Now that I’ve lived here for two years, I finally feel like I can dole out some solid recommendations for my own neighborhood.
Williamsburg is a popular weekend “trip” for people in the city. Whether you’re trekking in from upper Manhattan, walking across the bridge from lower Manhattan, or braving the G train from south Brooklyn, Williamsburg is an easy place to spend half a day or a full day or hey, maybe even a couple if you venture beyond Bedford.
The best bits of Williamsburg are rather scattered. But the neighborhood is small enough though full of easy distractions, cluttered but walkable. There’s a lot of good stuff, but a lot of mediocre stuff too. It’s convenient, everything you need just a short walk away. But it still feels like a neighborhood (unlike other commercialized parts of Brooklyn). It’s so close to the city and yet feels like a world away, safe from the next level chaos across the water. It’s gentrified. Filled with hip transplants (the true hipsters have moved further in). It’s getting made over year after year. More and more brands popping up and more and more staying. But, at least for now, there’s still some grit mixed with the gloss, there’s still some local mixed with the cosmopolitan, and there’s new culture thriving in the neighborhood.
A weekend in Williamsburg is easy. The formula is simple, a meal, a drink situation, walking around, shopping. Swap out shopping for errands and it works as well for a local as it does for a visitor. Williamsburg is great for aimlessly wandering, for having a day without plans, solo or with friends. Anyways, here’s how I’d spend a day in the neighborhood.
*as in east of the BQE, but west of Bushwick Ave bc as much as we love it, we all know “East Williamsburg” is just a real estate scam:)
Three very different vibes, but all excellent choices. Okonomi does beautifully composed Japanese breakfast bentos all day (and ramen at night). Win Son (the bakery, which is open all day) combines Taiwanese traditions with New York favorites (I mean, who wouldn’t love a bacon egg and cheese on scallion pancakes?) and also has a nice pastry case and coffee and tea bar for a quick bite. Edith’s has two locations, a Sandwich Counter for loaded Israeli style bagels and sandwiches (get the coffee tahini slushie while you’re at it), and an Eatery and Grocer as the sit down concept for more of a brunchy lunchy situation. Lella Alimentari is an Italian cafe and mini grocer that specializes in piadine (Italian flatbread sandwiches), with a take out window and casual
Get it to go and then go walk around.
While north Williamsburg is becoming Soho-lite, the east side does have some originals worth checking out while you’re in the area.
Yun Hai: a new Taiwanese boutique grocer that carries classic Taiwanese pantry staples like soy paste and black sesame oil. The shop is small but well-curated, partnering with small producers and farmers to showcase quality Taiwanese goods and share the culture here in New York.
Home Union: all your instagram tastemakers probably follow them, and their showroom doesn’t disappoint with mid century pieces to drool over, plus some original lifestyle goods that exude Brooklyn cool
Dobbin St Vintage Co-Op: ok this one isn’t really an original, there’s one that is actually off Dobbin St in Greenpoint, but this is a solid outpost for vintage furniture and always worth popping in even if you’re not in the market for anything.
Salt Lizard: a true antique shop with art, decor and furniture collected from a variety of cultures and styles
Casa Ziki: an eclectic gift-slash-lifestyle goods shop, the kind of place where you can pick up fun candles and kitschy tableware for a dinner party
Tangerine: a local lifestyle and concept store hyper-curated with an eye for design, go here for one of a kind, artistic finds in a minimal space that almost feels out of place in this neighborhood until you realize that these are the Brooklyn cool girls with money
Nomia: ok this one feels actually really random and out of place on this side of the BQE, a street-cool minimalist womenswear brand flagship, a stark contrast among butcher shops, copy shops, nondescript restaurants and corner stores on Metropolitan.
— Hanon: a tiny, easy-to-miss Japanese restaurant specializing in udon
— Campbell Cheese & Grocery: a very well-curated corner store filled with everything you never knew you needed, great for a coffee break but also with great sandwiches if you want to make it a lunch break
— Anthony & Son Panini Shoppe: a classic deli sandwich counter that is an excellent take out option to bring to McCarren
— Palenque: a casual Colombian restaurant that often has live music on the weekends
There’s no shortage of coffee options in this neighborhood, so you don’t have to go far for a quality pick me up. Land to Sea is a new-ish Asian-owned cafe and community space that serves coffee, tea and Chinese pastries and is a great spot to hang out for a while with indoor and outdoor seats. Fortunato Brothers is an old school Italian American bakery and the perfect stop for something sweet. As You Like is the cafe sister to Okonomi (literally the English translation of Okonomi) – with great coffee and Japanese tea drinks (matcha, hojicha, etc) as well as local ceramics to drool over.
