It’s a Saturday or Sunday, and you wake up magically devoid of a hangover, having done all your laundry, grocery shopping, and other boring adult things for the week. (Ok, so the beginning of this article is hypothetical. But the rest isn’t!) Suddenly instilled with a desire to discover the best that Williamsburg has to offer, you decide to make a day – and night – of it.
Everyone will have their own opinion, some of them snarky, on what is worth doing if you only have twelve paltry hours to soak up the cultural deliciousness that is Williamsburg. However, I firmly believe everything below is a knock-out, guaranteed fantastic time. Unless you don’t like fun. In which case, I can’t help you.
Let’s start with brunch, that wonderful invention of people who wake up too late to have both breakfast and lunch without off-setting their entire eating schedule. Brunch is a varsity sport in Williamsburg. If you only get one shot, do it right with Southern soul food on South 4th at Driggs—Pies ‘N’ Thighs. For the price and quantity, why would you ever go anywhere else? (Unless you’re weight-conscious, but it’s winter and everyone’s cold so who cares?) Try the Hippie Banjo biscuit sandwich (filled with egg, cheddar, avocado, tomato, sprouts and mayo for $7.50) or the go-to Chicken and Waffles ($10). Honestly, even if you go on an empty stomach and only eat pie, it would totally be worth it. The Apple and Grafton Cheddar Pie ($5.50) and Key Lime ($4.50) are just to die for!
Waddle your way back north to the much-celebrated Artists and Fleas, on North 7th between Kent and Wythe. It deserves its accolades, and is a palace of unique finds, funky local products, and cool local artists who want to talk to you about their work (and also sell it to you).
Yes, thrift stores are big in Brooklyn, and many of them are good. But the worst part about so many of them? They can’t shake the smell of an old mothball-y gym bag. Not so in Crossroads Trading Co., which in addition to smelling normal, has a great selection of thrifted clothes, shoes, bags, and jewelry, as well as new items that were overproduced or undersold. They are selective in their buying, and have an oft-rotated collection of designer threads (Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Stella McCartney, Miu Miu, etc.) hanging high on the walls, presumably to encourage drooling. The prices for these items are understandably higher, but even then are very reasonable for the craftsmanship; prices for the thrifted clothes are also fair. The staff is approachable and friendly, and won’t judge you when you just want to see if you could possibly pull off those floral jeans that are two sizes too small.
Shop for your stomach!
If, by now, you’ve sort of digested, it’s time for a trip to the Bedford Cheese Shop on Bedford at North 4th. These folks know their cheese, so if you want to wander in and say something incredibly vague such as, “I’m looking for something…blue? And…good?” they will coach you towards the best goddamned blue you’ve ever tried. Free samples abound, as does a strong cheese camaraderie fueled by knowing glances and the roll of eyes into the backs of heads as you try magnificent cheeses. Their collection of locally made ravioli, artisanal crackers, and imported charcuterie (some from near, others from far) is a fine complement to the pounds of dairy you will buy here.
Has it been over 90 minutes since you had caffeine? Time to refuel at Sweetleaf up on North 6th at Kent.
I have long been a fan of Sweetleaf’s Long Island City location for having baristas who take the time to explain the different types of espresso ($2.75) I can
inject into my eyeballs drink based on what kind of flavor I’m looking for, giant cookies that make you go om nom nom ($2.50), and a shabby-chic welcoming atmosphere. As with many establishments in the area, they also serve vegan and gluten-free snacks. Now that they’ve opened a new outpost in North Williamsburg, more happiness and caffeine for everyone! And a latte to go.
Movie (and optional dinner)
I used to dream about eating full-on meals while watching a new release in the movie theater, and it was only a year ago that I became aware that places actually do this. Thank you, Universe!
NiteHawk Cinema, at 136 Metropolitan Ave, does it very well. General admission is $11 (a steal by most NYC standards) and NiteHawk’s extensive and all-delicious menu satisfies even the most finicky palates. You definitely get what you pay for, if not more. The movie theatre standard of popcorn gets an upgrade here, with truffle butter and citric salt for $8, with caramel for $7, and with regular butter and salt for $6. Each film has a tailored specials menu with cleverly-titled appetizers and entrees (for Looper: “Close the Loop Doughnut Holes”, apple cider doughnuts served with caramel for $10) along with great sharing plates like their scallion-cilantro queso ($7) or fried calamari with sweet coconut ($8), a full liquor bar, and draught beers like Six Point Sweet Action, Brooklyn Radius, and Allagash White for $6 or $7. Of course, if any of this is too frou-frou, you can order a burger and fries/salad ($14) or soft-serve ice cream ($6).
NiteHawk’s repertoire ranges from documentaries and small-release pictures to movies for which you may actually have seen advertising (this upcoming weekend’s offerings include The Silver Linings Playbook, the new Brad Pitt gore fest Killing Them Softly, The Sessions, throwback midnight showings of kung-fu madness The Man With the Iron Fist and matinee showings of A Christmas Story). There’s a cozy bar upstairs and a more spacious bar downstairs for drinks before or after your flick. If you’re fancy, they also have a range of wines available by the glass, carafe, or bottle.
If you choose not to eat at NiteHawk, or to indulge in my favorite meal of the day, Second Dinner, then head over to nearby St. Anselm, where you can get a garlic butter Butcher’s steak for only $15. If you’re not feeling red meat, they offer a variety of seafood options as well as veggie starters like grilled tomato and burrata ($12, which is fair considering the market price of burrata, a mozzarella cheese filled with cream). Their pan-grilled mashed potatoes are delicious, topped with truffle oil, and only $5.
The only drawback here can be the wait time, so try to get there early.
If you’ve got a few quarters left, head up to North 11th between Bedford and Berry, and spend them at The Whiskey Brooklyn—on the arcade games and on the drinks. If you’re a whiskey drinker, there are a plethora of different drams for you—61, in fact. * The most popular is the pickleback: a shot of Tom Lawless whiskey followed by one of pickle juice. If you’re not into whiskey or the aftertaste of pickle, a safe bet for the money is the vodka-based Grandma Joan’s Lemonade ($10). It tastes like childhood, but packs a punch (and comes in a tall glass), so be careful not to have more than two of these babies or you could find yourself in an intense face-off in Big Buck Hunter that you take way too seriously. This has never happened to me.
The arcade games are all $1 per person per play, and include basketball Street Shot, the aforementioned BBH, skee-ball (in which you can win a glass or a pitcher of beer if you do well), some shoot-‘em-up games, and more traditional games for free, like foosball and shuffleboard. The cherry on top is the $5 per session photo booth, a favorite attraction, which gives you two copies of your strip. It also prints on non-flimsy photo paper, which sounds like a ridiculous thing to be excited about, but if you’re a photo booth aficionado, you know what I’m saying.
So that was your one-day whirlwind tour of the main drag of Williamsburg. As you will have gathered during your time here, there is so much more to see and do—so make sure you come back for more.
*The Whiskey Shop, adjacent to The Whiskey Brooklyn, offers 150 different whiskeys as well as other spirits. They also occasionally hold tastings, and their staff knows their whiskey like nobody’s business.
Follow Meredith for more Williamsburg tours @MereOfTheOlsons
Like it so much you want to move here? Check out these sales and rental listings from the story’s sponsor Modern Spaces NYC: 91-93 Metropolitan Avenue, The Louver House 2 bedroom, $779,000; 1 Northside Piers, 2 bedroom/2 bath, 1,125,000; Driggs #403, converted studio, $2,750/mo, N 4th, 2 bedrrom/2 bath, $4,300 No fee.