11/28/16 12:04pm
Dim sum at dinnertime, anyone? Photo: Levi Miller

Dim sum at dinnertime, anyone? Photo: Levi Miller

Craft cocktails and dim sum don’t usually go together. Yet there I was, drinking an Imperial Mai Tai while enjoying delicate steamed soup dumplings on a recent evening in Williamsburg.

Yes, I was eating dim sum at night. And drinking alcohol. At the same time.

Kings County Imperial opened in 2015 in a compact space just around the corner from Union Pool. Blink, and you’ll miss it. But that would be a real shame for anyone with a passion for Chinese food. The restaurant serves classic Chinese dishes made from high quality ingredients. King’s County Imperial is to most Chinese delivery places as the burger at Diner is to a greasy spoon cheeseburger–the same dishes, but made distinctive by care and quality. The owners, who also operate the neighborhood restaurant Stone Park Cafe in Park Slope, opened Kings County with press-ready selling points like the soy sauce on tap, as well as many cocktails, including that Mai Tai, and Chinese vegetables and herbs grown in the backyard for use in the kitchen. (more…)

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10/18/16 10:07am

This matchbox sized storefront sells "big city, small batch" products. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

Julia Small O'Kelly will welcome you into smallhome with the stories behind all her treasures. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

Julia Small O’Kelly will welcome you into smallhome and share the stories behind all her treasures. Photos: Meredith Craig de Pietro

Walking into smallhome, a matchbox-sized storefront on Metropolitan near the Graham Avenue stop on the L train in Williamsburg, feels like spiriting through a portal to rural America. Cluttered with handcrafted wares that range from white sage body wash to the perfect red plaid handkerchief, the store’s displays feature creative props like a rusted ladder, and assortment of wooden twigs and a vintage wicker chair. Although smallhome is, well, small, you could spend days sorting through the goods, uncovering treasures that you never even knew you wanted (like an astrologically-themed embroidery hoop).

Upon entering, you will probably be warmly welcomed by owner, Julia Small O’Kelly, who will definitely be wearing a work apron, ready to tell you the stories behind her collection. (more…)

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10/17/16 10:59am
William Vale Mr. Dips Burger

Mr. Dips, the burger spot at the William Vale Hotel, is served out of an airstream, of course. Photo: Georgia Kral

A hotel can’t open in Williamsburg these days and not feature a rooftop bar and a whole host of chef-curated food and drink options. The trend is true across the river in Manhattan, too, but Brooklyn has the current edge on the hotel dining scene, with the recently opened William Vale Hotel, run by chef Andrew Carmellini.

The William Vale is impossible to miss. Situated on the strangely hip stretch of Wythe that is also home to Brooklyn Bowl, Output and the Wythe Hotel, it is an imposing structure that looks out of place even though it’s just a few blocks away from the luxury high-rise apartment buildings on the Williamsburg waterfront.

“The look of it is not very Brooklyn, but this is a very Brooklyn project,” Carmellini said at a New York City Wine and Food Festival event at the hotel. “When we signed on we said we wanted to embrace the neighborhood,” he added, saying that he’d personally hired a staff member to do cultural programming at the hotel, from book signings to musical events and talks. Those, as well as the eats, are open to all comers, not just hotel guests.

The cocktails are delicious, but paired with the view, who even cares? Photo: Georgia Kral

The cocktails are delicious, but paired with the view, who even cares? Photo: Georgia Kral

And the food? Carmellini and his restaurant group NoHo Hospitality (Locanda Verde, The Dutch, Bar Primi) are running the whole show at the William Vale, including room service and poolside bites. Here’s what you can, and should, eat now and what’s coming soon. (more…)

08/15/16 1:56pm
The omakase box from newly opened fish shop, Osakana could not be prettier. Photo: Annaliese Griffin

The omakase box from newly opened fish shop, Osakana, could not be prettier. Photo: Annaliese Griffin

In a borough known for its artisan butcher shops, bakeries, purveyors of fine mayonnaise and small batch ice creameries, Brooklyn is surprisingly underserved by fishmongers. For the past several years, my go-to for anything from the ocean has been Fresh Direct, in part because they will refund you if your fish isn’t as fresh as promised or your Gulf-caught shrimp has that awful iodine flavor, and because once in awhile their lobsters are very cheap.

So I was thrilled when Osakana, a new fish shop from the owners of Okonomi, the tiny Japanese restaurant with the enormous lines, opened in my neighborhood earlier this month. Located on Graham Avenue, between Powers and Grand, Osakana offers an array of fresh fish that rotates, depending on what’s locally and seasonally available. On a recent weekday afternoon steaky slabs of fatty tuna sat on an earthenware pottery plate next to yellowfish collar and miso-marinated dogfish in a display that looks like a refrigerated jeweler’s case. (more…)

05/23/16 11:48am
Falcon Laundry is courting locals for rooftop cocktails. Photo: Kelsey Smith

Falcon Laundry is courting locals for rooftop cocktails. Photo: Kelsey Smith

Williamsburg has a new waterfront watering hole. Falcon Laundry has cast itself as a new neighborhood staple, a place for in-the-know locals more than a go-to spot for tourists spilling over from Smorgasburg. Built inside a–you guessed it–former laundry, which also took a turn as a steel fabrication mill, Falcon Laundry is a two-level bar and restaurant with rooftop patio drinking just in time for summer.

