A poster child for gentrification. A manufacturing base. A hub for tastemakers. A traditional, tightly-knit immigrant community. The “new” Manhattan. The savior of the downtown music scene. Everything that’s wrong with New York.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn is all of these things and more. Few places elicit such strong feelings from New Yorkers as this neighborhood, which together with Bushwick and Greenpoint has become a kind of sixth borough - not really Brooklyn according to the people living further south down the BQE. This is, of course, a prime example of the indigenous practice of hyperbole (Bed Stuy, which definitely is Brooklyn, is right next door). Yet it holds some truth. Served mainly by the L and G trains, Williamsburg is a large, nuanced neighborhood with a truly distinct flavor. The lack of seamless transportation to the rest of Brooklyn makes it feel isolated - its own diaspora.
There is massive wealth consolidated in glimmering Miami-style towers on the water. There is an abundance abandoned construction projects left over from the post Olympic bid re-zoning of the neighborhood by Mayor Bloomberg, which promptly was followed by a rush of building and, shortly thereafter, a recession.There are churches where mass is still held in full Italian every Sunday. There are Domincan, Hasidic, Puerto Rican and Polish enclaves. There are startup art galleries and legendary DIY music venues. There’s a teepee on an urban farm. There are housing projects. There is an Urban Outfitters that was denied a liquor license.
Love it or hate it - Williamsburg has an artistic energy that the rest of New York City is struggling to recapture. It has rescued institutions that were pushed out of the Lower East Side or SoHo because of skyrocketing rents. It’s accessible, friendly and ripe for exploration. It’s young, historic, vibrant and stoic all at once.
Here we tour the neighborhood through a local lens. From food to fashion to nightlife, there are myriad opportunities to discover something exciting in Williamsburg. You just need to know where to look.
Hotel: Wythe Hotel 80 Wythe Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11249
There is little left to be said about the Wythe Hotel. It shifted a zietgest decidedly. Some consider it an ivory tower - an obelisk erected to project everything that is wrong with "new" Williamsburg. Others laud its aggressive attempts to remain authentic - from reclaimed signs that light up the top of the panoramic roof deck to the locallyvsourced menu at Reynard downstairs (from the team behind Marlow & Daughters). Rooms are spacious in comparison to what you'd get in downtown Manhattan and well-appointed with luxurious and quirky accoutrements from record players to heated floors and custom artwork from the likes of local favorite ESPO. The Wythe can be a scene but it also represents a true distillate of what new-metropolitan Brooklyn is attempting to become. Yes, it's more expensive than anyone who grew up on Wythe Avenue could ever imagine. Yes, the views of One World Trade Center and the Empire State Buiding are breathtaking. Yes, there are manufacturing plants, waste disposal facilities and iron-welding factories within a stone's throw from the hotel. Those who flock here are fine with the Wythe's slightly hypocritical attempts to redefine upscale hospitality through a hipster lens. You should be too.
Also check out: Le Jolie, NU, Aloft
Breakfast: Cafe Mogador 101 Saint Marks Place New York, NY 10009
Let’s start with breakfast. There are few lovelier places to begin the day than Cafe Mogador. A transplant from Saint Marks Place, Mogador has been owned and operated by one family for over thirty years. Although the Brooklyn outpost only opened in 2012, it has a well-lived, organic atmosphere that is instantly calming. Sit in the lush solarium. Order the Halumi Eggs with Moroccan sauce or homemade Merguez sausage on the side. Sip a green tea served with sprigs of fresh mint and sugar in a traditional silver kettle. Breakfast here makes for a productive kickoff to any day.
Also check out: Five Leaves, egg, Brooklyn Star, Juliette
Music: Knitting Factory 361 Metropolitan Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11211
Originally opened on Manhattan’s Houston Street in 1987, The Knitting Factory is one of the city’s most iconic live music venues. Known for headlining acts that were often unconventional or genre-crossing yet still drew in huge crowds, the space moved down to TriBeCa in 1994 in order to acquire a larger space in the old industrial neighborhood. In September of 2009, the club hopped across the river to a more intimate Williamsburg location and has called Brooklyn home ever since. Events from the likes of local punk bands, upcoming rappers, jazz musicians, established acts, EDM DJs, stand-up comedians and more have all graced the stage since.
Also check out: Music Hall of Williamsburg, Rough Trade, Brooklyn Brown
Home Goods: Sprout Home 44 Grand Street Brooklyn, NY 11249
For men of a certain decorative inclination, succulents have become the must-have accessory of the season. Sprouting up in restaurants, hotels, boutiques and more - carefully manicured plants signify a loving owner and imbue a room with an element of eclectic taste. For those who are ready to graduate to the “big league,” Sprout Home offers everything an amateur botanist could ever need. From a huge backyard packed full of greenery to a selection of beautiful modern planters, smaller cactuses, a floral shop, candles and home accessories and even a selection carnivorous plants, Sprout Home has it all.