The natural answer that any restaurant list will give you for this part of town would be Bonnie’s, a modern Cantonese restaurant that has been the buzzy place ever since it opened in 2021. So if you have a reservation or want to try your luck with a walk in and sit at the bar, that’s always an option. Or you can go for the tried and true option, the always popular Kings Co, which serves up a good mix of Chinese American and classic Chinese fare with not so classic cocktails — surprisingly legit flavor profiles considering the hip crowd it draws. If you’re looking for something that is less of a scene, it’s time to venture just past the BQE. Leo is a sourdough pizza and natural wine spot that is always pretty full on weekend nights but still manages to be casual. For a reliable walk in option, go to Tabaré, a Uruguayan Italian restaurant that feels like a party. Just be sure to bring cash because they’re cash only.
Keep a safe distance from the crowds around Bedford. Because let’s be real, if you were looking for a scene, you would be going out in Manhattan. So keep things casual, grab some friends and hang at Talea with a beer flight. End your night at The Commodore, sitting on pool chairs and eating nachos.
(aka what most people think of when they think of williamsburg)
Come early. There will probably be a line. Get a croissant, or several (and maybe a chausson aux pommes). And some bread (the pavé is perfect).
Then get some coffee. You have options. Devocion is a Brooklyn institution, now with some locations around the city, but they have great roasts and excellent nitro cold brew, and a generous space to lounge. Shop is the cool art director choice: formerly (Sweat)shop, this cafe is where you go to show you have taste. Their coffee is good, but space is small so best to grab and go. Oslo is another solid local roaster. There’s two locations in Williamsburg, grab a bag of beans while you’re at it. PPL is a very cute plant-filled Japanese coffee shop that also has excellent matcha and hojicha lattes. Anyways, take your pick, get it to go and
It’s better in the morning before it gets crowded, walk along the water. Grab a table and eat your pastries and drink your coffee and marvel at this sparkly city as it wakes up.
I mean, ok North Williamsburg is totally becoming Soho, but at least it’s not as hectic. Some of my usual stops (places that either only exist here or are just a better location):
Don’t go to Joe’s Pizza or The Butcher’s Daughter. You’re already here. Get something different. Gertie gives heavy west LA vibes in the sunny bright colors, and has not only great sandwiches and salads and bagels and Jewish fare, but also great pastries and day drinking drink options. Great option for sitting outside on a sunny day. Fan Fried Rice Bar is a newer addition to the neighborhood, a recent transplant that used to be a takeout storefront in Bedstuy now a roomier restaurant still serving up legit street-style Taiwanese fried rice (now, also at Williamsburg prices lolol). Pies & Thighs is a little out of the way (though conveniently located right by the pedestrian entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge if you need to walk off the meal) but a very popular comfort food spot for fried chicken and biscuits and pies. Occupying a small corner footprint with a few tables outside, Noods & Chill is an underrated family-owned Thai restaurant that has classic noodle dishes and some less commonly found street food and home style specials. Or if you just want a quick and cute bite, grab a sandwich and snacks at Deppanneur, like a corner store for the elite.
The classic local activity: hanging out in the bland park we have (I mean, it’s fine but it’s no Central Park or Prospect Park). But it is a nice place to people and dog watch. Grab some Japanese pastries, cakes and cookies at Patisserie Tomoko. Or maybe some vegan pastries at Terms of Endearment. Or some Turkish pastries and coffee at Lion’s Milk. Or go for the classics at Martha’s Country Bakery (so loved they even have two locations in the neighborhood). Then go find a table or lay out at McCarren.
Everyone knows Grand Street is where it’s at. Bedford is for the teens. Domino Park is for the tourists. The best place to hang and shop local is along Grand Street. My favorite stops:
Great for a pre-dinner cocktail because if you come at like 7 there will be a line. This is the kind of place where you describe what you like and they’ll make a drink for you, btw. So it’s that kind of vibe.
Williamsburg is great at places that are worth the hype and yet still feel understated and casual like you don’t need to mentally hype yourself up just to go to dinner (no? just me and my anxiety?). I can’t imagine what it would be like if Bar Beau or The Four Horsemen were in Manhattan, it’s already a little crazy here. Bar Beau is either a restaurant with a great cocktail menu or a bar with great (& creative, and beautifully plated) food. The Four Horsemen is straight up a wine bar with Michelin recognized food. So you truly can’t go wrong either way. Both are perfect ways to end a weekend in Williamsburg.
and no matter when you end your day, whether glistening in sunshine or glittering at night, be sure to take some time to stare at this wondrous city.