Williamsburg is possibly the most well-known neighborhood in Brooklyn; and despite the heavy hipster presence, it’s also one of my favorite parts of the City. There’s so much to do it’s almost overwhelming, and even with COVID restrictions, it’s easy to spend the whole day taking in the best the area has to offer.
By some miracle, I was able to drag myself out of bed before nine and spent the entire day in Williamsburg, ten to ten. Here are the places I hit, and then some. NOTE: I ate a much higher volume of food (for the sake of this post / and because I was so weirdly hungry you’d think I swallowed a tapeworm) than most people eat in a day, so this list is a bit extensive. My mantra with most things in life—better too much than too little.
Breakfast: Fabiane’s: I got off the train and went straight for this little café for breakfast. Had the waffle sandwich (they have amazing waffles), which includes egg, cheese, bacon, and maple syrup; sounds weird, but I’ve been pushing myself to try new things lately. It’s usually hit or miss with me, and this was a hit. They serve all meals—I just think their breakfast / brunch is best. They also make great drinks.
Snack: Smorg to Go: Smorgasburg is one of my earliest memories in New York. My first time in Brooklyn, and the beginning of a love affair. It’s a huge outdoor food fair, with vendors from all around the City. Right now it’s Smorg to Go—a downsized, take-out version of the usual. Most of the food is small plates, so it’s a good place to go for a snack between meals. Vendors change weekly.
Rough Trade: I stopped here after Smorg to Go, and would’ve stayed longer if I hadn’t been waiting to eat my lunch. Rough Trade is the biggest record store in NYC, and it’s kind of like Strand for me—I can stay there a very long time, walking around adding to my list of music to check out. It’s usually a venue too. The Rough Trade record label also has a really interesting, somewhat tumultuous history, which I won’t get into here. I feel a little uncomfortable about the fact that I complain about hipsters whilst touting a record shop in Williamsburg from a label whose artists include The Smiths, The Strokes, and Sufjan Stevens. But I’m constantly doing things that are seemingly incompatible with my own opinions, so here’s to cognitive dissonance.
Waterside: I walked along the water from Bushwick Inlet (right up near Rough Trade) down to Domino Park, which overlooks the East River and has one of the best views of the Manhattan skyline. It’s a good place for pictures, in addition to being a great place to sit and think. There are wooden recliners by the water, and a ton of green space. Very calming, and in my experience conducive to productivity. I went back later to watch the sunset and literally almost cried. The sun sets directly above the Manhattan skyline, and it’s truly indescribable.
Lunch: Gertie: Back over towards the highway to Gertie NYC. It feels like a little beach shack, but in a very colorful, poppy way. The food is incredible—menu is a mix of American classics (burgers and hot dogs) and random vaguely earthy crunchy but fairly unhealthy wild cards, like tempura fried vegetables. Currently, they’re only open on weekends and are not taking reservations.
Dinner: Lighthouse BK: Beautiful, Farm-to-Table, Mediterranean / new American plates. There’s a lot going on here. I usually order a bunch of small stuff—it’s not very expensive, and there are a ton of really great sides and appetizers. Good variety in that they have kid-friendly stuff like burgers and fries, vegan options, and more exotic things (not even exotic, just not typical American bar food).
Dinner 2: Vera Cruz: Really solid, classic Mexican restaurant. Nothing particularly special about it, except I guess there is because it’s my favorite Mexican place in the area. They have a pretty basic menu, but food and drinks are always good, service is fast, and there’s a sweet little garden patio out back (in addition to street seating).
Dinner 3: Shalom Japan: Just another option. I did not go here the other day…that would have actually been an obscene amount of food, and I was being hyperbolic when I said it was like I had swallowed a tapeworm. But I recommend Shalom Japan—a Jewish-Japanese fusion spot that calls itself “authentically inauthentic”. It’s pretty unanimously highly-rated, and reasonably priced. They have more *classic* options, like matzoh ramen, in addition to stuff like gefilte takoyaki.
Thrift shopping: I stopped at various thrifts throughout the day. I flat out love thrifting. It’s in my blood—my father has said he wants “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore played at his funeral. So I have a lot of experience with secondhand shops. Williamsburg is one of my favorite areas for thrifting, second only to the East Village. I particularly love Beacon’s Closet (very popular, very big). L Train Vintage, The Attic Vintage, and Awoke Vintage are cool too, but not super cheap and not really thrift shops. For example, Awoke Vintage is a very stylish Williamsburg-y vintage shop more than it is a thrift, and they have dresses that are like sixty dollars. Not your hometown Goodwill. Beacon’s Closet is cheaper, and where I usually spend the most time shopping in the neighborhood. I’ve also found a lot of treasures in random, dingy little thrifts all around the area. Mother of Junk (no website) is a fun if overwhelming indoor flea market that does indeed have a huge amount of junk, and some of it is good junk.
Kava Social: I first tried this one the other day, my last stop of the night. I had been meaning to go for a while, having spent a lot of time at Kavasutra in the EV. Kava Social and Kavasutra are kava (and kratom) bars. Kava is an herbal remedy, native to the Pacific Islands, which has relaxing and slightly euphoric effects, in addition to being a muscle relaxant and natural analgesic. It’s a fairly subtle buzz, but definitely an interesting feeling. Kratom has some commonalities with kava, but is a little more euphoric and just has a different feel. Difficult to explain the high, because it’s subtle, but it is an opioid agonist, although it is not an opiate.
I enjoy both kava and kratom a lot. Disclaimer—this stuff tastes like shit and kratom tea has a strange, powdery texture. You are absolutely not drinking it for the taste. It’s not nauseatingly bad, in my opinion, just somewhat unpleasant. They do flavor it to make it go down easier. To give you an idea of what the taste is like, kava kind of tastes like dirt and kratom tastes like really bitter green tea. But it’s a good time. Best on an empty stomach, although if you get sick easily you might want to bring some dramamine. Not because of the taste—kava and kratom are both known to cause nausea. Reading back over this I made the stuff sound literally TERRIBLE, but it’s not. I admit that I don’t mind bitter or otherwise intense tastes; still, Kava Social seems to get a lot of business and is highly-rated, so don’t be dissuaded by me focusing on the negative. It’s a cool feeling and if you haven’t been before, something new to try.
*Brooklyn Brewery is also a great option, usually…they’re still open for shopping, but tours aren’t running at the moment.
Honestly, my favorite thing to do in Williamsburg is walk—I found my way to nearly every corner in the neighborhood, starting and ending at the Bedford Avenue L train stop. It’s a strange time to be in the City and an even stranger time to be alive, but Brooklyn is thriving and more open than ever.