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A Bwogger’s Guide to Williamsburg

Part of an ongoing series in which Bwog takes you to the less traveled corners of our metropolis (less traveled by CU students, anyway).

Remember Francie Nolan, the young protagonist of Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? She was thrifty and imaginative, a voracious reader, nimble with her hands. She worked her little Irish heart out to triumph over the filthy, crowded squalor of her neighborhood, Williamsburg.

If only Betty Smith had the chance to rewrite her novel for the 21st century. Francie would persevere over a boring suburban existence, eventually arriving at a warehouse loft on North 10th. She’d cut her bangs sideways and strut down Bedford in a pair of American Apparel leggings. She’d join an artist collective and smoke clove cigarettes, rolling her eyes at the trust-fund babies who wear thrift to look chic.

Williamsburg is no longer up-and coming. It’s come. Which means there isn’t much time to explore this eclectic neighborhood of performance art warehouses, restaurants, bars, cafes, and clubs on the L line, before the invasive Starbucks and Duane Reades strangle the native fauna.

Williamsburg proper can be found at the first stop into Brooklyn on the L (four stops from Union Square). Each additional stop on the L from Manhattan butts further into “old-school” Brooklyn – the Hasidic, Italian, and Hispanic neighborhoods more reminiscent of Francie Nolan’s old hood. But push a little further, and almost-hot Bushwick (called Wushwick by real-estate junkies eager to capture the cache of its uber-trendy neighbor) will put you back in hipster territory.

Places to check out, and a map to get you there, after the jump.

williamsburgh map smaller

…a link to a larger map…

turtle Galapagos, 70 North 6th between Wythe and Kent, 718 782 5188
Remember the scene with Alfred Molina from the movie Coffee and Cigarettes? Didn’t think so. Well, that scene was filmed at Galapagos. At the front, there’s a pool of murky water that’s a lot shallower than it seems, and in the back, there is a room for rock concerts, open mic events and Monday evening burlesque.

chopsticks Sea, 114 North 6th between Berry and Wythe
While we’re talking about movies filmed in Williamsburg, Garden State was filmed at this inexpensive, sublimely trendy Thai restaurant. A laptop DJ “spins” tasteful techno near the circular bar, bubble chairs, and swings. Munch your spring rolls and pad thai near the restaurant’s lotus pond or in the romantic booth seating. The average meal is about $9 — totally worth the wait on the weekend.

bluebutton Williamsburgh Café, 170 Wythe at North 7th
Wander into this indoor garden café which celebrates the artifacts of Williamsburg’s past while serving goat-cheese, avocado, and sprouts sandwiches and pumpkin waffles. Go for weekend brunch. Expect to shell out around $15. Live jazz music on Tuesday nights.

beacons Beacon’s Closet, 88 North 11th St
Dress like you belong on the L-train. This huge thrift store arranges everything by color into enormous racks. Expect to find sequined stiletto boots and gorilla vests. Not for the casual shopper.

My image Fornino 187 Bedford Avenue
Creative brick oven pizza. Extremely crispy crust and inventive toppings. Sit in the back garden.

bee Pete’s Candy Store, 709 Lorimer Street
Nonsense NYC informs us that the free Williamsburg Spelling Bee (adults only!) is every Monday. 7 pm sign up, 7:30 competition. First prize: tickets to see the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

knight The Lucky Cat, 245 Grand Street between Driggs Avenue and Roebling Street
The Williamsburg Chess and Go Club for Wayward Men and Women meets at this little café on Monday nights at 8. Instruction available.

icecream Fortunato Brothers, 289 Manhattan Avenue between Devoe and Metropolitan
The creamiest, most flavorful, luscious gelato you will taste outside of Rome. No joke. This stuff is amazing. You will be hooked on the stracciatella, the baccio, and the caramelo. And a huge scoop is about $2. The place looks like a front for the mafia – complete with old men on folding chairs arguing out front – but that makes it all the more authentic. But be careful not to visit on major Roman Catholic holidays. As Bwog found out the hard way, they are closed on Easter.

