Day: April 12th, 2008

A new Habitat

Saturday, April 12th, 2008 | All Things, Drinks

More exploration of Greenpoint’s delights… Check out the rest of the photos here.

I’d read about Brooklyn baker Sarah Magid’s gold-dusted dark chocolate Twinkie-esque cakes earlier in the week, and being highly impressionable, decided then to seek them out at the next opportunity. jan & äya, the Franklin street shop that sells these confections, turned out to be more boutique than bakery; in fact, the “Goldees” (as they’re called) were the only edible items I noticed for sale. Several sat on a cake pedestal in the shop window, looking in real life more intriguing than appetizing. (All organic, though, so at least healthier than their super-processed inspiration.) In the end, we passed on them and left the shop empty-handed.

Continuing along our way, we came upon newly opened bar, The Habitat. Greenpoint’s drinking options are somewhat more limited than those of the nearby h(e)ated Williamsburg scene, so when this spot opened on Manhattan Avenue in a space that that once housed a bodega, the locals were buzzing.

B was excited: I think he was drawn to the cool looks of the place. Behind the sleek glass-paneled façade is a rustic lodge interior, the centerpiece of which is a raised porch built against a wall dressed with exterior siding and faux windows. Quirky details abound – a German cuckoo clock, a cement-topped yellow pine bar – and most of the materials and fixtures are from salvage. Recycling at its finest.

Chef and co-owner Ashley Engmann (former Park South manager and Lotus cook) designed the small plate bar menu, which includes late night snacks of waffle fries and her specialty empanadas after 10:30PM.

The Habitat carries a dozen microbrews on tap, with an emphasis on the local. Over pints of Coney Island Lager, Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Sweet Action and Westchester’s Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold, we chatted up friendly bartender and co-owner Ty/Tai, sharing with him our recent experience at Łomżynianka and a few other neighborhood dining recommendations.

For its second day in business, things at The Habitat seemed to be off to a positive start. One thing, though: I could have done without the über-bloody No Country for Old Men broadcasting on the large flatscreen above the bar.


Years ago, I mailed out copies of Esquire‘s fun, fascinating feature on “How to Be a Better Man” to select friends and family. The 14-page package wasn’t (and isn’t) available online, so the task involved my actually photocopying the magazine pages and slipping the sheets into stamped and addressed manila envelopes. (You can infer how earnestly I had sought to enhance/improve the men in my life back then. Let’s just say that results were… mixed.) For what it’s worth, I wasn’t the only one impressed by the piece: it went on to be nominated for a National Magazine Award in the Special Interest category.

In honor of Esquire‘s 75th anniversary, a follow-up of sorts: “The 75 Skills Every Man Should Master.” I’m putting up the link on this blog, so as to avoid flooding your mailboxes/inboxes with unsolicited advice… progress I’ve made in becoming a better woman.

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The girl from Łomża

Saturday, April 12th, 2008 | All Things, Eats

After months — maybe years? — of half-hearted planning, we finally set out in earnest to explore the Polish eats in Greenpoint, before the forces of gentrification (and the models) push the long-time denizens east to Ridgewood. For now, along Manhattan Avenue, there is no shortage of options nestled among the bakeries selling babka, the vodka-stocked liquor stores and shop windows announcing ”Polska Mowa.”

Lomzynianka (lahm-zhin-YAHN-eh-ka) on Manhattan Avenue is considered one of the better options for tasty and authentic Polish food at wallet-friendly prices, in an area where bargains can still be found. The restaurant’s name translates to “Girl from Łomża,” which refers to the restaurant’s chef-owner Janina Grzelczak who hails from that town in Poland, 80 miles northeast of Warsaw. This small, unassuming neighborhood joint is widely-praised for its hefty portions of meat and potatoes — a favorite with locals and food critics alike. Eric Asimov gave Lomzynianka the “$25 and Under” treatment in 2002. With a little planning, that princely sum probably could have fed four. With leftovers. Food blogger NYCnosh managed to satisfy three here with a budget of $20, including wine, tax and tip.

Entering the dimly lit dining room felt like stepping into the home of someone’s Polish grandmother: small lamps on plastic lace “embroidered” tablecloths, chipped and mismatched plates, fake flowers and… um, is that a deer head mounted on the faux brick wall? (Why yes, it is.) The half-Polish/half-English menu lists entrées starting at an astounding $4.25 for roast chicken with sides. The prices are almost impossibly low; there isn’t even alcohol served to help boost the profit margins. (Lomzynianka is BYOB — no corkage fee — and Dunne’s Polemost Liquors is conveniently located just up the block.)

Borscht is one of the specialties here, so I ordered a bowl of white zurek. Unlike in Ukranian-style borscht, beets are not standard; the white borscht is made from a base of fermented rye flour, usually added to a broth of boiled kielbasa. Lomzynianka’s piping hot version was creamy and rich, and buttery and slightly sour all at once, stirred in with a hardboiled egg and generous chunks of smoky sausage. And a bargain for $2.50.

Platter of steamed potato and cheese pierogis with a side dollop of sour cream — so filling, I could only eat a few:

The $4.50 polish kielbasa platter, which included vegetable (stewed cabbage) and mashed potatoes, topped with chopped dill:

This is warming and hearty comfort food but for me, too heavy for every day. Lomzynianka is a neighborhood treasure, though, and for those who crave simple and authentic Polish food — tonight we saw a colorful cross-section of neighborhood families, elderly couples, hipsters, students and young couples on dates — you’d be hard-pressed to find better for less money.

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