In Greenpoint, a donut shop pays tribute to old-school Brooklyn
Polish expats, hipsters and police officers break bread every morning at Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop, a bustling bakery with counter seating, serving an eclectic mix of donuts, pastries, milkshakes and egg creams.
Donna Siafakos and her husband Christo have owned this quintessential Brooklyn establishment since 1993, but the store has been in operation for more than 60 years. Siafakos and her family have worked hard to preserve a traditional diner feel, where people from all walks of life can come together and converse over a donut and a cup of Joe.
“A lot of work is put into our donuts,” said Siafakos. “It’s not like commercial donuts; everything is hand cut, fried and finished as a hand made donut… We really put a lot of effort into it. It’s not just something we do for a living, we really love doing it, and I think it shows.”
Patrons will find elderly residents perusing Polish newspapers or debating politics while sitting on stools over a checkerboard floor.
A group of meticulous Polish girls dart back and forth behind the counter diligently tending to a line of customers that routinely spills out onto the sidewalk and down the block.
Locals have always known that this Greenpoint melting pot is extraordinary, but now the rest of the city knows too after the eatery was recently named the 2017 top donut shop in New York City by the renowned Zagat Guide.
Peter Pan received a 4.5 on food, 3.7 on decor and 4.1 on service. Each category is out of 5.
And don’t be surprised to see celebrities like Tina Fey jockeying with elders for counter room.
“We love [Tina],” said Siafakos. “She came in a few months ago with two colleagues and they sat down and had coffee. She’s very nice, but we give her her privacy.”
“Peter Pan is a family type unit,” said longtime Greenpoint resident Stephen Ippolitl. “The workers here are nice. I’ve known the owner since I was a kid. They’re nice people. Whenever you want to talk to somebody. It’s just old school, talking all the time. You don’t really see that type of interaction in stores these days, especially in Greenpoint.
“Greenpoint is changing a lot. I’m from the old-school era… Sometimes the line goes all the way out the door. They have the best donuts in town.”
And in a neighborhood where one is more apt to see advertisements for Zywiec beer than for Budweiser, Peter Pan is a testament to traditional Brooklyn when mom-and-pop stores reigned supreme.
Peter Pan has old school prices to match its old school environment. Customers can purchase a single donut for $1.10 or a dozen donuts for $12.99. A cup of coffee is a buck.
“It’s a slice of my Queens home in Brooklyn and I love it here,” said Nick McManus, a Queens resident whose girlfriend lives in the neighborhood. “I work in film production and a couple of TV shows, they buy Peter Pan donuts every day so even if I’m not in the neighborhood, I’ll be in some crazy movie set upstate eating Peter Pan donuts.
“It’s so good, so personable,” he continued. “They attend to you. You never have to wait for a coffee. You never have to wait for an order. It’s so cute; it’s got the old-time music. You can look out the window, we were here for the [New York City] marathon.”
McManus’ usual order is a Bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich, or a red velvet donut.
Depending on the day of the week, Peter Pan sells 1,000 to a couple thousand donuts, according to Siafakos.
The bakery’s extensive list of baked goods includes traditional donuts, éclairs, bow ties, jelly sticks and cinnamon buns.
A sign on the wall reads, “To insure freshness, all our products are baked on premises.”
Siafakos’ favorite donut is the old fashioned, but she says the red velvet is the most popular.
“I’m a dunker,” she said. “I love dunking it in the coffee and soaking it up.”
Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop, 727 Manhattan Ave., 718-389-3676.
Video by Scott Enman and Mary Frost with videographer Cody Brooks