Thursday, July 2, 2009

North Brooklyn Treasures -- Coffee, Ice Cream, and Movie Sets

On nice days after work, I like to take the 7 train to Vernon Jackson in Queens and then walk home over the Pulaski Bridge. Not only do I get a good 20 minutes of walking off the day, I get to explore one of my favorite areas -- the northernmost tip of Greenpoint. I'm not really sure why this place fascinates me so much. I guess it amazes me that such a very convenient area of Brooklyn has remained totally industrial, save for a few culinary gems that I've come to cherish. When walking alongside the huge warehouses and remote fish markets and who knows what else, all of a sudden you're in a neighborhood with delis and pharmacies and flowers in the window. I find it strangely inspiring.

Commercial Street looks exactly like it sounds, and stretches across Greenpoint as the last street before Newtown Creek. While there's not a whole lot going on, it has its perks. One of Commercial Street's best feature right now is the construction of an old timey Atlantic City boardwalk in one of the empty lots for HBO's upcoming show, Boardwalk Empire (exciting!). Here's a look at it had progressed the last time I wandered by:

The other, probably more important reason to visit Commercial Street: the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, which opened last November. The Nicky Hilton to its attention-loving sister at the Brooklyn Bridge, you never have to wait in line for a cone here. The ice cream is light and simple, not in the least rich or heavy tasting, probably because they don't use eggs in their recipe. I haven't tried any complex flavors yet -- only vanilla, chocolate, and coffee -- but they sure hit the mark on the traditional flavors.

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
97 Commercial St
Brooklyn, NY 11222
(718) 349-2506

From Commercial Street heading down, the streets are named alphabetically (Ash St., Box St., etc.). Keep in mind that my street, Greenpoint Ave, is the exception and should really be "Leanpoint" Ave (and, to confuse things further, the "G" street is of course called Green). So with that little geographical lesson in mind, I introduce Ashbox, the Japanese coffee shop on Manhattan Ave between Ash and Box, a good ten blocks away from home. Because of its distance -- and the fact that its closed on Sundays, after 6pm on weekdays and basically every other convenient time -- I don't get to visit Ashbox often. And that's unfortunate.

I don't know where all the patrons come from, but this place sure gets packed on a Saturday morning. Luckily though, it doesn't seem like it at all because everyone stays unusually hushed, often with their laptop, for some work time or quiet time, I suppose. Soft piano music plays from the speakers. People sip on homemade tea and nosh on homemade tofu salad or other healthy, semi Asian-style goodies. And where else can you find Japanese fluffy bread?

I ordered an iced coffee one morning while looking up movies for us to see at the MOMA. It was nice and strong, perfect for preventing wateryness when the ice starts to melt. Rob's hot chocolate tasted amazing, with hints of spices neither of us could even identify. The only problem was that 75% of the cup was foam. Very tasty foam, but foam nonetheless.

1154 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11222
(718) 389-3222

If you ever feel like taking a random stroll to a quiet area in our fair borrough, this is your place. But keep in mind you have to walk all the way back to India Street for the G train's last stop in Brooklyn.

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