Throughout its history, Ridgewood, Queens has been defined by both its close proximity to Bushwick and its desire to separate itself from it. In the 17th and 18th century, the area was mostly inhabited by Dutch farmers. Later a century long border dispute between Bushwick and Newton—a larger region that included Ridgewood as we know it today—which was resolved eventually by the townspeople placing several boulders on the border with “N” and “B” labels. The Ridgewood area was named after the reservoir built on its South-Eastern corner, and the borders have remained mostly the same ever since.
However, the neighborhood intermittently tried to associate and then disassociate itself from Brooklyn several times through the 20th century. At first, the zip code was one of Brooklyn, as the Ridgewood post office served both areas, until the 1970s when the riots in Bushwick made the locals want to separate the Ridgewood name from the violence happening a few blocks over. And so Ridgewood got its own Queens zip code.
In the mid-2000s, DIY music venues like the original Silent Barn put Ridgewood on the alternative map. With the arrival of outdoor venues like Nowadays and new restaurants and bars catering to young working professionals, its relationship with Bushwick seems to be merging yet again. Still, the term “gentrification” has been connected to Ridgewood for many years. Gothamist pointed out the number of times Ridgewood was rediscovered by the New York Times, going back to 1983. With insider nuance, neighborhood native Emily Favilla explained in Buzzfeed, that the gentrification process has been “slow and subtle,” and complicated.
Whatever your position is, there is a variety of unique places to check out in Ridgewood. Here are our picks for the must-visit spots:
The Ridgewood Reservoir, located in Highland Park, was built in 1858 and is responsible for the quick population growth in the area during the following century, providing water to hundreds of thousands. The reservoir was decommissioned in 1990 and in 2004 transferred to a parks site by Mayor Bloomberg. The reservoir and the surrounding area are a great place for views of the city skyline, as well as the nearby sweeping cemeteries and the Atlantic to the East. The reservoir itself takes up 50 acres, and the area around the reservoir is park land, which served as a buffer for pollutants when the reservoir was still in use, and now are a great place for walking and sightseeing.
If you would like to see one of the famous rocks that once marked the border of Brooklyn and Queens, visit the historic Onderdonk House. The rock was thought to have been dynamited long ago and lost to time, but a rock thought to be Arbitration Rock was excavated in 2001 through a seven year quest by William Asadorian, a librarian with the New York Public Library. Researching archival maps and documents, Asadorian was confident he knew where the rock lay. The City of New York agreed to do the dig, as utility work was already in the pipeline, and brought up the rock. and then moved right next to Onderdonk House.
However, the rock continues to generate controversy. Some believe it’s the wrong rock entirely. Others are upset that it was moved to this location at the Onderdonk House, which effectively means it belongs to Queens. The Director of the Greater Astoria Historical Society believes Arbitration Rock may be an entirely different boulder all together, located in front of a fence on Varick Avenue, about five blocks away. Regardless, today Arbitration Rock seems comfortable in its new home, surrounded by a white picket fence and celebrated with a new plaque. In response to these disputes, a Queens historian jokingly said it should be cut in half for both boroughs to share.
The Onderdonk House is located at 1820 Flushing Ave, Ridgewood, NY 11385
Milk and Pull
This Brooklyn chain, with locations in Bed-Stuy, Bushwick, and Ridgewood, is perhaps the best place in the neighborhood to get some work done. The cafe opened about two years ago, and serves bagel sandwiches, Dough doughnuts, Stumptown coffee, and other pastries. The best part: there is almost always a table available, including a few outside on the street. The cafe is home to many regulars, and the customers and baristas are always friendly and ready to give advice on the neighborhood.
Milk and Pull is located at 778 Seneca Ave, Ridgewood, NY, 11385.
Topos Bookstore Cafe
This charming bookstore, which doubles as a cafe, has a great and surprisingly vast selection of books, literary magazines, and local zines. The selection of books spans fiction, young adult, children’s, and nonfiction. The store trades used books for money or store credit when the bookseller is available, and also boasts a full service cafe and a ample selection of pastries. The unpretentious exterior allows for some sitting space outside, as well as a discounted books section on the street, some of which for as little as two dollars.
Topos Bookstore Cafe is located at 788 Woodward Ave, Ridgewood, NY 11385.
