In November of last year, I moved from Ditmas Park to Bushwick. I went from living with a self-righteous, whiny stranger to living with my best friend from high school, and as a result of the pandemic moved to a rather nice apartment for less than what I was previously paying. But the best thing about my new living situation? I now reside in one of the coolest neighborhoods in NYC. Bushwick is basically the East Village of Brooklyn, but far more budget friendly and at this point, objectively cooler. There’s so much culture that remains in Bushwick, and my God, there is so much amazing food. Here are my favorite neighborhood spots—
Roberta’s: One of my favorite pizza restaurants, not only in the City but in the world. Seriously comparable to Joe’s and Lombardi’s as far as quality, but a totally different vibe and taste. Roberta’s isn’t classic two dollar New York style pizza—it’s slightly elevated, Neopolitan style personal pies and a mish-mash of other menu items, all of which taste like a signature dish. It’s extremely popular for a reason. Don’t be surprised if it’s packed. Sometimes I try to order delivery and am told they can’t take more orders for the time being, or are out of a certain type of pizza. But Roberta’s is well, well worth the wait.
Strange Flavor / The Broadway: Strange Flavor, a dark and moderately divey bar and burger shop in the heart of Bushwick, is one of my favorite places to spend a Saturday night. Not too expensive, great atmosphere, and even better food. Their special burger sauce is amazing. I also love their wings, which are just one of a few Sichuan-influenced menu items. The Broadway on Lexington Ave is a low-key neighborhood bar (right next door to me, so I go there alllll the time to write) and Strange Flavor’s sister restaurant. They expand on the Asian fusion element with a menu full of noodle dishes and some wildcards like beef and peanut dumplings, in addition to favorites from the original Strange Flavor menu. It’s a music venue too (although they aren’t currently doing live music as far as I know). They also have karaoke, which makes it less cool, but still—10/10.
Our Wicked Lady: Casual, low-key bar (not quite a dive) and live music venue with a great rooftop and friendly bartenders. Our Wicked Lady is generally a pretty standard Bushwick neighborhood hangout spot, but what makes it stand out for me is the intimacy of it, and resulting ambiance. Seeing bands there is great, because you’ll likely be standing within ten feet of the stage. It’s a super chill communal space, and a great place to chat up musicians after their set.
Til Death: Laid-back, friendly if kinda hipster-y outdoor coffee shop. Served out of a trailer, plenty of outdoor seating. They also have art shows and live music there, among other events—basically, it’s an multi-functional space with a genuinely cool, non-extra atmosphere. It also happens to operate as a community motorcycle garage…I don’t know if that’s the correct terminology or what the space really is because I know NOTHING about cars and the like, but it’s just another part of this virtually all-purpose venue. It’s the perfect place to spend a summer afternoon chatting with friends before a bar hop in Bushwick, and very 4/20 friendly (based on the fact that they offered pre-rolled joints on April 20th). All in all, my kinda place.
The Cobra Club: As for that Bushwick bar hop, I would start with The Cobra Club…and I usually just end up staying there. A couple times I’ve actually stayed all day AND night—this classic dive is a cafe during the day, so it’s a nice (grungy) place to work before a night of cheap beer and live music. The atmosphere is super friendly and inclusive; Cobra Club is classic Brooklyn cool, but they’re not obnoxious about it, which is really big with me. They also have hangover-friendly yoga Sunday mornings (or at least they did pre-pandemic), complete with mimosas.
Nene’s Taqueria: Nene’s Taqueria is the real deal—some of my favorite quick-service Mexican in the City, out of a small family-owned deli-style taqueria in Bushwick. While Nene’s is as casual and stripped down as it gets, the owner and head cook, Andrés Tonatiuh Galindo Maria, has spent his career working in high-end restaurants and it shows. I’ve loved everything I’ve tried at Nene’s, but their specialty (and my favorite) dish is the quesabirria. Birria is a stew made with goat meat or beef marinated in adobo. Put it on a quesadilla, you get the quesabirria, which is even better than it sounds. Not a lot of seating, so I usually take mine to go and eat in the park across the street.
Brooklyn Kava: I’m a big fan of kava and kratom, and Brooklyn Kava has both, in a simultaneously cozy and upbeat environment. For those who don’t know what kava and kratom are—both are essentially “drugs lite”—a perfectly legal, all-natural, mild high. As someone who doesn’t drink (been sober for a year and a half), I really enjoy it when I need a little something to take the edge off. Kava is more sedating and “buzzy” for lack of a better word, with very mild cognitive effects. Kratom’s effects vary by strain, but it tends to feel similar to opiates only far less intense / pronounced. You can’t seriously overdose on either, although too much Kratom will make you very nauseous. Both taste like shit. But there’s obviously a reason this place is always crowded. It’s a unique experience, and fun without being overpowering or unsafe. There’s not a lot of space, but I tend to get mine to go anyway and wander the streets with it—like Til Death, it’s a great way to spend a summer day or night in Bushwick.
Boobie Trap: Ahhh I love this place. Second stop after Cobra Club, Boobie Trap is a campy, kind of bizarre dive bar void of pretense and fancy cocktails. It’s a great place for a night out with friends, if your friends are cool. Booby Trap is super inclusive and the bartenders are always friendly, but they’ll also (probably) judge you if you order something embarrassing like a cosmo. In addition to plenty of breast-themed decor, Booby Trap has board games to keep you entertained. Final note, the whole boob motif doesn’t come off as obnoxious or sexist. It’s just plain old weird, in a good way.
Ichiran: One of my favorite ramen spots in NYC. Ichiran isn’t cheap, but the food is superb and the entire experience is authentic and unique. You order using a form to customize your ramen, and while there are slightly larger table options, a traditional meal at Ichiran involves sitting at a single person booth. You’ll be sitting at a bar and can still talk to the people around you if you do want to go with a group…but it’s best for small groups and people going alone. Truly a great spot for introverts, because you can hide behind the dividers and eat alone without feeling awkward. The service is really good, as is the spicy red sauce, house made broth, and literally everything else on the menu. There are two other locations in NYC, in Midtown and Times Square, but I’ve only been to the Bushwick one, and see no reason to venture outside my neighborhood for Ichiran’s top-notch noodles. Guarantee you the Manhattan ones are far more crowded.
Sally Roots: I’m not terribly familiar with Caribbean food, but Sally Roots has been a perfect introduction. They’ve got great options for both picky eaters and more adventurous foodies. They serve mac n’ cheese and jerk chicken, but there’s also shark skewers, and conch fritters. Nothing too wild, but the menu certainly isn’t boring. Portions are very satisfying, the bar is beautiful, and brunch is out of this world. I love their cheesy grits with a passion. And if you drink, don’t miss bottomless mimosas and beer—90 minutes for $25.
Catland Books: Great BK alternative to Enchantments in the East Village—Catland is a witchy new age bookstore and magic shop, selling everything from incense to jewelry, herbs, and tarot cards. They describe themselves as “expansive interfaith space providing resources, supplies, education, experience and a vibrant, inclusive community free from judgement.” Catland also has psychic readings, a medium, and “magical coaching”, whatever that is…admittedly, some of it feels a little silly at times, but that’s part of the fun. And for the record, I have a strong belief in the paranormal (within reason).
Because of the aforementioned locations, I rarely leave my neighborhood these days. Everything I love about this city is within a few blocks of my house, and I discover new favorite spots every day. Best borough, hands down—and IMO, Bushwick is the best of Brooklyn. 🌃