From Hipster to Chic, Williamsburg's Best Eats, Shops and Nightlife

From Hipster to Chic, Williamsburg's Best Eats, Shops and Nightlife

In the early 2000s, Williamsburg, Brooklyn was best known for being at the forefront of the ubiquitous “hipster” movement. The scene has cooled off a bit since then, and shiny new high-rises have been popping up like mushrooms, but between the chain stores and glass condos, there’s still tons of cool shopping, restaurants and nightlife worth checking out. You'd better get there soon, though--after April 2019 the L train will be shut down for long-term repairs, making Williamsburg completely inaccessible by subway for a year or more. 

Photo: @837nyc

With so many incredible eating options in this neighborhood, it's hard to know where to start. Photo:@837nyc

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Williamsburg has a great number of tasty restaurants, ranging from roll-out-of-bed brunch to of-the-moment dinner spots that require a reservation. Use this heatmap by Eater to look at 17 of the best options in the area. For lunch, it’s a no-brainer: Saltie (378 Metropolitan), a tiny sandwich shop tucked into a busy strip on Metropolitan offers up addictive options like the Ship’s Biscuit (soft scrambled egg and ricotta) and an Iced New England (cold brew, homemade almond milk & maple syrup.) Great dinner options are everywhere and it will undoubtedly be hard to choose. Although Peter Luger is the OG of steakhouses, St. Anselm is an updated, quality grill house that feels more casual. They don't accept reservations and you may be in for a wait, but it will be worth it. Lilia (567 Union Ave.), an Italian restaurant in a gorgeous airy space, is a must for a hearty bowl of Cacio e Pepe, a glass of chianti, and the satisfaction of a worthwhile reservation. Around the corner is Llama Inn (50 Withers St.), a Peruvian restaurant with adventurous spice and food combinations in a Brutalist-lite space with an open kitchen and a glass wall covered with greenery. You’ll want to spend a long night here with old friends drinking Pisco. Chef Andrew Tarlow has taken over the Brooklyn food scene with chill restaurants that strike a chord between trendy and relaxed. Diner (85 Broadway) exemplifies this with a delicious menu that changes daily, with the exception of their incredible burger, available at all times.

Shop ‘Til You Drop

You can shop for everything from records to a new wardrobe in Williamsburg--a plethora of home goods stores in the area makes for easy gift getting. This holiday season, support small businesses by shopping the neighborhood spots for unique and useful goods ranging from quirky to clever.  

This hard cider kit is the gift that keeps on giving. ($40) Photo: @whisknyc

Whisk (231 Bedford Ave.) is the perfect place for all your kitchen gadgets. They’ve got racks and racks of whisks, wooden spoons, blenders and toasters. But for gift giving, you can’t go wrong with dazzling with a Le Crueset Dutch oven. For a loved one whose passion is cooking, a crisp work apron can fit the bill. For everyone else, there are DIY kits ranging from beer to kombucha that will inspire even the most hopeless makers.

Nothing says festive like a set of Old Fashioned Game Glasses. ($59) Photo: A & G Merch

A & G Merch (111 N. 6th St.) literally has it all here, whether you’re in the market for a new sofa or a deck of playing cards. The whimsy of a whale cookie jar, octopus stacking mugs or gold statues of animals would all make treasured presents. Unusual ornaments like sparkly reindeers or a giant pickle are just the things to bring to a holiday party for the host. Or for someone building up their barware, a set of handsome gold trimmed fox glasses might be just the thing.

Don't worry about your New Years bubbly. This Concrete Top Hat will keep it cold. ($95) Photo: Beam

Beam (240 Kent Ave.), a modern goods store, is filled with lighting, pillows, furniture, and artistic knick-knacks that would improve any apartment. Jackson Pollock-inspired dinnerware is a great big ticket item, a hotwater bottle and candle would be a self-care treat for a friend, or some sweet tea towels for someone who loves to entertain. A concrete top hat ice bucket is just the thing for that New Years party.