Harman St/Tonsor St
Walking through this area might make you feel as though you’ve been transported back into Ridgewood during its origin years. For about four blocks, the houses retain their original exteriors, in brick and rough rocks. These houses are settled near the intersection of Harman and Tonsor, several blocks away from Grover Cleveland Park. Where Tonsor street turns towards Metropolitan Ave by the high school, you can also catch a great view of the Manhattan skyline. This part of Ridgewood is mostly residential, but will give you a feel for the most down to earth parts of the neighborhood. Make sure to check out the many neighborhood thrift stores in this area as well!
Palmetto/Seneca/under the train
Walking under the raised M line is perhaps the most representative street walking experience for the neighborhood. Here in Ridgewood, the street under the train mellows out and provides a shady and more relaxing walking experience than its counterpart farther West in Bushwick. Many great and long standing establishments line the street, including Jorge’s restaurant and many crown fried chicken places. Entering any of the M line subway platforms allows for a wide and mostly unobstructed view of the Manhattan skyline. Walking along under the train is a great introduction to the neighborhood.
This community center, art and music venue advertises itself as a space for all ages, and true t this message there seems to be something here for everyone. They host a live music show almost every single night on their main stage, a spacious bright area with plants hanging from the ceiling and walls. Additionally, the venue boasts a backyard area with more tables and fairy lights in the evenings. On Saturdays and Sundays they have community yoga classes with a suggested donation of 5$, and other days they have pop-gym self defense classes, as well as other more sporadic events as per the schedule, including a computer coding class and various community part events celebrating punk culture. Stop by and see what events interest you.
Trans Pecos is located at 915 Wyckoff Ave, Ridgewood, NY 11385
The Footlight, which has been in business for almost two years, is a deceptively large venue for local bands and artists. The space promotes the works of a local artist every month, in addition to hosting a band or show every night. On the nights without an official show, the venue has an open mic night and a comedy night, or else the owner will throw a movie marathon on the projector and serve popcorn, free of charge. The unpretentious bar ares is a great place to meet locals or else try one of their many great beers on tap.
The Footlight is located at 465 Seneca Ave, Ridgewood NY, 11385.
BM Pottery Studio
This studio, just off from the Seneca Ave subway stop, is modest beneath a big yellow awning. A small space offering classes to any age group and skill level, this studio was founded on the ethos that everyone has some artistic talent that should be nurtured. They offer classes in painting, drawing, visual Art/ceramics/pottery, wheel throwing (for plates, bowls, cups, vases), and hand-building classes (for coil, pinch, and slab wares or sculpture). The studio also sells art kits and independent study time in the studio, birthday party packages, and individual intensive classes for those more serious about learning the craft.
BM Pottery Studio is located at 1702 Gates Ave, Ridgewood, NY 11385.
While in Kathmandu
While in Kathmandu is one of several Nepalese restaurants in Ridgewood, and has a small but rewarding menu and selection of beers and wine. The main part of the restaurant offers lots of space for big parties, and also has a cute backyard with string lights. The restaurant is cash only and has a selection of appetizers, main dishes, and breakfast foods that span traditional Nepali cuisine as well as “fusion” options, including their popular take on the New York classic bacon egg and cheese with special Nepalese bread. This spot has been here for about two years, and can be identified from the outside by the thatched roof over the door and handles shaped like elephants.
While in Kathmandu is located at 758 Seneca Ave, Ridgewod, NY 11385.
This spot is most likely the neighborhood hipster’s dream come true. The high ceilings, modern design and healthy variety of happy hour foods and cocktails make it a great place for, say, a second Tinder date. The menu is mostly made up of bar foods with a twist, including several burger options, salads, nachos, fried chicken, and fires. The cocktails are similar: interesting twists on classics, including a refreshing watermelon margarita included on their Happy Hour menu. Happy Hour, which includes some great food options, is all day Sundays, and for a limited time every other day. There is always plenty of space, including some limited outdoor seating and space at the bar.
The Factory is located at 1612 Madison St, Ridgewood, NY 11385.
Julia’s Beer and Wine Bar
This wine bar is not what it seems from the outside, or from the website for that matter. They serve brunch every day, and have a wide selection of sandwiches, pastries, and a full service cafe with amazing, strong coffee. As the name would suggest, they also have a great and wide selection of beers and wine, which are discounted during their Happy Hour every day. Inside is bright and clean with lots of seating options, in addition to the street seating which is lined in lush flower baskets. The bar encourages patrons to bring laptops and connect to their wifi during the day, and in fact seems more like a cafe than a restaurant or bar, while managing to pull off all three parts with aplomb. Their menu includes a variety of healthy vegetarian options and starters.
