus collected an overload of corncobs, bread, juices, and other edibles in our hands.

Me holding Haitian Flag
Us taking a break from food on 4th of July

It ended up being more of a Haitian-American experience, with people dancing to their bongas and waving their national flag to its rhythms. Which was a very interesting cultural experience by itself, too, of course.

In general, it appears to be more difficult than elsewhere to have a BBQ here in the City due to reasons of space and dimensions. I know some people give a party on their rooftops but it is rather hard to have a large crowd on top of a building. That is why I am still determined to travel to other places to finally see an “all-American” 4th of July party with many people, buffets and a huge green space. Wish me luck, maybe I’ll witness this sometime soon.

It is also not uncommon that a good amount of folks likes to escape New York and take advantage of their 3-day-weekend, which they sometimes extend to a 4-day-event. Quite naturally. Such as in the case of my coworkers, who are hitting up Florida, Pennsylvania, or Maine, and who had their last day of work today. How I envy them!

What are your plans for Independence Day?