Welcome to the real New York: Take a walk with me around one of its few nongentrified neighborhoods

This city is insane. It really is. If you aren’t rich, or a trustafarian, good luck finding a place to live. It’s not just regular folks who are having trouble. Even elected government officials are complaining that they can’t find a decent apartment at a decent price.

And it’s not just housing. Food, both in stores and in restaurants, is absurdly expensive. Have a car? Insurance alone becomes a major expense. I know wah-wah-wah. I can’t help it. Maybe I’m just building my case for being on the precipice of leaving New York, except for regular visits because I’ve become the nonno of the Cutest Baby the World Has Ever Seen ™. Yeah, I’m prejudiced.

But really. One of our kids spent the past couple of months visiting prospective apartments. Real estate agents have apparently gotten really good at using their phone’s ultra-wide camera lenses to make closets look somewhat habitable. Or in some cases, they don’t care about presentation and leave an array of roach traps on the kitchen counter. Yeah, that’s where I want to cook dinner every night. Even more than the crappy apartments, long a New York tradition, are the sky-high prices. Thousands a month for what’s basically a tenement, in the kind of building that had its heyday around 1938. And an application process that makes candidate vetting for the CIA seem lackadaisical.

So it’s been a nice break spending a couple of days a week with daughter number 1, who gave birth to a baby boy last month. The kid’s adorable and loves to boogie around his basinet—he’s going to be a handful. And said daughter lives in one of the few neighborhoods in Brooklyn that’s proudly non-gentrified. This is not to say it’s cheap; a typical rowhouse goes for a couple of million. But it hasn’t yet caught the precious disease. You know the symptoms: Curated coffee, whatever that is, little restos owned by recent and hipper than you French or Italian arrivals. Lots of twentysomethings from Ohio subsidized by mom and pop, the kind of people who sit around curated hipster coffee bars with no apparent means of support.

Boy am I sounding like a grouch. I am a grouch. Sue me.

What’s made me less of a grouch, other than the perfect grandson, is that old-timey feeling you get from walking around Bay Ridge. It looks more or less the same as it did when I was growing up; I traveled through the neighborhood on my way to high school eons ago. But that’s not to say it’s stayed the same. Back then it was inhabited mainly by recent immigrants from Italy and Greece, and had large Irish-American and Scandinavian-American presences. The mix has changed now and there are lots of people from Asia and the Middle East.

What all that means is that walking up and down Bay Ridge’s avenues (like Manhattan’s, they run north-south), you’ll pass Italian, Greek, Palestinian, Georgian, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Mexican restaurants. I’m sure I left something out, but you get the idea. Often the places are cheek by jowl, with interesting juxtapositions. And while some might be a little upscale, most of them exist for their fellow immigrants. They aren’t fashion shows boiled down to eateries, they’re part of the New York tradition of local immigrant-owned businesses serving their communities, rather than competing for a New York Times restaurant review and a Michelin star. This Georgian restaurant’s menu looks really good to me right now:

So let’s take a look. First up, when Italians talk about how similar they are to Greeks, they often use the phrase “stessa razza, stessa faccia.” Get past the imperfect rhyme and it means “same race, same face.” And while Italy and Greece are separated by the Adriatic and Ionian seas, in Bay Ridge their people live cheek by jowl, especially when it comes to restaurants.

Over in the Middle East, the Palestinians and Israelis are mixing it up again, with the Lebanese sometimes getting in the mix, In Bay Ridge? Jewish delis and Middle Eastern restaurants coexist, no problem.

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, you’ll find combinations of ethnic shops and restaurants that you would never see on a map, or maybe anywhere else in the world. Thai and Sicilian, anyone?

Let’s pay tribute to the newer establishments, whose owners are from Central America and the Middle East:

Of course Bay Ridge wouldn’t be Bay Ridge without an Irish pub with an pun name:

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