Lucky for me, my daughter has an apartment in Williamsburg with room for me! I’ve been spending a good amount of time there, and it’s the perfect juxtaposition to my rural life (yup, no bears or bobcats in Brooklyn!). It also makes for a great weekend getaway, with lovely hotels, shopping, restaurants, and people watching.
You could spend WEEKS eating out every day in Williamsburg and not cover it all. There are plenty of well-known spots (Peter Luger, St. Anselm, Illia, The Four Horsemen) that you’ll find in every guide, but I’m offering up a few of my favorites:
I’d head here just for the name, and the place lives up to it! The sister restaurant to the Meat Hook, a popular nose-to-tail butcher shop, Cozy Royale is a go-to and not just for meat. It’s got a nostalgic vibe (Cosmos, dirty martinis, and Negronis are on the drinks menu) but an oh-so-current grasp on what we want to eat. The menu is odd but interesting, typical of how to stand out in over-restaurant-populated Williamsburg. We took a seat at an outdoor table and ordered up house-made “sticky little sausages” (so scrumptious), a plate of smoked mussels in garlicky broth served with crazy delish sourdough, and a burrata/heirloom tomato Panzanella salad (with toasted chunks of that sourdough) that I could eat every single day. I hear the hamburger is the best around, so we’ll be back for that and pretty much everything else on the menu. Interesting wine list, too.
Here you’ll find fresh takes on dishes you’ve eaten (and loved before) with a pan-Asian influence. It’s umami-central, with carefully considered ingredients, served up snack-style (which is just the way I like to eat). Plates here are meant to be shared. A large serving of cold sesame tofu noodles had all the flavors of the dish you know and love but none of the heaviness due to the use of dashi rice noodles and lots of vegetables. Fresh and spicy. Do not miss the roasted pork sticky rice with pork belly, Chinese sausage, and egg. Start with the sushi rice crisps topped with furikake, which gives French fries a whole new meaning. I love the interior here, with an expansive bar, but if you’re more comfortable with outdoor seating, there’s plenty of that too. Make reservations. https://www.beaubrooklyn.com
We stopped at this adorable spot for brunch on a warm day and cooled ourselves with fresh, fruit-filled rose sangria while we watched tantalizing dishes of plate-sized hash browns and eggs whiz by. The service is fast and friendly but not rushed, so plenty of time for people-watching (currently my favorite activity in Brooklyn). My daughter races here for their fried chicken salad, which to me sounds like an oxymoron, but no! Chunks of crispy chicken on top of a mound of fresh greens does make for a lovely lunch. My quiche arrived studded with tomatoes and bacon and a wonderful buttery crust.
Go early; it fills up fast. Outdoor and indoor seating.
Mainly we love to eat in small neighborhood joints, but my daughter and I cannot resist full-on French. This heavenly spot has a gorgeous garden, plus indoor socially distanced seating in an airy dining room. You absolutely can’t go wrong with a classic menu, including Parisian sausage, oeuf mayonnaise, and oysters for starters; roast chicken, trout almondine, and blanquette de veau for mains, all plated beautifully and served with care. Great for a celebration of any sort.
image courtesy of Le Crocodile
image courtesy of Le Crocodile
If you’re feeling peckish in the late afternoon (the hour of l’apero according to the French), Bar Blondeau is your spot. This stunning space that just opened on the 6th floor of the Wythe hotel offers up cocktails (a full menu of alcohol-free versions, too) and an intriguing card of smallish plates, all with a dramatic view of the Manhattan skyline. Sit inside or out, and nibble on salmon rilletes with a plate-sized flax cracker, gooey raclette with crisp toasts, or, for something a bit lighter, a dish of smoked mussels. While all the cocktails looked good, on this warm evening, we both went for surprising versions of frozen libations. I absolutely LOVED the Pan Am: sparkling rose, tequila, lemon oil, Aperol, watermelon, and a hint of cayenne. Wow. https://www.barblondeau.com
You can’t beat Bakeri for breakfast (or anything else). This charming shop offers all manner of fresh breads, pastries, croissants, plus wonders like savory tartines, scrambled eggs and trout, and breakfast kasha. Gluten-free treats, sandwiches, and salads for lunch, too.
image courtesy of Bakeri
A bit out of the way, but a sweet neighborhood spot for a late afternoon herbal slushy or evening sauvignon blanc with an interesting array of cheese and charcuterie, in the back garden. Laptops and lazy afternoons encouraged here.
