College Town Tours: The Best of Williamsburg, NY

So, Williamsburg is not exactly your typical college town. It’s full of NYU students too broke to afford rent in Manhattan, 20-somethings who are also short on cash, young families, Hasidic Jews, and a variety of immigrants. It doesn’t have the sights of Manhattan, but it is refreshingly free of tourists and has a distinct culture. Perhaps the best example of this is the burgeoning food scene, which emphasizes local food and a DIY attitude. If you’re picturing artisanal eggplant pickles, impressive latte art, and bean-to-bar chocolate, and you’re on the right track.

Hillary Pollak is a junior at New York University and enjoys pretending to do her homework (but actually just people-watching) at Brooklyn cafes.

**SKC Picks**

Best Pizza
Paulie Gee’s
60 Greenpoint Ave // 347 987 3747

New York has long been known for its fine pizza, but in the past few years, there’s been a crop of authentic Neapolitan pizzerias. Paulie Gee’s, which opened in 2010 in Greenpoint, just outside of Williamsburg, is one of the best. The interior, with wooden beams and high ceilings, looks like a rustic barn that seems only slightly out of place in the city. In the back is a prominent white pizza oven, imported all the way from Naples. In the kitchen, the staff churns out classic pies with homemade tomato sauce and fior di latte cheese. They also serve a number of more creative options, like the Cherry Jones, with fior di latte, gorgonzola cheese, prosciutto di parma, dried cherries, and orange blossom honey. For dessert, don’t miss the Anisette Crème Dessert Pizza, which is a heavenly combination of sweet fennel, cream, and chewy pizza dough.
Must Order: Anisette Crème Dessert Pizza

Best Yoga Studio
Kula Brooklyn
85 N. 3rd St. // 347 463 9886

Kula is not for the faint of heart. Opened in 2010, it’s already become known for its intense, sweaty classes that leave you feeling stretched-out, energized, and totally relaxed. There is a huge range of teachers, some who lead chill, mellow classes, and others who will leave you craving your final savasana. Still, all the teachers are incredibly knowledgeable, helping you tune into the minute details of each asana. The studio space alone, with exposed brick walls and an enormous window, is worth a visit. Once you finish your class, stop by the Shakti Shack for a healthy snack or smoothie.

Best Juice Bar
San Xavier Juice Grotto
524 Lorimer St.

Located next door to the popular Second Stop Café, Saint Xavier offers juices, smoothies, and a selection of healthy baked goods (spelt blueberry cake, anyone?). Most are made with organic, local produce and have creative add-ins like almond butter, cocoa nibs, and wheatgrass. You can either design your own juice/smoothie or opt for one of their combinations. There are only a couple of seats, but feel free to take your drink next door to Second Stop or sit on the bench outside.
Must Order: Wolly Mammoth

Best Place to Get Sweet Potato Fries at 3 A.M.
Kellogg’s Diner
514 Metropolitan Ave // 718 782 4502

Yes, it’s not the finest food, but Kellogg’s is a classic. It’s been open in Williamsburg for close to 40 years, long before the neighborhood became a hipster haven. The menu is enormous, with just about every diner classic available. The best part—it’s open 24 hours. But if you’re coming home from a Bushwick party at 3 a.m., opt for the sweet potato fries. Slightly sweet, salty, and warm, they are the perfect drunk snack before heading home.
Must Order: Sweet Potato Fries

Best Music Venue
Williamsburg Music Hall
66 N. 6th St. // 718 486 5400

As you’d expect from a concert hall in Williamsburg, the Williamsburg Music Hall hosts numerous indie bands, ranging from Bombay Bicycle Club to Bear in Heaven. The stage is spacious and the vibe is chill, with two floors and a set of bleacher seats. It’s a great spot to catch a show while still having a low-key evening. If it’s a nice night, walk a few blocks down to the water for a nice stroll afterwards.

