Where to Eat, Sleep, and Play in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
There's a lot more to Brooklyn than what's been brought to light by Millennial-favored shows like Girls. But, if you are on the search for young creative types, converted artists' lofts, hip coffee joints, and vintage thrift shops, then Williamsburg will deliver. As BK's ultimate hipper-than-thou locale, the northern neighborhood is chock-a-block with all things trendy. Here, our go-to eats, sleeps, drinks, and sights—as well as what to wear.
A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.
This past July, restaurateurs Phillip Cho and Anna Lee turned traditional Korean BBQ on its head with NYC's first bacon omakase menu. Belly, their casual pork-centric restaurant and subterranean karaoke bar, has become a neighborhood favorite with a fun five-course tasting menu that's far from buttoned-up (think like bacon sushi and carpacio and Korean chicharron).
There's a lot to love about this three-story South Williamsburg restaurant, but for now, we'll cap it to wood-burning ovens, an intimate rooftop garden, and an airy open kitchen from Michelin-starred Atera alum, chef Jaime Young. Breakfast, brunch, dinner, and all day menus are innovative, with plates like scallop crudo (green apple, enoki mushroom, yuzu, and white sesame butter) and toasted porcini and chanterelle buns with raclette cheese.
Peter Luger may have a hip address—cushioned between a BK-based designer clothing store and a joint cocktail/cigar lounge—but it debuted in 1887, far before the nabe found its trendy footing. Today, the James Beard award recipient rocks a wood-paneled dining room, lined with German steins, which features a menu of USDA prime steaks, all dry-aged on-site. Our pick is the criminally under-billed “steak for two” (it can actually feed upwards of three), which comes with a gravy boat of PL's homemade old-fashioned steak sauce.
This modern Japanese eatery slings "free-style" dishes that marry tradition and innovation. Named after an old Japanese phrase that means "all or nothing," the all-white eatery (like astonishingly all-white) delivers expertly executed tekami, crudo, noodle dishes, and more.
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The all-balcony boutique William Vale made a splash when it debuted in the heart of Williamsburg last year. The flashy skyscraper’s contemporary rooms and suites are all about floor-to-ceiling windows, while public outdoor spaces are at a surprising premium. The hotel is home to BK's largest pool, and Vale Park—a 15,000-foot elevated promenade with plenty of green space, arresting views, and Mister Dips—a 1947 Airstream that serves up burgers, fries, and a seasonal rotation of ice cream. The William Vale’s other culinary ventures—all from chef Andrew Carmellini (of The Dutch), include Leuca, a Southern Italian restaurant (heavy on homemade pasta and wood-fired pizza), and Westlight, a 22nd-floor alfresco lounge.
This industrial-chic bolthole is a showstopping force of steel, brick and glass. Inside The Williamsburg’s walls, 150 loft-like guestrooms are all white-washed timber walls, brass fixtures, and floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto balconies overlooking the city skyline. But it’s over-the-top amenities that are the real game changer: we’re talking a chauffeured tuk-tuk, veggie-centric restaurant, rooftop pool, and three watering holes, including a subterranean lounge and a secret cocktail bar hidden in its water tower.
Formerly a sugar-barrel factory, the Wythe’s industrial aesthetic nods to its roots with details like original brick, reclaimed wood ceilings and cast-iron columns, and handmade wallpaper (sourced from local artisans). Seventy rooms and lofts are done up with custom-made beds, Goldies bath products, and REVO radios, but rather than spend all their time there, guests oft flock to the 6th-floor rooftop bar to sip cocktails and take in views of the Empire State Building. Then, it's off to dinner at Reynard, where farm-to-table fare like New York-raised lamb is roasted in a wood-burning oven.
Pod Hotels—a micro-hotel chain with locations in Manhattan and Washington D.C.—is back with its latest outpost: Pod BK. The Polish-built modular property features 249 rooms (each 60- to 120-square feet) with bunk beds, high-tech amenities, oversized windows, and a whole bunch of built-in storage, as well as more than 10,000-square feet of communal indoor and outdoor space. Situated on Metropolitan Ave, not far from the Bedford Ave L stop, Pod BK offers a prime location within 5-minutes’ walking distance of bars (Maison Premiere), comedy clubs (Knitting Factory Brooklyn), boutique shops (Catbird), and restaurants (Juliette).
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At Loosie Rouge, a New Orleans-inspired watering hole in South Williamsburg, sleek Scandinavian accents come head to head with mid-century modern design. The homey bar serves up an on-point Creole menu alongside cocktails crafted with house-made syrups and custom-infused liquors. If you’re looking for a lively scene, there’s Mr. Piano Man—“piano melodies to ease the Monday blues”—every Monday; Lyricist Club—aka open mic night—on Wednesdays; and open jam sessions with the Ben Rice Trio on Sundays.
A former pool supply store turned California-esque bar (think: lots of outdoor space, paper lanterns, and a parked-out-back food truck), Union Pool never fails to attract a crowd. Why? The spacious, DJ-driven joint hawks cheap PBRs, loads of tequila, and El Diablo tacos.
Outfitted with mismatched vinyl bar stools, Willie Nelson portraiture, vintage neon beer signs, and patriotic bald eagle ephemera, Skinny Dennis is Brooklyn’s take on a honky tonk saloon. Named for a gone-too-soon country bassist, the wood-panelled spot hosts nightly performances from blues, alt-country, and rock ‘n’ roll bands and offers a slew of cheap brews like Lone Star and Tecate.
Lest you think that Williamsburg is all gritty dives and Millennial-frequented “it” spots, let us introduce Maison Premiere, a brooding, hotel-inspired oyster house and cocktail den. The atmospheric lounge could easily pass for a Parisian establishment with bartenders in three-piece suits, tin fleur-de-lis walls, and the largest selection of absinthe in the city.
SEE + DO
See Stand-Up and Bowl at Gutter Bar
Gutter Bar has all the hallmarks of our favorite old-school dives (and a few arguable upgrades): locally-crafted brews, sticker- and sharpie-graffitied bathrooms, worn pool tables, a backroom venue that hosts all sorts of shows, and an eight-lane hardwood bowling alley. While you can drop by any night for a game, we suggest Wednesday so post ten pin, you can catch "Comedians You Should Know," a $5 show that brings some of the country's best stand-up comedians to the stage.
Shop at Catbird and Concrete + Water
Williamsburg is a really good place to be if you’re in the mood to shop. Bedford Ave has boutiques aplenty, but we always head straight for Catbird, a fine jewelry shop that’s the source of our favorite delicate rings, necklaces, and bracelets. Just a block over—on Driggs Ave— Concrete + Water’s brick and mortar beckons with men's and women's apparel, homewares, and more in a bright, plant-laden space.
Catch a Show at Brooklyn Bowl
Brooklyn Bowl is one of the Burg's favorite haunts thanks to a coveted trifecta of cocktails, bowling, and live music. Monday through Sunday there’s always something going on—be it a Shania Twain dance party (the hits and deep cuts), a holiday party hosted by DJ Questlove, or a high-octane brass band performance.
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