Also check out: The Future Perfect, A&G, Beam
Lunch: Graham Avenue Meats + Deli 445 Graham Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11211
Graham Avenue is often considered a kind of “next” Bedford - a hub for small businesses and creative cuisine in the phase of gentrification that actually increases the cultural value of an area before the brand names start flooding in. There are sandwiches and then there are experiences. The Godfather from Graham Avenue Meats + Deli is the latter. Get it with everything and get it spicy. This is a family establishment. They know their craft. Just trust us.
Also check out: Colette
Shopping: CADET 46 North 6th Street Brooklyn, NY 11249
Founded in 2011 by Co-“Chief Everything Officers” Raul Arevalo and Brad Schmidt, Cadet is the result of a strategic pairing of design credentials and production planning. Inspired by the clean, functional silhouettes of military uniforms, Cadet has risen to prominence thanks in part to its hugely popular “Aviator Pant” silhouette. The price points can seem high at first, but considering that everything Cadet makes is designed and fabricated entirely within Brooklyn at a factory in Bushwick, the quality is apparent and costs justified. Cadet has expanded to include two stores in Manhattan, but the Williamsburg outpost is the original.
Also check out: Idol Brooklyn, Kinfolk, Pilgrim Surf + Supply
Jewelry: Grand242 242 Grand Street Brooklyn, NY 11211
Grand242 is a vestige of another time. A place where young artists and designers not only can sell their handmade wares but also find use of a full studio in exchange for working in the front of the shop, Grand242 offers a glimpse into the process of jewelry-making. Headed up by Perry Gargano, who has previously worked as a toy inventor and exhibit designer for the Museum of Natural History, the store is a mishmash of rough-hewn statement pieces, delicate dried roses hanging on threads, geometric tribal beading and a set of personalities to match. Nearly every item here is sure to impress as a unique and covetable conversation piece.
Coffee: OSLO 133 Roebling Street Brooklyn, NY 11211
A Williamsburg staple founded by a husband and wife duo in 2003, every bean at Oslo is sustainably-grown and ethically-sourced. They donate to local causes. They have expanded their brand carefully and diligently - opening only two additional shops over the last decade. Most importantly - the coffee is phenomenal and the cold brew, in particular, packs all the punch of an espresso with none of the acidity. Plus, horoscopes are clipped from the paper and posted by the register every day - just in case it’s time for a little cosmic intervention.
Also check out: Blue Bottle, Toby's Estate, Atlas Cafe
Dinner: Glasserie 95 Commercial Street Brooklyn, NY 11222
Okay - so this is technically in Greenpoint. Yes, it’s in a former warehouse on the Northernmost tip of Brooklyn next to Newton Creek. True, that body of water is a Superfund site and has been beleaguered by years of aggressive illegal dumping, raw sewage and one of the country’s worst-ever oil spills. The fact that this is of little concern to diners just speaks to the quality of this feisty, innovative and truly romantic restaurant. Enchanting ambiance aside, the food here takes center stage as Middle Eastern flavors mingle with “New Brooklyn” cuisine. Order some malawach, a traditional Yemini-Israeli bread made of layers of puff pastry brushed with butter. Indulge in it with the lamb tartare or while you nibble beets with sunchokes and pomegranate. Anything you choose will be good here, but the one necessity is the rabbit for two - which is poetry on a plate. Emblematic of Brooklyn’s own constant cycle of rebirth, as Newton Creek enters Phase 2 of a government cleanup project, one can imagine Glasserie as the hub of a newly non-toxic Riviera.
Also check out: El Almacen, La Esquina, Sweet Chick
Drinks: Hotel Delmano 82 Berry Street Brooklyn, NY 11211
Although many return customers surely wish they could inhabit this space on a nightly basis, Hotel Delmano is in fact an upscale local haunt rather than a boutique hotel. Nonetheless, the same attention to detail has been paid to the dark, elegant and chic rustic ambiance. Chandeliers and aging mirrors line the large marble bar up front while more intimate red banquettes make for an ideal low-key liaison in the back room. Munch on homemade ricotta and oysters from the raw bar as you sample one of a slew of specialty cocktails or just go classic with a selection from Delmano's single malt or local rye lists. The owners also manage Union Pool, an infamous dive bar and music venue, in addition to Cafe Colette which is something like Delmano's innocent little sister, just returned from having studied abroad in Paris. Stay late. See where the night takes you.
Also check out: Radegast Hall & Biergarten, Basik