Best Spot to Not Be Vegetarian
Fatty ‘Cue
91 S. 6th St. // 718 599 3090

Plan to go to the gym before hitting up Fatty ‘Cue, as you’re in for a greasy, meat-heavy meal. Whether you opt for the ½ pound of deep fried bacon (with sweet and spicy salsa verde), or the dragon Pullman toast with a side of master fat (the fat drippings from the meat smoker), you’re bound to satisfy your daily fat quota. Zak Pelaccio, the chef, creates barbeque with a Southeast Asian flair, resulting in unusual flavor combinations like black-eyed peas in a yellow curry sauce with burnt ends. The restaurant, with its handful of tables, busy bar, and loud music, is classic Williamsburg.
Must Order: Dragon Toast with Master Fat

Best Coffee Shop
Blue Bottle Coffee
160 Berry St. // 718 347 4160

A San Francisco import, Blue Bottle Coffee has already become a fixture on the Brooklyn coffee scene. The shop includes a roastery and a coffee bar, so you can smell the coffee aroma from a few blocks away. Baristas carefully pour lattes and cortados, taking their time to perfect your drink. They also serve a few pastries using local ingredients, including biscotti with Salvatore olive oil and S’mores with Mast Brothers chocolate. Grab a seat facing the street so you can people-watch as you sip.

Best Place to Pick Up an Oversized Sweater
Beacon’s Closet
88 N 11th St. // 718 486 0816

It’s a little overwhelming, but Beacon’s Closet is the best place to score secondhand clothing that is actually wearable. It’s where all the Brooklynites drop off their no longer trendy garb, so there’s plenty of good stuff. The store, which is organized by color, requires a lot of patience. But if you have time, you’re bound to find something. The prices are not as cheap as Goodwill, but still much more affordable than most New York vintage shops. Some good finds have included vintage cashmere sweaters, emerald pixie boots, and lacy black dresses.

Best Place to Pretend You’re in the South
Pies n’ Thighs
166 S. 4th St. // 347 529 6090

With Southern food as the new Brooklyn trend, it’s no surprise that Pies n’ Thighs serves up some of the most authentic buttermilk biscuits. You can get the biscuit plain, spread with butter, or served as a sandwich with a fried chicken cutlet, honey butter, and hot sauce (yes, it’s as unhealthy as it is delicious). They also offer Southern classics like mac n’cheese, collards, and fried catfish. For dessert, don’t miss a slice of sour cherry or apple cheddar pie. If you’re looking for a casual Sunday brunch spot, this might be your new place.
Must Order: The Biscuit

Best Place to Find the Kitchen Utensil You Didn’t Even Know You Needed
231 Bedford Ave. // 718 218 7230

Need heart-shaped cookie cutters for a Valentine’s Day party? What about a food mill to make pillowy gnocchi? You’ll find it all here, in addition to a host of other kitchen tools, ranging from gourmet sprinkles to home-carbonation machines. The items are not cheap, but they are high quality and worth the investment. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s worth a browse. Who knows, you might find the perfect new sauté pan.

Best Sandwich
378 Metropolitan Ave // 718 387 4777

If you’re walking too quickly down Metropolitan Ave, it’s easy to miss Saltie. The shop, with just a handful of seats, is small, but churns out a wide range of creative sandwiches. Options range from the “Clean Slate,” with hummus, bulghur, pickled vegetables, and yogurt on naan bread, to the “Scuttlebutt,” a messy concoction of homemade foccaccia loaded with hard-boiled eggs, feta, capers, olives, pickled vegetables, and pimenton aioli. Make sure to save room for the ricotta cake, which tastes like a glorified pound cake.
Must Order: Clean Slate

Best Spot to Buy a Treat
Bedford Cheese Shop
141 N. 4th St. // 718 599 7588

Every shelf in this shop is crammed with items, whether it is black truffle salt or a gourmet candy bar. As the name implies, they have an impressive selection of cheese and accompaniments, like cranberry chutney or fennel crackers. The staff is willing to offer tastes of any of their cheeses, even if you opt to not splurge on the $30/lb cheddar. They also stock hard-to-find items, like the baked lemon ricotta from Salvatore Brooklyn.

