Try this Brooklyn baklava crawl
Pub crawls are for amateurs. How about a baklava crawl?
It takes real single-mindedness to eat dessert all day long.
Brooklyn’s got many shops, bakeries and cafes of varying ethnicities that dish up this crispy, crunchy phyllo-dough treat.
I decided to embrace my baklava obsession and devise a tour that incidentally also takes you to four stunningly different-looking Brooklyn neighborhoods that are great for spring strolls.
You can debate amongst yourselves about where baklava was invented and whether or not the syrup that moistens the baklava’s nut filling should have rose water in it. I’m focusing on the serious business of eating.
Oriental Pastry and Grocery — Cobble Hill
I started my baklava crawl on Atlantic Avenue on the border of Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill, where numerous local businesses are located.
Among big merchants like Trader Joe’s and Urban Outfitters, there are Middle Eastern food sellers that have been present for many years. Their staying power is an achievement on this high-rent commercial corridor.
Across the avenue from the venerable Sahadi’s there’s a small shop that makes the best baklava. It’s called Oriental Pastry and Grocery.
This fascinating store, located at 170 Atlantic Ave., nearly derailed my baklava crawl.
There were spices and olives and pickles and candies and shelves stocked with eye-catching products and I wanted to read every label and I realized my brain was ricocheting off the four walls.
You should allocate a chunk of time for shopping for eclectic items like hibiscus flower tea and pumpkin seeds and dried cantaloupe slices before you make your baklava purchase.
I bought two large triangles for a total of $4.
There’s no sitdown cafe space in this shop. So have a dessert picnic.
I bought a cup of tea to go at nearby Swallow Cafe then headed down Clinton Street into Cobble Hill.
Bold visitors to brownstone neighborhoods stand on homeowners’ stoops and pose for selfies. I’ve seen people do this more often than you might think. But don’t get the idea that you can sit on a stoop and snack. Even if it’s baklava.
Go to Cobble Hill Park, which is a couple blocks away. It has tables and chairs. And the tulips are in bloom.
When you sit down and eat the baklava from Oriental Pastry and Grocery, you’ll find that it’s not sweet — which makes it very appealing. The phyllo layers are fresh and chewy.
If you haven’t spent much time in Cobble Hill, you should walk around the neighborhood. Start with carriage house-lined Verandah Place, which borders the park.
Many blocks in the landmarked neighborhood are lined with 19th-century brownstones and brick rowhouses.
Sweet Delicacies — Bay Ridge
This is the speakeasy of baklava bakeries.
Sweet Delicacies is an office in a tiny storefront at 113 Bay Ridge Ave. It has no awning or signage to announce its name.
But the walnut baklava is spectacular.
By the way, it’s easy to get to this part of Bay Ridge from Cobble Hill. You walk to Atlantic Avenue, go to Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park and hop on the NYC Ferry.
The Bay Ridge ferry dock is at the end of Bay Ridge Avenue. The shop is a couple blocks away.
So. About the baklava. I bought it in a foil pan that had 32 pieces of dessert for $20. It included other delectable stuff, too.
After my baklava crawl, I took the assorted desserts to my office for taste-testing. Colleagues especially liked a cylindrical snack called ladies fingers. They weren’t syrupy. A beautiful pistachio-filled dessert shaped like a tiny bird’s nest was a big hit, too.
I was too busy with the baklava to try these other treats.
In telling you about our taste test, I skipped ahead on my timeline. Let’s go back to Bay Ridge. First, I need to mention that a worker at Sweet Delicacies told me it’s closed on Mondays. So don’t go then.
Second, I need to say that if you haven’t strolled around Bay Ridge, you need to do so. When you leave Sweet Delicacies, walk down Bay Ridge Avenue and turn onto Shore Road.
No other street in Brooklyn looks anything like it. It’s lined with big, beautiful standalone houses perched on hilly lawns. The houses overlook New York Harbor.
When you get to 82nd Street, turn left. In one block you’ll find the landmarked Gingerbread House. This quirky mansion is made of stone and sits on a landscaped lawn that’s as big as a pocket park.
After that, walk to the R train on Fourth Avenue and 77th Street, ride it to 59th Street and transfer to the Coney Island-bound N train. Get off at the Kings Highway station.
Mansoura Pastries — Gravesend
Mansoura Pastries makes the best pistachio baklava I’ve ever eaten. A pound costs $30.
But if you want to try it, don’t do this baklava crawl until April 29. The shop is kosher, and it’s closed this week for Passover.
I stopped in shortly before it shuttered for the holiday and bought a box of 10 macarons for $18. Some were chocolate, some pistachio. Both kinds were delicious.
The company’s website says the Mansoura family has been in the business of baking Mediterranean and Middle Eastern desserts since around 1780, when they lived in Syria. In the early decades of the 20th century, they owned a cafe in Cairo that was the talk of the town.
They immigrated to Brooklyn in 1961 and opened their Kings Highway store that year.
By the way, you have to take a stroll around Gravesend after you leave the bakery.
Walk down East Third Street, which is near the pastry shop, and turn onto Avenue S. Wind around Avenue T and Ocean Parkway to see charming mansions.
If you’re a fast walker, you should also cross McDonald Avenue and make a quick swing around the oldest part of the neighborhood.
The city landmark at 27 Gravesend Neck Road is known as Lady Moody’s House. Lady Deborah Moody, who founded Gravesend in the 1640s, owned the land on which the house was built. It was constructed in the early 18th century or possibly even before that.
Then jump on the F train and ride it to the last stop in Coney Island, where you take the Q train to the Ocean Parkway station.
Brighton Gulluoglu Baklava Cafe at 239 Brighton Beach Ave.
Have you tried baklava filled with sour cherries? It’s really, really great.
The cylindrical dessert is my favorite treat at Brighton Gulluoglu Baklava Cafe. It’s $1.50 per piece.
The pistachio baklava is excellent, too. It’s $1.50 per piece as well. Bird nest baklava filled with pistachios and walnuts, priced at $1.60 per piece, is delectable.
Gulluoglu’s website says the company got its start in 1871, when an entrepreneur named Gullu Celebi introduced baklava to Gaziantep, Turkey after a chef in Damascus taught him how to make it.
The Brighton Beach Avenue cafe serves meals as well as sweets. When I got there I was wondering if I might be overdoing the dessert thing just a wee bit. So I ate a salad and grilled meatballs and had my baklava packed up to go.
After I left the cafe, I took a sunset stroll on the Riegelmann Boardwalk, which is the official name of the promenade that runs along the sea in Coney Island and Brighton Beach.
A wild wind whipped sand all over the place.
But so what? The air smelled salty. The ocean looked beautiful. It was a wonderful place to be.
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