Like so many pilgrims to the Magnolia before them, it seems that Girls fans have been flocking to Café Grumpy, along with any business in Greenpoint even vaguely, possibly related to the show (including a dry cleaner that happens to have a picture of Adam Driver in the window).
This is fine, I guess — we wouldn't ever begrudge Grumpy the extra business, or anything like that — but I think we can do better. After all, if you came all the way to the neighborhood just to get the same kind of coffee a troubled character on a fictional TV show drinks, you might as well see the sights. Sights besides a poster of an actor! It's possible, we promise.
First things first. What this place lacks in an easy-to-pronounce name (roughly translated, it means "King's Feast") it more than makes up for in crazy piles of polish meat and cheap, tasty beer. The last time I was there I ate something called a "Hungarian pancake" — spiced red meat in some kind of fried dough shell — and put spreadable fats on bread, all while gazing into the eyes of former Polish kings, whose portraits decorate the walls. Perfect.
694 Manhattan Avenue
Say what you will about "on-trend" desserts (or don't, actually). These donuts are incredible. Go eat them.
727 Manhattan Avenue
I've always maintained that one of the best parts of traveling is getting to try whatever candy is native to the place you're visiting. So wacky! So surprising! In some nations, such an unexpected source of hidden bean paste! This is a roundabout way of saying that while New York (and even Brooklyn) is still technically considered to be part of America, and thus kind of a boring scene, candy-wise, this can easily be remedied by a visit to Slodycze Wedel for some bulk Polish mystery candy.
772 Manhattan Ave (between Meserole Ave & Calyer St).
With news that Williamsburg's Sound Fix will close its doors in April, this has been a pretty sad month for Brooklyn record stores. Among the survivors, Co-Op 87 is one of the best, and most thorough. And anyway, not every neighborhood landmark can be food-related. Just most of them.
87 Guernsey St.
Another shameless plug for a beloved neighborhood institution. We don't need to list all the reasons why shopping at a local, independent bookstore is a worthwhile thing to do, but also, Hannah Horvath is a writer. Ipso facto, she would probably come here all the time? I don't know, just go.
126 Franklin St.
Unassuming on the outside, stacked to the ceiling with crazy finds from estate sales and auctions on the inside. Well worth digging through.
1001 Manhattan Ave.
Not the most beautiful body of water in America (or even in New York), but actually a pretty fascinating cornerstone of the neighborhood's history. Do something edifying! For over-achievers, there are official tours. If we're still trying to make this trip vaguely relate to Girls, then I guess the argument could be made that in a way, this show is all about waste management. Just a more metaphorical kind than what happens here.
So they're not big on self-promotion (hence, the best picture of the place comes from Google), and aren't necessarily that inviting to anyone but longtime regulars, but if you want a cheap drink and aren't a jerk, this is the best option in the neighborhood. Ask nicely and the bartender will pull out a giant rubbermaid bin of cheap jello shots from behind the bar.
623 Manhattan Ave.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.