Holiday blues got you down? A quick field trip to Bay Ridge should sort that out quickly.
1pm: Hop the R train to 86th Street, a little south of the neighborhood so you can start your Bay Ridge odyssey with one of the most sublimely delicious, yet oddly overlooked soups in the world, Avoglemono. The Cypriot-owner of the otherwise unassuming Pegasus diner (8610 3rd Ave between 86th St & 87th St) makes his with sweat and love, and only in the winter.
2pm: Walk down 3rd Avenue, shopping along the way to Omonia (7612 3rd Ave between 76th St & 77th St) for another taste of the Aegean in the form of sweets and coffee. With something warm in hand wander down to Bay Ridge Avenue, walk until you cross Shore Road and enter the Narrows Botanical Garden, with its lovely view across New York Harbor, turtle sanctuary, native plant garden, and zen garden. At 72nd Street cut back inland and turn right on Narrows Avenue. Walk to 83rd street to admire a real Gingerbread House, the 1916 Arts & Crafts-era masterwork officially known as the Howard E. and Jessie Jones House.
3pm: Turn left on 83rd Street and walk back up the ridge to Fifth Avenue and get some of your holiday shopping done. Once home to every bride’s fantasy store, Kleinfeld’s, Fifth Avenue’s shops have been released from wedding mania. For the gardener, pick up some goodies at the Indoor Outdoor Gardener (8223 Fifth Avenue). For sports nuts and your biking buddies, hit Legends (8224 Fifth Avenue) and Verrazano Bikes (7308 Fifth Avenue). For the gourmand on your list, hit A&S (7918 Fifth Avenue) for Greek goodies, Mejlander & Mulgannon (7615 Fifth Avenue) for all things Nordic and Irish and Long’s (7917 Fifth Avenue) for a good selection of wines and some unusual liquors.
4pm: It’s cold, and your feet hurt. Sounds like it’s time for a beer! Head to Schnitzel Haus (7319 Fifth Avenue) for a huge collection of winter warmers and some kick-ass sausages. But don’t eat too much, dinner is still to come.
5pm: Head back up Fifth Avenue, turn right on to 86th Street and pop into Century 21 to warm up while checking a few folk off your holiday shopping list. Don’t forget the home store across the street!
6pm: Back out into the cold to see Bay Ridge’s excellent Christmas lights. While they’re not as extreme as the lights of Dyker Heights, they’re still sure to please. Walk down 86th Street two blocks to Ridge Boulevard and turn right and marvel at the displays.
7pm: After so much time in the cold, you’ve earned a great dinner. Craving some meat and potatoes? Head to Polonica (7214 Third Avenue), one of the most delicious Polish restaurants in all of New York. Start with a steaming bowl of garlicky, vinegary clear borscht with Uzkami (mushroom filled “tortellini”) or white borscht, a creamy, kielbasa-laden monster of a soup served with a scoop of mashed potatoes. Follow that up with a selection of pierogis or blintzes and one of Polonica’s wonderful mixed salad plates and a side of kielbasa. Or, go for broke and order the cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped kielbasa.
For Spanish food, head to Sancho’s (7410 Third Avenue) for seriously delicious tapas including tripe, squid in its ink, clams in green sauce and mushrooms in garlic and oil.
Feeling Italian? Don’t let the white tablecloths and silly decor stuck in the 80s fool you, Canedo’s (7316 Third Avenue) can turn out some surprisingly solid food. Anything with pasta and seafood is always delicious, especially if they’re serving a frequent special with pickled peppers and clams over linguine. But make sure you finish your wine before ordering the zabaglione. The chef is a stickler for propriety!
8pm: Bay Ridge is at no loss for watering holes, but sadly, there aren’t many good ones that aren’t chock-a-block with screeching girls and the men that love them. For a quiet drink, head to the original branch of now-shuttered Prospect Heights institution, Mooney’s Pub (7710 Third Avenue) or to The Three Jolly Pigeons (6802 Third Avenue), the best, most beautiful bar in Brooklyn that hasn’t been overrun with yuppies yet because it’s in Bay Ridge. The Pigeons has been around for over a century, mixes a mean martini, serves a rotating cast of Brooklyn Brewery’s best on tap and, if you’re into this sort of thing, offers rock ‘n roll karaoke on Friday nights. And, if you just can’t face a return trip on the R-train (and no one will blame you) the bartenders will even call you a car home.