To clarify the biggest myth about Ridgewood: It’s not in Brooklyn (although the neighborhood proudly calls Bushwick and East Williamsburg neighbors). While the community has plenty of Kings County charm—an emerging brewery scene, boho-edgy nightlife spots, DIY art spaces—there’s a reason why The New York Times is still “discovering” Ridgewood after all these years. The trifecta of its greatest strengths—businesses still kicking it from the old school, an under-the-radar culinary scene, and community-oriented spaces—can be found right beneath the elevated M tracks on Seneca Avenue.
Dig the Old-World Charm
You know you’ve made it to Ridgewood Pork Store when you smell the aroma of kielbasa and spot the lineup of porcelain pigs from the front entrance. The corner-side joint has been a butchery in some capacity since the 1930s, and blasts from the past in the form of the original tin ceiling and wood framings are rampant throughout the space. Despite old interior aesthetics, owner Jonel Picioane uses new-age methods—including dry aging with wasabi and deploying an imported Japanese smoker—to produce his beloved meats.
Opened roughly around the same year as Ridgewood Pork Store, Rudy’s Bakery serves its infamous Black Forest cake to sweets-loving Ridgewoodians. Elements of its old-world charm—retro awnings, crumbly strudel recipe—have stood the test of time for the past eight decades, but owner Toni Binanti knows how to cater to the contemporary customer (vegan and gluten-free desserts and wifi!).
Owned by an alum from equally entertaining venues Barcade and the Gutter, the inclusive and nostalgic neighborhood bar Milo’s Yard is a home away from home for some. (The namesake dog considered it such a place until his passing in early May; a memorial to him is adjacent to the main bar.) A half dozen pinball games ranging from campy to hard-core are waiting to be played near the back, while a vintage jukebox churns out classics and deep cuts from the all-time greats.
Eat Authentic Nepalese, Ecuadorian, and Polish Food
About a block from the Seneca Avenue M stop is While in Kathmandu, a cash-only celebration of Nepal’s colorful culinary traditions. Out of the indoor kitchen hut comes Himalayan momos bathing in light tomato cream, jerk chicken taco’ed up in crisp roti, and probably the best potato dish to be found in all of Queens. (It’s hard to compete against starches tossed in three types of fiery peppers.) One could feast like a queen in the backyard garden for little more than $25.
Ecuadorian food isn’t the most represented of Latin cuisines in New York, but it’s worth digging into when you stumble upon it. Such is the case at the no-frills Balcon de Quito, where the cooks let their native land’s ingredients shine without imposing much fanfare. Plantain balls submerged in spicy soup, pepper steak topped off with buttery caramelized onions, and stew swimming with snapper and shrimp are made with the kind of heart you’d expect coming out of the neighborhood’s kitchens.
Where other Polish enclaves are faltering (see: the East Village and Greenpoint), the quiet Seneca Avenue is thriving. Along with its older neighbor at Ridgewood Pork, Seneca Garden proudly dons its reds and whites wherever it can show them off. Polish soul food like potato pierogi, slow-roasted cabbage, and borscht are must-haves in the homey deli, as are candies, beers, and goods that will give your pantry a bit of European flair.
Get to Know the Locals
The decor may scream “mod ’60s escapade,” but the Seneca has quickly become prime real estate for the area’s permalancers. Cozy blue-green booths are big enough to fit a small team of creative types, while the natural light coming through ceiling windows and large fans above give sensitive creators the illusion that they’re working outdoors. If projects are weighing you down, the Seneca’s extended happy hour (1–7 p.m. daily) and a gently used pool table in the back make perfect icebreaker fodder when you need a much-needed laptop pause.
Approximately three blocks away is Footlight, a multipurpose performance space run by a local musician. While the venue primarily highlights emerging talent from the neighborhood, it’s also hobby-inclusive when it comes to planning out its event calendar. In the past few months alone, Footlight has hosted drink-and-draw sessions, open mics, potluck dinners, a zine-fest, late-night cabarets, and an interpretive dance competition. (You know you want to befriend an interpretive dancer.)