Williamsburg has a reputation as a neighborhood that jumped the shark, going from a cool enclave that attracted artists and hipsters to an extension of Manhattan, with its pricey condos and hotel roof bars. We’ve asked a few locals for their recommendations for insider tips and recommendations that only someone who lives there would know.
Eskayel designer and founder, Shanan Campanaro, and her husband-slash-business partner, Nick Chacona make textiles, wallpaper and carpets out of their sun-filled showroom in Williamsburg (Eskayel, 75 S. 6th St., Williamsburg). The watercolor patterns might be inspired by their world travels, surfing destinations and love of nature, but the company is firmly rooted in Brooklyn. “The south side is still an amazing space, not yet overrun with Manhattan chains, big box stores and swarms of people,” they said in an email. They’ve lived in the neighborhood (along with their dog, Kaya) since 2003 and 2009 respectively, and their work has become an important part of the Brooklyn aesthetic and creative landscape.
1 Best small business: There are so many of them. Quiet Storms (142 Grand St., Williamsburg) for jewelry. The New Work Project (97 North 10th St., Williamsburg) is probably the most beautiful workspace in the city.
2. Favorite restaurants: OTB (141 Broadway, Williamsburg) has best all-round American bar food hands down. Barano (26 Broadway, Williamsburg) is amazing NY meets Southern Italian cuisine. Just awesome. Birds Of A Feather (191 Grand St., Williamsburg) is a newcomer but has excellent Sichuan.
3. Favorite (non-food related) thing to do: Tied between walking our dog and going to Kula Yoga (85 N. 3rd St., Williamsburg).
4. Some other things you love about the neighborhood: Awesome Deli (60 Broadway, Williamsburg), Dr Cow Store [a vegan cheese brand and health store] (93 S. 6th St., Brooklyn), and Morir Soñando [Reben Luncheonette, 229 Havemeyer St., Williamsburg).
Singer/ Songwriter Kendra Morris recommends dive bars, sweet shops and two great junk shops. Photo: Taylor Ballantyne
Singer/ songwriter, Kendra Morris, has lived in the Williamsburg area for years, with a short stint in the East Village, and back to Williamsburg four years ago. Although she’s busy recording and performing (with her latest music video, “Nothing”, releasing soon), she finds time to explore the neighborhood with her husband and three-year-old daughter, Opal. She lives in Williamsburg because of the small businesses, individuality and sense of community that still exists in the neighborhood if you know where to look. “There’s all these cool little businesses, and you never know who you’re going to run into or what’s going to make your path for the day,” she says. “I’ve always liked following arrows into an adventure.” Catch Kendra Morris (along with Chinese Man) on Saturday, April 7th at Gramercy Theater (127 E. 23rd St., Gramercy)
1. Favorite Restaurants: Two of my favorites are Dokebi (199 Grand St., Williamsburg) and Little Dokebi. They are sister restaurants. My old roommate was Korean and got me really into Korean Barbecue and used to take me to all the spots in Koreatown.
2. I’m a fan of junk shops. I do a lot of collaging, and I do a lot of art for my music stuff. Also I’ve been a long-term collector of weird things, although I’ve ran out of room in my apartment, so a lot of it is in storage space. There’s a store called The Thing (1001 Manhattan Ave., Greenpoint). It’s this junk shop has been around forever. It’s kind of like the store Junk (567 Driggs Ave., Williamsburg). They’ll get all this stuff out of storage units so you never know what you’re going to find.
Favorite Watering Hole
My bar is Clem’s (264 Grand St., Williamsburg), which is a great dive bar that’s been around forever, and it’s got a sense of community. People go there to hang out and run into people that they’ve known forever. There’s always a beer/shot deal. All the bartenders are really nice. I’m drawn to creative types. There’s always a DJ spinning old soul music or metal.
There’s this little sweet shop called Sweethaus (135 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg). They have a wall of candy where you can just weigh and pay. They’re really good at picking out their candy. I have such a sweet tooth that I know about all the candies. And they have all these amazing cupcakes. And they serve beer and wine there so you can go and have a drink or have dinner there too and chase it with a cupcake or candy.
One of the best neighborhood night secrets is the music at Radegast Hall (113 N. 3rd St., Williamsburg). They have a great selection of beer and the food is good, but the best thing is the music they have there on weekends. They book some of the best funk and soul musicians and have them do nights of entertainment. It becomes a full on dance party. You wouldn’t expect it, because its a German beer hall.
Michael Capozzi, 36, is a Pediatric Dentist and soccer fan who has lived in Williamsburg for almost seven years with his fiancée, Claudia. He specializes in teeth, so it makes sense that he would also be choosy about what he puts in his mouth. “Williamsburg has loads of restaurants and bars from across the spectrum to choose from but I definitely find myself frequenting a few favorites,” Capozzi said, in an email.
1 The Brooklyn Star (593 Lorimer St., Williamsburg) is a great, southern comfort food bar/restaurant that might just serve up the best mac and cheese in the world. It has a welcoming, laid back vibe and the kitchen stays open late. Probably my most visited spot.
2. St. Anselm (355 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg) is my go to when visitors are in town. Even though the prices always seem to be creeping up, it remains quite a value for amazing steak and fish off the grill. The fact that it is directly next door to Spuyten Duyvil (359 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg), one of the great beer bars in the city, makes the wait for a table no problem at all.
3. Lilia (567 Union Ave., Williamsburg), a newer Italian restaurant in the neighborhood, definitely lives up to hype it has received. The setting is definitely a bit finer dining than I typically go for, but the food is pretty special and worth going out of your way for.
4. I can’t do this without somehow mentioning Banter (132 Havemeyer St., Williamsburg), my home away from home in the neighborhood. Banter is a bar that features always changing, always quality beer on tap, and specializes in showing soccer matches on the screens. The owners and staff must be the friendliest people in NYC. I stop in every chance I get.
Caroline Matthews is a 30-year-old a designer and a ceramicist who grew up in Houston, went to college in North Carolina and lived in Copenhagen before moving to New York. She’s lived in Williamsburg for nearly six years, and has some unbeatable recommendations for enjoying the neighborhood.
1 Something about the neighborhood that no one knows about: The garden at Choplet Ceramic Studio (238 Grand St., Williamsburg). Wheels are out there well into the fall and it’s a little slice of creative serenity in a crazy town.
2. A small business you love: The crew and feeling of Oslo Coffee Roasters (328 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg or 133 Roebling Ave., Williamsburg). The Thor blend and seasonal Guatemala are my favorite beans on the planet. Michele makes the best Thursday-afternoon-pick-me-up-cortados. The owner, JD, feels like my dad. And when Kat is back, the whole dang neighborhood knows it!
3. Favorite restaurants: The Commodore (366 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg) for cheeseburgers. Everyone says the fried chicken sandwich but get the cheeseburger. Sal’s Pizza (544 Lorimer St., Williamsburg). Call me “Bella” and give me the non existent family discount anytime. Thip Osha (795 Grand Ave., Brooklyn). The BEST papaya salad this hemisphere.
4. Favorite thing to do: Summer morning swims at McCarren Pool. Nothing beats it. Summer nights on the waterfront at North Brooklyn Farms (320 Kent Ave., Williamsburg). Kent is great for running without traffic stops.