Transform your tree into a winter wonderland with these adorable ornaments. ($15) Photo: Change & Co.

Change & Co (226 Grand St.) is a curated shop of vintage and one of a kind objects. Shopping here allows you to take advantage of an interior designer’s eye, from wall decorations to tablescapes. Inside the store is a wall of animal heads, a row of fancy dish soap (great hostess gift!), gold silverware bundles, and cuddly holiday ornaments. A gorgeous serving bowl or long marble cheese board would be the perfect gift for a dinner party, or an eco-friendly dipped basket for someone who needs extra storage in their life.

A vintage microscope for $45 could be a perfect gift for a young scientist you know. Photo: Brooklyn Reclamation

Brooklyn Reclamation (676 Driggs Ave.) is an industrial mid-century furnishings shop that sells “reclaimed, recycled and repurposed” items where unusual items sit next to the utilitarian. This is where you come to find an oversized vintage anatomy poster of an earthworm or a box of vintage ink stamps. For those people on your holiday list who you have no idea what to buy, this store will give you plenty of ideas. For the right person, a vintage kids microscope will be the perfect thing!

For anyone on your list who already has everything, you can find something special here. Like these ashtray hands. ($375) Photo: Open Air Market

Open Air Modern (489 Lorimer St.), a 20th century design and restored vintage shop, is for the customer who is willing to throw down a thousand dollars on a set of mid-century wastebaskets. There are options for those of us with a thinner budget, however. A sweet 1960’s water pitcher, some 1980s pink ashtray hands or a Murano glass candy dish would all be interesting gifts for the serious collector in your life.

Beware The Ides of the William Vale! The view is mesmerizing. Photo: The William Vale

No Sleep Till Brooklyn

Trendy hotels are popping up all over Brooklyn quicker than we can keep up. But in a tiny area of Williamsburg, these hotels are worth a visit even if you don’t lay your head on the high thread count pillow. Wythe Hotel (80 Wythe Ave.) was one of the first and opened in 2012 in a converted 116-year-old factory building. The first floor houses Reynard (another Andrew Tarlow restaurant) and a radio lounge hosting events like the Cannabis Film Festival. On the 6th floor, there’s The Ides, a swank roof bar with a killer view. The William Vale Hotel (111 N. 12th St.) is the most eye-catching hotel in the mix, an architectural feat that looks straight out of Dubai. With cultural events like a Soundbath or Science Speed Dating, the hotel offers the community a unique calendar of events. Stop by Leuca, its elegant Italian restaurant; Westlight, a 22-story roof bar with the ultimate view, or the seasonal Mister Dips, an Airstream offering up burgers and ice treats. Situated right on the park, McCarren Hotel and Pool (160 N. 12th St.) is a quaint looking building with a casual Thai restaurant below and a rooftop pool and bar on top that pours cocktails focusing on local distilleries. The WIlliamsburg Hotel (96 Wythe Ave.) is making its mark as a luxe boutique hotel catering to their guests every need, including offering chauffeured tuk tuks. Currently, the hotel offers up delicious breakfast and high tea at the restaurant, Harvey, and upon completion there will be three distinct bars, including an over the top, elevated Watertower Bar where guests will get the ultimate Brooklyn experience of sipping cocktails in an actual watertower.

Support local bands at one of the many places in Williamsburg to see live music. Photo: @knittingfactorybk

Check Out Live Music

Although people complain about the lack of good music venues in NYC, there are many in Williamsburg. One of the best places for discovering new music is Baby's All Right (146 Broadway), an elegant space opened by two bookers from Pianos in Manhattan. Union Pool (484 Union Ave.) is a long-standing dive bar with consistently great bookings of local and upcoming talent. The legendary Knitting Factory (361 Metropolitan Ave.) moved to Williamsburg from Manhattan years ago, and continues to be a solid bet for checking out music and comedy. If you like a little more action with your concerts, Brooklyn Bowl (61 Wythe Ave.) allows you to bowl, eat good food, and see music. Sunnyvale (1031 Grand St.) is a community multipurpose space with space for live music and drinking, otherwise known as giving the people exactly what they want in a venue.