Best Place to Satisfy Your Inner Craft Geek
Brooklyn Charm Shop
145 Bedford Ave // 347-689-2492

Do you hate wearing the same jewelry as someone else? Then head to Brooklyn Charm, where you can design your own unique necklace, rings, earrings, or bracelets. Simply pick out your beads and chain and a staff member will put together your piece. If you’re more crafty, you’ll also find all the supplies to make your own jewelry. They also offer a variety of classes like “Intro to Wire Wrapping” or “Chandelier and Cluster Earrings.” Next time someone asks where you got your super cute ring, you can just nonchalantly say you made it.

Best Place to Pretend Willy Wonka is Real
Mast Brothers Chocolate
105 N 3rd St // 718 388 2625

Mast Brothers’s chocolate isn’t cheap, but it might be the best chocolate you’ve ever had. Owners and brothers Michael and Rick Mast sustainably source their beans, roast them in house, and then turn them into bars. Flavors range from plain dark chocolate to more unusual ones like pecan maple or Stumptown coffee. Each bar comes carefully wrapped in gold foil, bringing back memories of Willy Wonka. But this chocolate is way better than a Wonka bar, with a depth of flavor you didn’t even know chocolate had. Watch out—it’s addictive.

Best Spot to Wish You Were More Artistic
Brooklyn Art Library
103A N. 3rd St // 718 388 7941

The Brooklyn Art Library started as one extremely cool idea: compile a traveling sketchbook exhibition. It became so popular in just a few years that the founders bought a permanent space to shelve all the sketchbooks. You just need to register in their system, and then you can “check out” a sketchbook, marveling over a stranger’s doodles and thoughts. The books come from all over and have a variety of themes, so it’s impossible to get bored. The shop also sells a variety of books, pens, and other crafty supplies. Time to start that journal…

Best Health Food
Bliss Cafe
191 Bedford Ave // 718 599 2547

Overdosed on late-night pizza and beer? Bliss is the perfect healthy antidote to all that unhealthy food. The menu offers simple vegan/vegetarian food that will leave you feeling a bit more wholesome. Try the “Bliss Bowl,” a filling plate of brown rice, steamed veggies, tofu/tempeh, and your choice of dressing (options include carrot ginger and lemon miso tahini). They also have well-executed classics, ranging from veggie burgers to hummus plates. It’s a great, unpretentious Williamsburg spot.
Must Order: Bliss Bowl

Best Farmer’s Market
McCarren Park Farmer’s Market
McCarren Park, Saturdays 8 AM-3 PM

McCarren Park offers a small farmer’s market, but it’s perfect for days when you don’t want to trek into Manhattan and deal with the crowds at Union Square. There’s a good variety of stands, so you’ll be able to find whatever you need, whether it’s grass-fed cheese, a couple of Honeycrisp apples, or a loaf of bread. Customers range from your typical Williamsburg hipsters to Polish/Italian immigrants, all hankering for some fresh kale. There’s even music, facilitating a nice, community atmosphere. If the weather’s nice, you can picnic in the park.

Best Beer
Brooklyn Brewery
79 N. 11th St // 718 486 7422

Brooklyn Brewery beer is sold all over the city, but it hails from Williamsburg. With the big “B” on the bottle, it’s the iconic Brooklyn beer, served on tap in bars and stocked in bodegas. Whether you’re looking for a darker brew or a lighter beer, you’re bound to find one. Look out for their seasonal brews, which range from pumpkin “Oktoberfest,” to “Summer Ale.” Climb onto your rooftop, pop open a bottle, and you’re in for a typical Williamsburg evening.

Best Bookstore
Spoonbill and Sugartown
218 Bedford Ave // 718 387 7322

This bookstore is exactly what you’d expect to find in Williamsburg. It specializes in rare and used books, so you’re likely to find some unusual items amidst the newer titles. There are a lot of quirky finds as well, ranging from Che Guevara postcards to recycled notebooks. The clientele is anyone from 30-something hipster Dads to local students. With the coffee shop next door, you have your ultimate nerdy hotspot.

Originally posted on Friday, March 23rd, 2012

One Response to “College Town Tours: The Best of Williamsburg, NY”


    February 7th, 2013

    This is the 2nd post, of your blog I personally checked out.
    Still I like this one, “Small Kitchen College College Town Tours: The Best of Williamsburg, NY” the best.
    Cya -Jermaine

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