NFT New York Midwood


Smack dab in the middle of Brooklyn, Midwood is one of the few melting pots--in the true sense of the word--left in New York. Russians, Pakistanis, Italians, among other nationalities, call the neighborhood home. Midwood has the feel of a small town where not much happens, and for the most part that's true, but Edward R. Murrow High School--where the late Beastie Boy Adam Yauch attended--boasts one of the best chess teams in the country, and has become something of legend and source of local pride.

In recent years the neighborhood has seen an influx of Orthodox Jewish families, with homes being expanded and built out into downright domestic palaces. That said, the neighborhood remains more liberal and diverse than neighboring Borough Park. Still, this is a quiet, family-oriented place, and the side-streets are of the tree-lined, quaint, suburban variety. Aside from Avenue J--where you'll find Jewish bakeries and decent discount shopping--and Avenue M--a mostly Russian scene with some excellent eating--there's scant hustle and bustle, especially during the Sabbath.See more.

For decades the neighborhood has been on the radar of pizza snobs thanks to Di Fara Pizza, an old-school, old-fashioned pizzeria that's been touted as some of New York's best since the 1960s. Lines snake down the block and Yelp reviews long ago topped 1,000, even after a spate of less-than-stellar health inspections (67 points? yikes!). But don't stop at Avenue J: Stumbling onto a mind-blowing bowl of borscht at one of the myriad hole-in-the-wall Russian delis is also part of the fun.

On a quiet stretch of East 22nd Street is the Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead, believed to have been built before the American Revolution. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976, the house was owned by the Wyckoff Family until the mid-19th century, and then the Bennett family until the 1980s (thus, the name) until it passed to its current owners. The City has been trying to buy the house, although those plans are currently up in the air.

At one point in time, Midwood had a corner on the film and television industry. Two prominent studios, known today as JC Studios, were erected in 1903 and housed the sets of shows such as The Cosby Show, As the World Turns, Saturday Night Live (very briefly), and the Sammy Davis Jr. Show. Perhaps most famously, the studio was home to the Esther Williams Show, and the site of the memorable Esther Williams Aqua Spectacle; the swimming pool used for the event is still there.

The nightlife here is nearly nonexistent, unless you count neighborhood dive bars like Nitecaps.

Visit Di Fara for pizza to write on blogs about, Tbilisi for Georgian (the country, not the state) and Taci's Beyti for fresh, tasty Turkish.

Pop into Ostrovitsky Bakery for kosher pastries that you'll smell from a block away. Shop Fox's for designer gear with a considerable discount. King's Highway is lined with decent discount stores. The grocery store Pomegranate (think kosher Whole Foods) is a reason to make the trip.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Sara Bogush
Photo:  Sara Bogush

Di Fara
The Mount Olympus of great New York pizza is Midwood's humble DiFara, owned and operated by Dom DeMarco for 40-odd years. Dom makes every pie himself, eleven hours a day, seven days a week, moving at a slow but steady and unrelenting pace. The result is a golden ratio of crisp, airy crust, tangy sauce, and a blend of rich mozzarella and salty parmesan cheese. The line, of course, can be excruciating. Expect to wait a half hour or more for slices, and longer for pies. Go early, bring a book, and keep an eye out for when your order should be up, as it can get a bit disorganized in there. You won't be disappointed--simple dough, sauce and cheese never tasted this mind-bendingly good.

Posted By:  Jennifer Keeney Sendrow
Photo:  Courtesy Roomorama

If there were an award for the creepiest window display in the city (Village Voice “Best of NY” editor, are you reading this?), it should go to Wig Showcase in Ocean Parkway. A mere photograph cannot do justice to their collection of oddly coiffed mannequin heads locked behind a metal gate after hours. If you have ever been afraid of dolls, stay far away. One of the heads slowly rotates, while the rest stare off in a dozen directions, their lifeless expressions lit by small spotlights. Most are a phony Caucasian flesh tone, but a few have the pure white skin and blood red lips of a cartoon vampire. The cascading assortment of hairstyles of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s is rounded out by two small plastic envelopes containing a false beard and moustache. It’s hirsute horror.

Posted By:  J. Slab
Photo:  J. Slab

Pizza Time
Even my harshest critics generally concede that I’m a humanitarian of the highest order. It’s almost like Ghandi “did it” with Mother Teresa, then (9 months later) yours truly. I mention this only because I recently did the unthinkable: I went to Avenue J and decided to get a slice not at Di Fara’s. Whether it was my innate sympathy for those less fortunate, or Dom Di Fara’s mind-boggling inability to make a square pie in under an hour, I decided to give Pizza Time a go. After all, 1) I was starving; 2) it’s a block away; and 3) they advertise (without a hint of irony) “authentic Kosher Italian food.” Color me intrigued. And confused; this place was packed. Even more crowded than Di Fara’s. And I wasn’t that curious. So I headed back and waited 40 minutes for Dom to dish out the slices, comforted by the fact that at least I had tried.

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