A Foodie Guide Through Williamsburg, Brooklyn
With a history of burgeoning immigrant communities, from Jewish Europeans to Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Italians, Williamsburg has recently gone through a new boom of ‘immigrants’- this time with New Yorkers crossing the river to set up shop with their galleries, shops and a thriving foodie scene.
Walk along any of Williamsburg’s streets and you’ll find endless restaurants and cafés filled with locals (and the occasional tourist), noticeably less hectic than Manhattan. With some of the best bites and coffee in the city, I grabbed my foodie friend Diala, hopped on a Porter plane from Toronto to Newark, and headed straight for Williamsburg to try out some of the ‘hood’s gourmet grub and crafty cocktails.
For Instagrammable bagels
The Bagel Store
754 Metropolitain Ave., Brooklyn, NY; thebagelstoreonline.com
Not just a social media stunt, rainbow bagels have been stocked on the shelves of this local Williamsburg shop for over 15 years. And since the Instagram age, the popularity of the multi-coloured breakfast staple has catapulted, with visitors to NYC hopping on the subway just to try its sprinkled cream cheese and snap a pic. As for the taste? The bagel itself is only slightly sweet, but it’s the frosting-like cream cheese that makes this breakfast favourite more of a once-in-awhile treat than a daily snack.
For tasty Peruvian
50 Withers St., Brooklyn, NY; llamainnnyc.com
If your palate is craving the traditional flavours of Peru, you’ll want to pop in for a bite at Williamsburg’s Llama Inn. This distinctly triangular restaurant is inviting, from its friendly staff to its centre bar layout and large windows with fresh greenery hanging overhead. Though only open from 5:30 p.m. onwards on weekdays (the perfect spot for a cheeky pisco sour on a Friday afternoon), we opted for a weekend brunch, sinking our teeth into their signature ceviche and a juicy sandwich of crispy pork shoulder, softened sweet potato, spicy mayo and red onion salsa.
For authentic Mexican
571 Lorimer St., Brooklyn, NY; zonarosabrooklyn.com
From the outside, Zona Rosa just looks like an old Airstream that’s been plopped in the middle of Brooklyn with some chefs grilling up a storm inside (mostly because it is), but beyond its doors is a bustling two-storey Mexican restaurant with a year-round rooftop patio. The margaritas will knock you off your feet, but it’s the tacos that will keep you coming back. Wrapped in fresh corn tortillas and offered with a selection of hot sauces, the fish tacos we ordered had us immediately craving more – fresh, grilled and seasoned to perfection.
For wood-fired pizza
80 N. 7th St., Brooklyn, NY; shelterbk.com
Walking into Shelter feels like you’ve stepped into a hipster log cabin, with antler chandeliers casting a dim light over leather couches as the smoky aroma of a wood-fired pizza oven causes your stomach to grumble. Fresh empanadas are a must as a starter, with six varieties to choose from, like the onion and cheese stuffed with scallions, fontina and gruyere. Top off your meal with one of their epic pizzas, made on-site from scratch, like the incredible Burrata & Prosciutto or the Brussel Sprouts with smoked mozzarella and pancetta.
For the hot sauce lover
121 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn, NY; heatonist.com
Got a thing for heat? Step into Williamsburg’s pun-ny hot sauce emporium, Heatonist, and prepare for a flavour experience like no other. Take your pick from a variety of curated sauces from around the world, from mild to eye-watering hot, all rated on a scale of 1-to-10 by the shop’s expert staff. Hot sauce amateurs can get their feet wet with Seed Ranch ‘Umami’ featuring a unique blend of porcini mushrooms, capers and olives, whereas veteran enthusiasts can knock their socks off with the Japanese habanero-heavy ‘Hop In Heaven’.
For an epic brunch
138 N. 8th St., Brooklyn, NY; eggshopnyc.com
Brooklyn is the epi-centre of hipster culture, and there’s nothing hipsters love more than good coffee and good brunch. The famed SoHo breakfast joint Egg Shop opened its second location in Williamsburg, serving up tasty variations of the beloved egg sandwich, like the Avo & Egg with tahini and watermelon radish, and the Hot Chix with fried chicken and pickled jalapeno. Wash it all down with a brunch-time bevvy, whether you’re in the mood for a watermelon margarita or the ‘Smoke Show’ – a blend that includes mezcal, fresh ginger, lime and Calvados.
For drinks with a view
Ides Bar at the Wythe Hotel
80 Wythe St., Brooklyn, NY; wythehotel.com/the-ides
Just opposite the East River, Williamsburg offers incredible views of the Manhattan skyline, and at six floors up and located right on the waterfront, the Ides Bar in the stylish Wythe Hotel is the perfect place to grab a drink with a view. Choose from the bar’s signature cocktails like the ‘Brooklyn’ with whiskey, vermouth and maraschino, or ask your bartender to whip up a concoction of your favourite flavours (gin and cucumber, please!).
For all-day coffee
548 Driggs Ave., Brooklyn, NY; bywoops.com
If good coffee, mosaic marble tables and macarons are your thing, then Williamsburg’s Woops Café is your best bet for a morning (or afternoon!) brew. With a huge selection of baked goods and signature macarons (from Nutella to ‘Poppin’ Milkshake’), the bright and beautiful café attracts both locals with laptops and visitors alike, offering up the perfect spot to caffeinate and work for the day or to pop in for an Americano and sweet treat on-the-go.
*Serious coffee connoisseurs also might want to check out Toby’s Estate Coffee, with beans roasted on-site and brew classes available to learn the art of roasting or how to make the perfect latte.
For your sweet tooth
Sweethaus Cupcake Cafe
135 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, NY; sweethaus.com
The name says it all, but if you’re craving a sugar-laden bite to eat, Sweethaus is your one-stop shop in Williamsburg. Step inside its mint-hued doors and you’ll find yourself going back in time, with retro decor and glass cases brimming with baked goods, from their signature cupcakes and cake-pops, to jar-after-jar of candy – the perfect partner for a cup of tea or hot chocolate.
Hungry for more New York? Read Lauren’s recent post on her neighbourhood guide through Tribeca.