Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Peter Pan Donut Shop

On my brief visit to Greenpoint, I was delighted to stumble upon the Peter Pan Donut Shop. Readers have been telling me to go there and I just never did. Now I walked through the sea-foam green entryway and took a seat at the back end of the snaking counter, where I ordered a chocolate egg cream and a toasted coconut.



Within minutes, the counter began to fill with old-timers, regulars, and I got the sense I had swiped someone's seat.

A woman wearing a wild auburn wig sat beside me, ordered an egg cream, and buried herself in the Post. A man who talked like Ralph Kramden sat on the other side, soon joined by his pals. Everybody knew everybody. They talked about ailments and hospitalizations, the recent death of Dom DiMaggio, and recounted the passings of their wives.



Now and then, they lapsed into silence, licking the stirrers from their coffee cups. Then the chat began again. They said things like "A nice piece of fish" and "What's wrong with 'dem Yankees, they can't win, eh?" One man, the Kramdenish one, opined, "Somehow, every year, seems like Father's Day always gets overshadowed by Mother's Day."

The waitresses, in green smocks with pink collars and cuffs, chatted with the men. When a favorite song came on the radio (Lady Gaga on an AM/FM with glowing dial), the girls broke into spontaneous, appropriately awkward, teenage dance.

Being in the Peter Pan Donut Shop is like being in Brooklyn, which is where you are when you're there, but it's the real Brooklyn, the lost Brooklyn, the one you hope to find when you go there but rarely do.

Here it is.

26 comments:

Ken Mac said...

i love those teardrop shaped string dispensers. They are almost always ancient, and tell their own history.

Melanie said...

These lovely denizens of Brooklyn were also sugar buzzing.

BaHa said...

Goodness, there are so many Brooklyns that even I would dare to claim which is the "real" one. But I do know what you mean, and there is a good deal more left of it than one might think. That said, I'm feeling the need for a doughnut. Soon.

Jeremiah Moss said...

you're so right BaHa, "real" is not the right word. can i take it back? i think i mean a quasi-romantic notion of a brooklyn most likely spawned by books and movies, an older, immigrant brooklyn that is vanishing. there is something that feels authentic about that brooklyn. but what is authenticity?

Sherri L said...

Their donuts are top notch.

Anonymous said...

Jeremiah,

There's nothing wrong with your questioning. The reason you consider it the "real" Brooklyn, or the "authentic" brooklyn or whatever, is because it is. It has the characteristics that gave Brooklyn it's identity and uniqueness. It is precisely that experience (including comparable others, such as the Carribean immigrants, the Hasids, the Italians, etc) which defined the Brooklyn mythology and inspired certain generations of people to move here. It's authentic because of color and personality.

Stephanie said...

The marble cruller is a thing of beauty, and possibly the best donut I've ever eaten.

i am storm. said...

the place sounds like a magical find through a time hole.

Baroness V.O. said...

I walked by Peter Pan a million times, and have heard raves from friends, but somehow never tried it because the Polish donuts (paczki) in the Greenpoint bakeries are so fresh and yeasty and terrific they've always won out.

My capacity for donut eating is limited at one. Guess that is good.

Anonymous said...

So these old time Brooklynites were Yankees fans?

Anonymous said...

I'm just thrilled to NOT see a sign posting the fat and calorie content of the doughnuts. If you don't already know what's involved in eating them, then don't eat doughnuts. I remember eating at my favorite German Restaurant on 86th Street "Kleine Konditerei" before it and the rest of East 86 Street "closed", and a woman going through a list of things she couldn't eat because of blah,blah,and blah. The host walked over and said very politely "perhaps you should find another place to eat dinner".

BaHa said...

Does it have real Brooklyn crullers, all eggy inside, with a choice of chocolate or vanilla frosting? I would walk there to taste one of those again.

Ted Barron said...

The best toasted coconut donut in NY, and my favorite donut shop.

Bowery Boogie said...

is peter pan better than the doughnut plant on Grand Street?

BaHa said...

Anonymous 10:50. I found that utterly shocking myself; I don't know anyone from Brooklyn who roots for the damned Yankees.

Jeremiah Moss said...

so who do they root for? mets?

ak said...

my BF is from canarsie and is a yankees fan. just sayin'....(then again, i dont think he cares much about baseball).

Melanie said...

Original Brooklynites were Dodgers Fans--until they moved from Brooklyn to LA. They played at Ebbets Fieldin Brooklyn,NY.

BaHa said...

Yes, the Mets. The Yankees were always hated by Dodgers'fans...so they took up the Mets as their NL team seven or so years after that SOB O'Malley took the Dodgers to LA.
ak: What can I say? I just hope that he's a great guy in every other way!

Carol Gardens said...

Oh, that egg cream looks promising. The three layers, plus foam. A perfect egg cream is my Madeleine. I just may have to try it. Oh yeah, and a donut.

Eric said...

Bowery Boogie, Peter Pan is definitely better than Doughnut Plant..

Ed said...

I grew up in Brooklyn and I became a Yankees fan, however I was born some thirteen years after the Dodgers left, and my parents were transplants who arrived in New York three years after the Dodgers left.

People born in the early 1960s are most likely Mets fans. Someone born in 1960 would have been nine during the 1969 World Series, the perfect age to fall in love with a team, and the Yankees were pretty bad between 1965 and 1975. I don't see why someone born in Brooklyn after 1965 would necessarily be a Mets fan. In fact an early Gen X'er would be growing up when the Yankees were winning World Series and the Mets were terrible. I really think this is more of a generational thing.

I wish I hadn't read this. Greenpoint is difficult enough for me to get to without having to go there to find a donut store. I don't even like donuts.

JackS said...

Well, I will say this: Peter Pan aesthetically and service-wise is like a true throwback to NYC in the 1970s/1980s. But the pastries themselves? Horrible. I've never had more stale/flavorless pastries in my life.

But will say this: All of Manhattan Avenue reminds me 100% of Brighton Beach Avenue in the 1970s/1980s. The toy store, the army/navy, this place, etc... All it needs is the elevated train and it's 100% the same.

I wish I discovered it years back instead of recently.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, these donuts are pretty tasty.

Didn't know about the egg creams, I'll have to take a trip down there to try them out. When I lived in the neighborhood I would go out of my way some days for a donut if I wasn't running late for work.
-AD

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the big up to Peter Pan. It was one of my favorite parts of living in Greenpoint for 8 years. Sadly, I had to leave. I am a Brooklynite who can no longer afford to live in her native land. Might go back to the old hood for a donut though--I miss Manhattan avenue. Peter Pan Donuts, cheap breakfast at Christina's and all the Polish bakeries.

pwlsax said...

@Jeremiah, 5/20: "but what is authenticity?"

Depends where and when, and how old you are.

For our generation authenticity is probably slightly, or more than slightly, down at the heels. The WW2 and prewar generation as they were in the 70s and 80s, slightly deaf, loud-talking, bewigged and double-knit.

If we walked into a time tunnel and came out into a Luncheonette with a redyellowgreen Coke sign on opening day in 1940something when everything was dazzling white and sanitized, we might feel the cold dead hand of an earlier generation of Starbuckification even then and there.

For us, NY's glory days are the "drop dead" years, the years of decline. Gotta wonder about that.