You can dance if you want to...and depending what type of music you're into, there's a club for you. Photo: @bembebrooklyn

Dance all night

The cabaret laws have been repealed and dancing is once again allowed in NYC if you can find somewhere to go. Output (74 Wythe Ave.), a converted warehouse in a central location, is exactly what one might look for in a dance club. Enormous dance floor, a roof deck, neon lights, and house and techno music make this a go-to for dancing til the wee hours. If you’re looking for something more like a house party, Kinfolk 94 (94 Wythe Ave.) is a geodesic dome multi-use space that opened in 2011. Weekends find lines of dressed up revelers behind a velvet rope, DJs spinning from above and plenty of space to boogie down in the architectural dream. For more of a Latin American vibe, Bembe (81 S. 6th St.) keeps things hot with tropical drinks and global DJs that range from Afrobeats to Salsa, often with live accompaniment.

Best Bar Crawl Ever

Weekends are when the neighborhood really kicks into gear. Whether you want something high class or pure dive, there’s a bar for every occasion.

Trophy Bar is the kind of bar you want to give a prize to. Photo: Trophy Bar

Trophy Bar (351 Broadway), situated off the beaten path, is where you go for dark tables, a good jukebox and choice drinks including many beers on tap. They call themselves “a destination for anyone looking for maximum fun and minimum attitude.” In the event that you’ve imbibed straight through dinner, they serve up greasy food like Grilled Cheese or Nachos to coat the stomach.

A bright bar to lighten up your date night. Photo: Donna

Donna (27 Broadway) is the perfect date spot with shared small plates, unusual cocktails, and a late night lounge. Created by Leif Young Huckman (Freemans, Santos Party House, Marlow & Sons), there’s no doubt that the atmosphere would be impeccable. The domed ceilings give off a Mediterranean vibe, and the cocktails (like Lion on the Beach, a mixture of gin and pamplemousse, elderflower, coconut and lemon) will have you and your plus-one feeling like you’ve left town for the weekend.

Candlelight and pinup paintings make for a sexy atmosphere at Bar Below Rye. Photo: Rye 

Bar Below Rye (247 S. 1st St.) is a tiny cavernous bar under the restaurant Rye with a speakeasy vibe that will impress out of town guests, but is chill enough to not intimidate them. Low wood ceilings, pin up paintings, and DJs spinning soothing tunes makes a sexy space for good conversation. Grab an old fashioned, and settle in. You can also order from the upstairs Rye menu if hunger arises.

Cocktails are on the menu at Fresh Kills Bar.Photo: @freshkillsbar

If you’re a fan of LIC Dutch Kills, then you’ll also like Fresh Kills Bar (161 Grand St.) by the same owner. The Williamsburg branch serves the same type of spectacular and simple cocktails, made with fresh ingredients, homemade syrups with top shelf liquors in a welcoming space. Choose a booth and order a Dragon’s Breath, a United Service Punch or a Velvet Glove.

It's chill enough to be your home away from home. Photo: Metropolitan

Metropolitan (559 Lorimer St.) is the best laid-back gay bar in the city. It opened in 2002 and keeps guests coming in with a daily happy hour that runs from 3pm-8pm with 2-for-1 drinks. A big draw in the summer is the enormous outdoor backyard that calls for long lazy days of drinking and annual barbecues. But the winter months are also fine inside with a pool table and a spot to warm up next to a roaring fireplace.  

Turkeys Nest Tavern is the best old school dive bar in Williamsburg. Photo: @greenpointers

Turkey’s Nest Tavern (94 Bedford Ave.) is an authentic dive bar with cheap drinks, an eclectic crowd, and a cash-only policy. There are ubiquitous televisions tuned to the game, a pool table out back and a friendly bartender pouring beer. Whether you’re 20 or 80, there’s a seat for you at the bar and a cheap beer ready for the drinking.

Brooklyn, We Gram Hard