One more thing: Before you venture across the East River, think about joining nonsensenyc, an essential weekly email list of the randomly joyful and the joyfully random in Williamsburg and beyond. (Think Prombies parties: wear prom clothes, dress like a zombie, or dress like a zombie who’s going to prom).

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  • DHI says:

    @DHI Dude if you’re writing about Williamsburg you gotta write about the blacksmiths and stocks and pillaries and horsedrawn carriages and shit.

  • awww says:

    @awww why ain’t the j/m/z getting any mention? elevated train rides to work are super fun. also, the j/m/z brings you closer to the authentic orthodox jewsies and the puerto ricans (in other words… food).

    1. Q.R. says:

      @Q.R. True dat. But it takes f’ing forever to get anywhere on the J/M/Z. Great Hispanic pizza place on the corner of Bedford and South 3rd, though, no English spoken. My favorite in Brooklyn.

  • jeez says:

    @jeez They made a spelling mistake, big whoop. It’s still a good guide. And with this psycho heatwave (I’m assuming most of the high-horse naysayers are posting from the relatively cool comfort of their Arkansas homes while we natives sweat it out here) I’m just glad anyone’s taking the time to compose something amusing that I can read in between cold showers and popsicle binges.

    1. they made a spelling mistake says:

      @they made a spelling mistake IN THE FACE OF OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY IN THEIR OWN LINKS OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN. strikes one as deliberate, almost.

      1. Deliberate? says:

        @Deliberate? Yes, clearly Bwog’s fiendish plan is to deliberately misspell a NYC neighborhood in order to bait trollish comments and spread wrong information to the helpless Columbia population. Bwog was also on the grassy knoll, and I suspect at least one Bwog editor was behind the camera when they faked the moon landing.
        Dear, do calm down, take a cold shower. The heat’s making everyone grumpy, but you sound about a step away from going all powersaw-to-the-chest on someone’s ass.

        1. obviously says:

          @obviously I was kidding. but I acknowledge your cleverly referential witticisms.

    2. give me says:

      @give me a break; now is no time for nyc native snobbiness! it’s hot EVERYWHERE.

  • BTW says:

    @BTW There’s also a Sea in the E. Village (2nd ave b/w 4th and 5th), and Spice (owned by the same people, similar menu), on University Place and 10th, if you don’t want to rely on the L for the joy of cheap Thai food in a technoheavy environment

    1. sadly says:

      @sadly spice at 10th and university is no more. you couldn’t have a conversation in there anyway. and it was basically the swish of NYU…

      1. whoa says:

        @whoa when did that spice close? I had a meal there some time in June and everything looked fine…

        1. if it's not closed yet, it will soon be says:

          @if it's not closed yet, it will soon be

  • Easy Easy says:

    @Easy Easy they just made a spelling mistake

  • what is this says:

    @what is this NY experience? last i checked, morningside heights in a neighborhood…in NY. Just because we’re not in the touristified/commercialized west village doesn’t make us less “NY” In fact, all this talk of the NY experience sounds pretty suburban to me…

    1. mheights is new york says:

      @mheights is new york we have guys playing chess in the street and homeless and projects and some surprisingly cheap food. lots of people have rooms with a view of the empire state building.

      by contrast, williamsburg is a lowrise industrial slum colonized by artists. it just happens to be the largest and best known such place, though it exists in various iterations all over the country.

  • damn says:

    @damn Nonsensenyc is on the bwog. There goes the neighborhood.

    1. who's neighborhood says:

      @who's neighborhood oh, getoff yer high horse–as if “there goes the neighborhood” hasn’t already been said in Hebrew, Italian, and (most recently) Polish. If it takes 10 years to be considered a “real New Yorker”, I’d say it takes twice that long for hipsters to legitimately grumble about infringemnet. Besides–precious few non-native-NY Columbians can be bothered to leave a 6-block radius of the CU gates anyway. evrybody knows NYU & Hunter students are the ones having The NY Experience. CU settles for the occasional Chelsea weekend or Broadway “theatre” when the folks visit. Come to think of it, it’s kind of like we go to school in New Jersey….