Julia’s is located at 818 Woodward Ave, Ridgewood, NY 11385.
Grover Cleveland Playground
This park is not just a playground, although it does include a very large playground area. Also included: fitness equipment, bathrooms, spray showers, handball and basketball courts, shady lawns with space for spreading out, tall trees, and sweeping views out to the Manhattan skyline and of other parts of Queens and Brooklyn. It is one of the best parts of the neighborhood for skyline views. It is a deceptively expansive area, perched on the hill just above Linden Hill Methodist Cemetery and just a block from the busy Metropolitan Ave, although you wouldn’t know from walking around. The park is a favorite spot for local families and their dogs, but make sure to bring a leash!
This park, located next to the Cemetery of the Evergreens from which it gets its name, is a great place to cool off in the playground fountains or take a stroll if you’re on that side of the train. The park, though covering a small area, has the feeling of a Manhattan park with the old fashioned lamp posts, a dugout and big trees. The park is stranded in the quietest park of the neighborhood to the fast East, and has an intimate quite atmosphere despite the numerous amenities.
This spot, set up like a traditional deli with a ticket dispenser and space for aline in the mornings, is dominated by a glass display case filled with beautiful pastries, breads, and full sized cakes. To the side is also a selection of cold drinks, snacks, and coffee. The selection of pastries includes many New York classics, including Italian rainbow cake bites, danish, and cannoli. The establishment has been in business since 1909 and has been run by the founding family for four generations. In addition to their selection of pastries and other display options, the bakery sells bread in wholesale quantities, either frozen or fresh, and does custom cakes including wedding cakes. Their bread comes in every shape and size you could imagine.
Grimaldi Bakery is located at 2101 Menahan St, Ridgewood, NY 11385.
Water and Light Plant Shop
Though easily missed, this little plant store is a must-see in the neighborhood. They carry a surprisingly vast collection of plants as well as plant and flower scented candles, and gardening supplies. It has basically anything you’d need to start caring for plants in the city! The space is bright and beautifully decorated, and the staff are very knowledgable about the variety of plants sold, as well as willing to give care tips and answer all your plant related questions.
Water and Light is located at 788 Cypress Ave, Ridgewood, NY 11385.
On the far East side of the neighborhood is this anomaly of a store, selling everything from rare salt water fish to rabbits to reptiles of every kind. Though not an aquarium per se, the front section of this store is lined floor to ceiling with tanks of beautiful fish and other aquatic animals. f nothing else, stop by just to see their selection and feel like you’re in an aquarium. The store also sells pet supplies, including supplies for dogs and cats and other larger animals. The store has been run and owned by the same family since 1962, and initially opened doors in 1947.
Paradise Aquarium is located at 6616 Fresh Pond Rd, Ridgewood NY 11385.
The Bad Old Days
This watering hole serves as a meeting places for local hipsters and other regulars. There are books lining the walls ranging from art history texts to poetry and plays. They have a long and extensive happy hour, as well as a great selection of signature cocktails. My personal favorite touch: fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, which can be combined with any liquor for a well drink. The Bad Old Days provides a number of board games and other entertainment, including “shitty movie” and bingo nights. The space is cozy, with plenty of private tables, several couches, a fireplace, and a small outdoor space on the mostly quiet Cypress Ave.
The Bad Old Days is located at 1684 Woodbine St, Ridgewood, NY 11385.
This dive bar and neighborhood favorite is deceptively spacious inside. Through past the front, which includes a long bar and booths of various sizes, is more space for sitting as well as a pool table and a small kitchen serving snacks, bar food, and novelties (my personal favorite is the bar nachos). They also have a special cocktail list and a wide selection of beers on tap. The zany decorations and lights give the bar a unique atmosphere and cater to the whimsical nostalgic in everyone. The bar welcomes dogs, and generally seeks to be a place where your needs and desires can be met. There are more or less weekly events and film screenings, including taco Tuesdays and weekend brunch. Their website is bare bones, so stop by and check out the weekly specials yourself!
Aunt Ginny’s is located at 652 Woodward Ave, Ridgewood, NY 11385.
Next, check out 18 Must-Visit Spots in Bushwick.