What to See, Eat, and Do in Ridgewood, Queens
History and nightlife collide in a Brooklyn-adjacent neighborhood deserving of more love.
Home to scores of breweries, dive bars and sinfully overlooked brunch spots—in addition to expansive greenery and famous blockbuster filming locations—Ridgewood is one of New York City’s most underrated neighborhoods. Located on a unique triangle of land in Queens that’s often mistaken for Brooklyn, it sits on borough lines and serves as a buffer between Bushwick’s raucous party scene and Central Queens’ serene residential areas, incorporating elements of both lifestyles into its day-to-day.
For centuries, neighboring Bushwick has acted as Ridgewood’s sibling foe, as the two communities continually try to distinguish themselves from one another despite ultimately having a lot in common. But because Ridgewood is a stop further from Manhattan on the subway lines, it’s lived a significant portion of its existence in Bushwick’s shadow, only now getting praise as rent hikes are encouraging locals to consider more reasonably priced pastures.
Enveloped by the L and M subway lines, Ridgewood offers a diverse array of experiences to be had—most of which are easily accessible by transit. Whether you’re interested in eating, drinking, learning, or roaming, the neighborhood won’t let you down. Here’s everything you should know in order to plan the perfect visit.
Eat, caffeinate, and repeat with endless unsung culinary heroes
Any meal, any cuisine: Ridgewood’s got it. In the morning, head to Cute Cat Cafe for a lush backyard to sip a mocha in the presence of roaming felines; hole-in-the-wall Cafe Nala for Ridgewood-themed breakfast sandwiches; the bakery Rudy’s, a neighborhood gem since 1934 that’s also a community hub where everybody knows everyone; and on select days, upscale bakeshop Millers & Makers for must-try fancy pastries.
Sit-down breakfasts with table service are also an option. For hangovers, Tasty Diner is the old-school greasy spoon of choice—but for brunch on the same caliber as any top NYC spot, the garden-to-table dishes at The Acre and creatively crafted plates at Julia’s will knock your socks off. Then there’s Rolo’s, a locally adored cafe and restaurant, which serves interesting savory dishes during weekend brunch (on weekdays, they act more as a come-and-go coffee shop). And while most brunch places serve alcohol, Ridgewood Ale House undoubtedly draws the booziest (and liveliest) crowd.
The restaurant scene isn’t all egg sandwiches and hash browns, though. The upscale Asian-inspired menu at Porcelain is a prime example of New York City’s superior culinary landscape, offering plates like Dandan Lasagna and Kimchi-Brined Fried Chicken to go with your wine. Japanese restaurant Mr. Sushi debuted earlier this year with an impressive selection of lunch specials that’re much more affordable than its dining room’s vibes. And Odaan, a Nepalese and Indian restaurant, nails the flavors of the Himalayas.
Historic slice shop Joe & John’s—first opened in 1968—is central to Ridgewood’s pizza experience, and behind a mysterious door across the street lies elevated Caribbean-Latin food at Cream. Then there’s upscale American restaurant Ltauha, the most charming place to be on Myrtle Avenue come dusk. Close the culinary tour out with a trip to Ice Cream Window, a self-explanatory destination open on weekends.
Enjoy the diversity of a forgotten neighborhood’s thriving nightlife scene
The most remarkable part of Ridgewood is its ability to prop up so many flourishing bars even as it stays under the radar to outsiders. The neighborhood’s dive bars best capture the area’s community feel, as each one brings its own unique feature: At Aunt Ginny’s, it’s a pool table; at Milo’s Yard, it’s pinball; at Myrtle Pub, it’s the colorful lights and free popcorn; at The Bad Old Days, it’s the book and game collection; and at Jones Bar, it’s the charm of drinking along a strip of historic homes.
When stale drinks simply won’t do, beer and wine spots include Queens Brewery, an enormous brewing house with communal picnic table seating and a large collection of table and floor games. Evil Twin Brewery is a bit trendier, with a glass greenhouse-looking taproom and a large outdoor patio. Bridge and Tunnel Brewery is the dive bar of brewing spots, and Gottscheer Hall is an old-fashioned German community center with a no-frills backyard beer garden. And classy wine bar Ester is ideal for catching up with an old friend over tasty dishes without having to scream over loud music.
When it comes to reigning destinations for craft cocktails, Cafe Plein Air—offering a weekday happy hour and seasonal menu changes—lets you choose between shaken, stirred, and sparkling. Fresh Pond Cocktail Club has a sleek interior and spacious outdoor patio, while Windjammer Bar is delightfully nautical-themed, both in decor and drinks.
If music and entertainment are your jam, Trans-Pecos is the preeminent live music bar showcasing local bands; The Deep End is an unassuming gay bar with drag performances, late-night parties, and shockingly great food; Nowadays hosts fun events in its massive outdoor yard and full-on raves in its indoor space; The Keep is a gaudy gothic bar with occasional burlesque and live music; and BierWax Queens is a new bar in a historic Ridgewood theater where DJs spin actual vinyl from their collection of more than 3,000 records.
Wind down in nature, get lost in history, and thrift some vintage pieces
It might look sleepy at a first glance, but Ridgewood does not disappoint in the things to do department. With sprawling green space, noteworthy historic sites, and countless off-beat stores, its pastimes are one of a kind, further justifying a visit.
On the south border of the neighborhood in Highland Park is the 50-acre Ridgewood Reservoir, comprised of freshwater wetlands that once supplied water to Brooklyn. Today, it’s known for its walking/biking paths; lawns for barbecuing; marshes and trees that provide shelter to unique birds and attract ornithologists; and raised elevation for scenic glimpses of nearby skylines and cemeteries.
Ridgewood also nods to its past with a handful of historic sites honoring 19th-century architecture, World War I veterans, and its European settlement in the 1600s. The most significant piece of history is The Vander Ende-Onderdonk House: Built in 1709, it’s the city’s oldest Dutch Colonial stone house, and was once used to help mark the transition between Brooklyn and Queens.
While the reservoir and historic center sit at the north and south parts of town, fun shops flood everything in between. The popular Topos Bookstore offers unique books; Other People’s Clothes has thriftable fits; and Scorpion Records and Deep Cuts Record Store (where a one-eyed rescue pug greets customers) are go-tos for used vinyl. If vintage trinkets and decor are more your thing, visit one of several antique shops, including Gotham Thrift and Ridgewood Antiques. If you feel like spending some cash but don’t know where to start, just walk down Myrtle Avenue—the commercial district—and window shop until your heart’s desire.
Cozy up in a comfy outer-borough hotel
Ridgewood hasn’t quite broken into the mainstream as far as tourism is concerned, meaning the neighborhood’s hotel options are few and far between. The trick for out-of-town visitors would be to stay somewhere off the L or M subway lines that’s a bit closer to Manhattan.
The closest area with noteworthy hotels is Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, just a small handful of stops away from Ridgewood on public transit. Off the L line are Penny, a homey hotel featuring colorful artwork and modern furniture, and Hotel Indigo Williamsburg, a dog-friendly building towering over the neighborhood (which also has an outdoor pool!). Off the M line is 42 Hotel, a classy 60-room building with beautiful views and cozy common areas.
Alternatively, a neat way to experience the neighborhood’s low-rise architecture from within is by booking an Airbnb.