286 Graham Ave
Talea Beer Company
There is no shortage of breweries in Williamsburg, but this one stands out from the crowd. Co-founded by a pair of female MBA’s, their aim was to craft and market beer that was not quite so macho. From the super-cool branding to the spacious and chic brewery, they won me over, and I am no beer-drinker. I loved the fruit-forward tastings (especially the passionfruit popsicle dunked in a glass of tropic berry tart deco!). A fun afternoon stop, inside or out.
Talea Beer Co. 87 Richardson Street
Determined to get our steps in after our indulgent brunch, we made our way to McCarren Park and then to the Brooklyn Flea for some vintage shopping. Williamsburg is a magnet for vintage aficionados, and the corner of Bedford and Nassau is bustling with racks of Hawaiian shirts (yes, it’s a thing) and stacks of used Levi’s. Vintage shops are everywhere in the ‘burg, but this corner sports a bevy of them.
A stack of rugs peeking out of a wide doorway caught my attention. This chic shop is only open on Sundays and worth a trip if you’re on the hunt for a rug (which I always seem to be). The carpets are designed in Brooklyn and handmade in India. Crafted from 80 wool/20 cotton, the bright patterns mix ancient techniques with a modern aesthetic. Check out the website here:
I loved the high/low glam of Designers Collab, an airy shop on the corner of The masterful merchandisers here have created a haven for those on the hunt for globally sourced home decor, furniture, artisan jewelry, and small-batch candles and treats for skin and body.
You’ll want to spend some time in this venerated gift shop on Grand Street. Let’s just say I coveted pretty much everything, from candles to pillows to apothecary to bags to ceramics and block-printed tablecloths. Everything is artfully arranged in a muted palette. You don’t get quite the same experience online, but have a look: https://www.leifshop.com. A must-see.
Get inked with no regrets: I’m wholeheartedly anti-tattoo, but Ephemeral Tattoo at 111 North 5th Street has piqued my interest. These artist-created medical-grade inks are made to fade in a year! https://ephemeral.tattoo
Lovers of delicate jewels and those on the hunt for wedding and engagement rings should stop by Catbird on Bedford Ave. A cozy annex is by appointment only (or zoom) for a more personal experience when choosing that lifetime ring. https://www.catbirdnyc.com/our-locations
image courtesy of Catbird
I just loved it here, from the vintagey wallpaper to the floor-to-ceiling window and elegant room service coffee on a silver tray! High ceilings make the rooms feel super spacious, and chic black and white bathrooms with Turkish towels and Goldie’s products provide a luxe touch.
I stayed here the moment I got vaccinated, and sadly, nothing was open, including their outdoor spaces. The rooms are fresh and lovely, but it would be difficult to objectively review the hotel without experiencing any of the amenities. Sprawling and comfy lobby to sit and send emails.
The main drag of North 6th street is where you’ll find mass(ish) merchandisers like Warby Parker, Madewell (and Madewell men’s), Marine Layer, Everlane, Buck Mason, and Parachute Home.
Traipse down car-free Berry Street, where outdoor restaurants are plentiful and discover independently owned shops tucked in here and there.
If you’ve never been, you might head to Smorgasburg to sample over 75 food vendors every Saturday at Marsha P. Johnson State Park overlooking the river. Once was enough for me, and you can read about it here: https://the-e-list.com/smorgasburg-brooklyn/