With a softball-sized jelly doughnut in hand, a Polish construction worker sat on a bench next to a hurried Brooklyn mom typing away on her phone, with child, stroller, and yoga mat in tow. Inside the shop they were perched next to, a crowd of Eastern Europeans mixed with twenty- and thirtysomethings with well-worn Barbour jackets; each was ordering coffee and something else. “Dzień dobry. Let me have three blueberry cheese danishes,” a customer said.
Just two blocks away from the craziness of the Bedford L stop, Northside Bakery (149 North 8th Street, 718-782-2700) is a rarity in an area filled with meatball shops and bodegas selling $4 granola bars. Richard Podedworny, a native of Wroclaw, Poland, opened the bakery in December of 1994, two years after opening a first location in the traditionally Polish Greenpoint. Northside has a small storefront but occupies multiple floors, and it makes everything in house — it specializes in Eastern European breads and pastries.
“There are three main things you need to pay attention with bread,” the large and imposing Podedworny told me. “Temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure.” He was leading me through the large building, including its 100-year-old elevator. In the basement, 10-foot-long strands of dough were being formed into croissants and danishes. On the top floor sat four large silos, each the size of two minivans, filled with different types of flour. On a weekend, Northside can make over 5,000 pounds of baked goods, which are delivered to restaurants and stores, and sold from its small storefront.
Finally, on the main floor, employees cut and weighed dough to become seeded rolls and Northside’s signature, rye bread. The bakery imports non-GMO organic flour from Poland to make nearly 10 varietals of that rye, from a light and sour version to a dark and hearty “granny’s rye” with flax seeds and rolled oats. “Starting off, we mostly sold two-pound rye,” said Podedworny, adding that the bread gets its name from the fact that the loaf actually weighs two pounds. Toasted with a dab of butter, it is in the upper echelon of bread in any of the five boroughs.
Northside makes other great old-world style bread. Its village bread, a massive four-pound loaf, is the greatest sandwich bread you never knew existed. Its take on the French baguette tops almost all others.
Open early each morning, the storefront sells just about everything the bakery makes, from great flaky napoleon dessert to poundcake and turnovers to pierogis and borscht soup.
And it’s a family business — today, Podedworny’s son Christian, fresh out of business school, is slowly taking over the shop from his father. “I want to pass my passion for baking along to him,” says the owner.