14Sept2006BayGull.jpgOne of the many things I love about this town is that there are a thousand places where you might find yourself saying, “It doesn’t even feel like I’m in New York City anymore.” I started driving a yellow cab, in large part, to try to find as many of those places as I could.

I’ve discovered quite a few. The first time I drove down those steep streets in upper Manhattan I imagined I was winding through San Francisco. Certain parts of Middle Village, smack in the center of Queens, look like that gaudi suburb I didn’t grow up in. The first time I caught a glimpse of City Island in The Bronx, I was sure I’d found some long-lost New England fishing village.

Broad Channel Island, Queens is certainly one of those places. But I don’t have any frame of reference with which to compare it, because I’ve never encountered anything quite like it before. They call themselves “New York’s Little Venice” because part of the island is comprised of miniature canals along which the residents dock their boats. But really, Venice and Broad Channel look almost nothing alike aside from the fact that both are barely above sea level.

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Broad Channel is the only inhabited island in Jamaica Bay, and half of the island is covered with the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Inside, thick vegetation and abundant wild fowl might make you feel even more like you aren’t really in New York City until a jumbo jet on its way into nearby JFK roars overhead or you stumble upon the stunning view of the distant Manhattan skyline.

But perhaps even more striking than the waterways (they are hidden back amongst the side streets) or the herons or the view are the demographics. The first thing I noticed when I went to Broad Channel was that here, inside the most ethnically diverse city in the world, is a neighborhood in which every single person I saw on the street was white. 14Spet2006BayGull4.jpgI’ve been back many times, and not only have I never seen a black person in Broad Channel, I’ve never seen a Hispanic, an Arab, an Asian, or a Pacific Islander. Nearly the entire population is of Irish descent, although I did meet an Italian girl tending bar at Grassy's who hailed from neighboring Howard Beach.

One of the last things I expected to encounter on Broad Channel was a great bagel shop. But the bagels they make at The BayGull Shoppe aren’t much like the ones New York’s Jews are so proud to have introduced to the rest of the country. In fact, they taste more like the generic bagels you’d find somewhere else in the country.

The reason I love The BayGull Shoppe is that they offer a wide variety of delicious, creative, named bagel sandwiches. My favorite is the Godmother: ham, salami, pepperoni, provolone, and roasted peppers. Last time I went, I fell hard for the BayGull Special: grilled ham, melted American, thinly sliced pickles on a cheese bagel.

At BayGull, they don’t even bother with the whitefish salad sandwich or the lox and capers. They know their audience. And it’s nothing like the rest of New York.

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The BayGull Shoppe, 16-32 Cross Bay Blvd, 718-474-1274