Take a seat at the long bar if you’re a party of one or two, or settle in to one of the comfortable green leather booths tucked against alternating walls of brick and wood paneling, for unrushed table service with a bigger group. You’ll likely also notice that the prices are surprisingly gentle for this part of Brooklyn. There are several choices on the wine list that are less than $10 a glass; the rosé from Wolffer Estate in the North Fork is an especially great deal at $8. Happy hour runs until 8pm with a rotating cast of wines for $6 and beers for as low as $5, with many locally-sourced choices in the mix. (more…)

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04/04/16 10:40am
Tagine is king at Chez Omar. Photo: Spencer Starnes

Tagine is king at Bar Omar. Photo: Spencer Starnes

As far as New York restaurant buzz goes, Bar Omar received relatively little attention when it opened in Williamsburg in February. There were a few brief write-ups, but not much else, a curious fact given the French-Algerian restaurant’s rich history. Owner Yasmina Guerda opened the restaurant as a sort of homage to Chez Omar, a popular restaurant in Paris that her father, Omar Guerda, started in the 1970s. Chez Omar was one of the first North African restaurants in Paris, and to this day, it’s packed with both local Parisians and tourists. (more…)

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03/28/16 11:53am
Vegetarian sandwiches don't have to be boring. Or even particularly cheese-heavy. Photo: Annaliese Griffin

Vegetarian sandwiches don’t have to be boring. Or even particularly cheese-heavy. Photo: Annaliese Griffin

As regular readers of Brooklyn Based know, a few times a year we like to count off the new restaurants we’re most looking forward to in the coming months. The overheated food and real estate scenes in Brooklyn being what they are, some promising-sounding spots hit snags and delays, and some projects never come to fruition at all. Almost half of our list of 10 highly anticipated restaurants for last fall are still not open. Bunk Sandwiches in Williamsburg is one standout from that list that is very much open for business.

Despite plenty of white subway tile, white enamel industrial lamps and chalkboard menus–all the Brooklyn trappings, in other words–Bunk’s spot on the corner of South Second and Driggs still has a Pacific Northwest vibe that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the mural that overlooks the dining area, the colorful, and delicious refrescos in dispensers behind the bar, or the selection of craft beers. Or maybe it’s that the menu, rather than going for an over the top reinvention of the sandwich, reads like a top 10 list of the best sandwiches ever invented. (more…)

02/01/16 11:50am
Hummus Market is a restaurant where vegetarians, vegans and omnivores can dine together in peace. Photo: Hummus Market

Hummus Market is a restaurant where vegetarians, vegans and omnivores can dine together in peace. Photo: Hummus Market

There are restaurants that open with great fanfare after months on most-anticipated lists, early previews for the food media elite and with the help of an army of publicists. Then there are the unassuming local joints that pop-up a few blocks from your apartment and quickly become your favorite place for Tuesday night dinner or an excellent lunch special. While it’s nice to have fancy eats within a stone’s throw of your front door, it’s really the smaller, humbler places that you want to eat at or order from on a weekly basis (and can actually afford) that make a neighborhood feel like home.

Hummus Market, which opened on Graham Avenue in Williamsburg last summer, is decidedly in the latter camp. Yes, the name has a real mall-falafel ring to it, but ignore that. This is veggie heavy, olive oil laden, parsley, lemon juice and harissa-spiked, pan-Middle Eastern fare. If you’ve ever bought a cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi this is the food you secretly wish you were making and eating at home all the time. (more…)

09/01/15 11:20am
IMG_5732

The café at Freehold is designed for working. Photo: Elaheh Nozari

When you walk into Freehold, a coffeeshop, bar and all-around venue that opened on Williamsburg’s south side last month, the first thing you see on the menu board, below the wifi password, is an unattributed quote: “If you always do what you love, at least one person is pleased.” (A Google search identifies Katharine Hepburn as its speaker.)

It neatly sums up the vibe of the place–this is where you come to work on your passion project, and if you’re one of the lucky, entrepreneurial few whose passion project is also their career, then you’re Freehold’s target demographic.

The day-to-night hang spot on S. 3rd and Wythe is a hybrid between a members-only club like SoHo House and the lobby of a boutique hotel, like the Ace, but it lacks the exclusivity (or membership fee) of the former and the tourists of the latter. It’s egalitarian and welcoming, if very cool feeling. A sense of belonging comes not from an actual membership, but from the comfort of being able to spend an extended stretch of time working there without worrying whether you’ve ordered enough lattes and croissants, which is what I did for a few days to see if this was the freelance workspace of my dreams.

(more…)

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01/16/15 9:25am
Talib Kweli plays a show at Rough Trade NYC. Photo: Rough Trade

Talib Kweli plays a show at Rough Trade NYC. Photo: Andie Diemer

“You’re probably getting used to hearing news like this in Williamsburg,” Glassland Gallery began its self-penned obituary last year. “So we’ll cut right to the chase: this New Year’s Eve will be Glasslands’ final night of music.” The closing of the legendary performance space capped a brutal year for live music in Brooklyn, as it joined nearby Death by Audio and 285 Kent on the list of DIY venues that bit the dust in 2014.

None of these establishments specified reasons for closing, but one need only glance at the plans for the neighboring Domino Sugar Refinery, and Vice Media, to see that developers were involved. The fear that real estate may have finally defeated nightlife in the battle for the borough’s soul manifested itself most clearly last month when a group of artists held a dance party funeral for Williamsburg.

Of course, Brooklynites are nothing if not enterprising. For every cherished dancehall that falls, two more take its place. And while Glasslands has no immediate plans to reopen, there are plenty of other venues to be excited about in 2015. Here are five places to catch live music in North Brooklyn this year, from DIY spaces far from the high-rise land rush, to more easily accessible venues in prime areas. We’ve included as much info on their leases as the venue owners would divulge, so you can time your visit accordingly. (more…)

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