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.
…a link to a larger map…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fornino 187 Bedford Avenue
Creative brick oven pizza. Extremely crispy crust and inventive toppings. Sit in the back garden.
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.
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.
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).