my spots

John Wilson’s Favorite Spots in Ridgewood

Chicken pupusas, a special occasion strip club, and a used bookstore with great coffee.

Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland
Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

John Wilson’s new HBO show, How to With John Wilson, captures the specific strangeness of street life in the city — the snippets of documentary film range from a woman tucking a pigeon into a Duane Reade bag to two men dragging a disjointed mannequin around Brooklyn. The 34-year-old Wilson was born in Astoria and has lived a couple of miles south in Ridgewood (which shares a border with Bushwick) for the past eight years. “On an industrial street with five other people for six, and in my own place for two,” he says. “At first, it was just price that kept me here, but everything is just the right height. The buildings aren’t too tall.”

Photo: Maxime Gérin

When he’s filming, Wilson says, he “darts around as chaotically as possible to mimic the route of a deliveryman” in order to find interesting things — like a vendor near his house who sells sanitizing wipes and drones exclusively. If he ever feels blocked, though, he has a reliable route: down Myrtle Avenue, up Fresh Pond Road, and west on Metropolitan toward Forest past Ridgewood’s sole strip club, Vixen. Here are his favorite camera-repair store, pupusa spot, and thrift shop for bric-a-brac in the neighborhood.

Camera Repair Store

60-18 Fresh Pond Rd.

Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

“I love the two guys that work at this old analog camera shop near my place that’s just called Camera Repair Store [pictured above] on Google. They’re really witty, and always tell funny jokes. I recently bought an autobiography of Eddie Cantor from them.

Super Pollo

865 Woodward Ave.

Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

“Super Pollo is my No. 1 spot for a mindless meal. Their chicken is incredible. I get the Bandeja de Pollo, which is a half a chicken — it’s cheap enough to get just for myself, but big enough that if I want to share it with someone else, I can. I don’t know what they do to it, but it’s so dang good. They also have a funny fleet of smart cars that are always darting around the neighborhood with their logo on them. They know how to advertise.”

Pupusas Ridgewood

71-20 Fresh Pond Rd.; @pupusasridgewood

Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

“There’s this spot that makes really nice pupusas. They’re pretty cheap, too. I usually get chicken and cheese, but everything is good. I’m really glad it’s there.”

MT Discount

58-19 Myrtle Ave.

Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

“There’s a funny dollar store near me that has a shoplifter-shaming flat-screen TV. It shows pictures of all the shoplifters, along with an insult about the items that they stole. So if it was deodorant, it calls them ‘Smelly’ or something. Otherwise, it’s just a normal dollar store — just with a very strict theft response.”

Burger City

62-20 Forest Ave.; 917-909-1547

Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

“I get a standard cheeseburger at Burger City. They’re pretty good. Nothing really special, but it’s not some heartless chain.”

Topos

788 Woodward Ave.; toposbookstore.com

Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

“One of my favorite places in New York is Topos. It’s a used bookstore, and I know all the people who run it. Mark Freado, specifically, is a real cinephile. Once, he told me about this great documentary called Cul-de-sac about a guy who destroys his town with a tank he stole. It’s my coffee spot, too.”

Vixen

60-07 Metropolitan Ave.

Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

“I often walk Metropolitan toward Forest, where I pass this strip club called Vixen. It’s closed now. It’s Ridgewood’s only strip club, and I really hope it reopens. Before the pandemic, I’d go once or twice a year on special occasions.”

Flowerama Building

59-29 Myrtle Ave.

Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

“I try to walk past the Flowerama Building as often as possible. Right now, it’s an amazing Asian grocery store, but it used to be the florist in Queens. My parents got their wedding flowers from there. Even though it’s not a florist anymore, the signage is iconic — it’s on the spine of a beautiful, pizza-slice-shaped stucco building. The O has a heart in it, which is really nice.”

Fresh Pond Road

Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

“Fresh Pond Road has a handful of stores with nice old signs like the Paradise Aquarium (66-16 Fresh Pond Rd.) and Cardinal Shoe Repair (68-07 Fresh Pond Rd.), both of which have been there for decades — it’s relaxing to see them still operating.”

Gotham Thrift Shop

61-01 Myrtle Ave.; @gothamthriftny

Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

“Gotham Thrift Shop always has something quirky. I look for bric-a-brac. Old posters, funny patches. Candles that were rejected from the factory with a sticker on them that says why they were rejected. Once, I got a cassette there for my friend Andrew where the subject of every song is Andrew.”

Grover Cleveland Park

Stanhope St. and Grandview Ave.

Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

This spring and summer I’d meet all my friends at Grover Cleveland Park. That was really nice. It’s right next to the strip club. You get a beautiful view of the city up there. The trees are really old and pretty, and it’s nice to sit on the grass and watch the sunset over the skyline.

*This article appears in the January 18, 2021, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

John Wilson’s Favorite Spots in Ridgewood