There’s an embarrassment of culinary riches along Fifth Ave. in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn — a block away from where the R train stops at Bay Ridge Ave./4 Ave. If some roadways are proud of their brownstones or blooming flowerbeds, this one should be smug about its food. These three spots are only the beginning.
Antepli Baklava looks more like a jewelry store than a bakery, especially at night when the silver trays of pistachio-topped baklava and other Turkish desserts sparkle like display cases filled with dusty gold and emerald colors.
These sweets live up to their looks. If you’ve tasted excellent baklava (or variants like balloriye, with a layer of chopped pistachios) at a Turkish restaurant recently, there’s a good chance it came from Antepli, which runs a wholesale operation from the back of the shop.
The three-year-old store is an import from Turkey, where the city of Antep is now known as Gaziantep. (There are other branches in New Jersey, and one coming soon to Texas). In addition to various forms of baklava ($10 to $16 per pound), there are other sweets like kunafa ashta, made with shredded phyllo and sweet cheese, pomegranate Turkish delight, and ice creams imported from Turkey. For the next few weeks, there will also be specials for Ramadan, including ricotta-filled crepes and rounds of fresh cheese dusted with crushed pistachios.
Antepli Baklava: 7216 Fifth Ave., near 73rd St., Brooklyn; (718) 745-0777
“Best donuts around”
The neatly tied boxes from Mike’s Donuts read “best donuts around,” but they’re just being modest. This 41-year-old coffee and doughnut counter is really a Bay Ridge institution, a place that’s been doing it the old-fashioned way since before it was old-fashioned.
Every single doughnut — yeasted, cake, French cruller and so on — is still cut one-by-one by hand, a process that begins around 6 p.m. each evening in order to supply the first customers at 4 a.m. (A regular doughnut is $1; a dozen is $8.50, plus you get a 13th for free.)
After learning the ropes at another bakery, Mike Neamonitas initially opened Mike’s as a wholesale-only operation, taking over a former ice cream parlor. His first customers included accounts that sold the doughnuts at New York City airports, says his son-in-law John Kantarellis, who has been working at Mike’s since he graduated college.
Neamonitas is now joined in the business by his wife Christina and half a dozen other family members including most of his children, says Kantarellis, who is often found behind the counter. “And after school,” he adds, “you have the grandchildren.”
Mike’s Donuts: 6822 Fifth Ave., near Bay Ridge Ave., Brooklyn; (718) 745-6980
Shawarma and shopping
The 30-year-old Alsalam is really a small Middle Eastern grocery — there are shelves of staples and a real butcher in the back — but a good number of customers don’t even make it to the back of the store.
Who can blame them, when the takeout counter by the front door has the sizzle of spinning whole rotisseried chickens ($10); simmering stews like lima bean and lamb; chicken livers, beef tongue or shish kebab; and a counter piled six inches high with savory pies. (They’re $2 to $3 and usually topped with traditional Middle Eastern shmears like za’atar or the lamby-spread called lahmajun.) There are also salads.
If you can’t decide, start with the $6 shawarma sandwich, wrapped in silvery foil. Choose chicken or a mix of medium-rare beef and lamb, both of which are sliced off the spit, crisped on the grill and snugly rolled in flatbread with sumac-dusted onions, tomatoes, sour pickles and garlic sauce.