      1. name says:

        @name “Besides–precious few non-native-NY Columbians can be bothered to leave a 6-block radius of the CU gates anyway. evrybody knows NYU & Hunter students are the ones having The NY Experience.”

        apparently what little evidence we have contradicts that. apparently as of summer 05 columbians visiting moma significantly outpaced nyu students, if i recall reading this somewhere correctly.

        maybe we were just trying to be faux-intellectual.

        anyway, for those of you not scared to get out of the heights, many of the big NYC museums are now free (if 5 dollars was too much for you before).

        1. that's what happens says:

          @that's what happens when you consider everything above 14th street beneath you. and columbia students are provincial…?

    2. Huh says:

      @Huh I guess the comments that don’t address what you said mean that you’re wrong… but dude, everyone knows about nonsense.

      1. It's not snobbery. says:

        @It's not snobbery. NYC in the summer is a special kind of hell. Yeah, it’s hot everywhere, but in the city you’re forced to constantly jam up against people if you’re riding the subway or walking down the street, whereas elsewhere most people get around via their own little air-conditioned automobile bubbles. Unlike Cali/Arizona/Nevada and the dry desert heat, we get super evil humidity that makes it feel like 120 degrees the last time I checked the heat/humidity index. Grass is way cooler than pavement, and NYC is mostly pavement, baking the heat right up at you, and usually without trees to provide shade. (And those tall buildings do NOTHING to provide shade between, say, 10 and 3.) And, best of all, that distinct city smell of urine, feces, garbage, vomit, and other fun smells boils and intensifies in the heat. Oh, and thanks to overpopulation and ConEd being retarded, most places of business are keeping the a/c at an un-frosty 80+ degrees to conserve energy so we don’t have another massive blackout. Yeah, it’s hot everywhere, but unless you’re living in a dumpster on the surface of the sun, being rammed up the ass with hot pokers and forced to lick the sweat off a hairy construction worker’s armpit, I still say we’re worse off.

  • also says:

    @also The Bedford stop gets all the love, but go one further to Lorimer for the endless wee-hour poeple-watching at the 24-hr diner on the corner or free personal brick-oven pizzas with every drink at Alligator Lounge, the smaller, “roots-ier” precursor to Capone’s. Annoying natives also reference W’burg & Billyburg, fyi.

  • honestly says:

    @honestly it’s a bit difficult to take the advice of where to go too seriously when you people don’t know the name of the place you’re describing.

  • also wushwick? says:

    @also wushwick? first time I’ve heard of this one. they typically use “east williamsburg” in this sense.

  • uhh says:

    @uhh but really, what’s with bwog always spelling williamsburg wrong? yeesh.

    1. blame steeltown says:

      @blame steeltown many americans fall into a trap of believing every such place is spelled like pittsburgh.

  • Not between 110 and 120, Broadway and Amsterdam says:

    @Not between 110 and 120, Broadway and Amsterdam Um. You Morningside Heights gate-dwellers realize that Williamsburg hasn’t had an “h” for over 100 years, right?

    (fake edit: looks like I’ve been beaten to the punch multiple times on this one)

  • AHEM says:

    @AHEM you guys know the “h” was lopped from williamsburg in approximately 1880something…?

    1. actually says:

      @actually it was in 1855. but yes, it wouldn’t have taken much research for our otherwise wonderful chronicler to have learned this basic fact:,_Brooklyn

      1. Usually says:

        @Usually when one uses the “h” one is referring to the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood on the south side of Broadway, what with the projects and the brownstones. No?

        Also, Williamsburg? Yuck. How about some non-yuppiefest neighborhoods?

  • Ah! says:

    @Ah! This is very cute. Add Dumont Burger (314 Bedford) and Brooklyn Brewery, and remove Sea, which is washed up at this point, and I will love you forever.

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