Don’t be mistaken, though you will see plenty of wild bearded men dressed in overalls, suspenders, bowties and possibly sock garters, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is nothing like Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. This Williamsburg specializes in hipster culture, which means there are a lot of stylish and tasty reasons to visit this tip of the island. After all, though the irony of the hipster lifestyle remains, it’s also chock-full of good art, artisanal food, craft beer and plenty of unique things that make this part of Brooklyn so special. To get the full range of Williamsburg, you need to spend at least 24 hours exploring this neighborhood.
First, book accommodations in Williamsburg’s newest and most luxurious stay, the 70-room Wythe Hotel, which was built in a factory that dates back to 1901. The hotel mixes the space’s industrial side with modern comfort, and includes floor-to-ceiling windows, exposed brick walls, heated floors, locally made furniture and custom-crafted wallpaper. Even better, many of the rooms sport a clear and stunning view of the Manhattan skyline. Elsewhere inside the New York hotel you’ll find Reynard, a New American eatery featuring local, seasonal dishes that change every day. It’s worth checking out, but don’t eat too much; one of the best parts about Williamsburg is the array of multi-cultural restaurants available.
Speaking of which, get a dose of Nordic cuisine at chef Fredrik Berselius’ Aska, located near Wythe Hotel. The restaurant serves a Scandinavian-influenced seven-course tasting menu (which goes up to 10 courses on Friday and Saturday), with tidbits including scallops with dill and roe, skate wing with cauliflower, and duck with carrots and lovage. For a taste of the Southern Hemisphere, try Uruguayan food at Tabare, a sweet, romantic spot that serves up baked empanadas, housemade pastas, churrasco and the chivito completo, a magnificent sandwich with Uruguayan grass-fed beef, bacon, mozzarella, Black Forest ham, fried egg, caramelized onion, Spanish olives and roasted red peppers. The restaurant proves laidback while still maintaining a dark elegance, perfect for an intimate night or a pre-game meal before sampling Williamsburg’s immense bar scene.
Now, the best part about drinking in Williamsburg is that you can find bars that run the gamut from elegant cocktail spots like Huckleberry Bar, rowdy dive bars like the Levee, and nerdy-but-cool craft beer joints like Spuyten Duyvil. To add whimsy to the evening, put some games to the mix, like at Full Circle Bar, where there are four Skee-Ball tables, or go to the nearby Barcade, which is lined with old-school video games that you can play for 25 cents.
Another quirky way to spend the evening is by heading to Nitehawk Cinema, a movie theater that offers cocktails and food themed after the films playing. For example, The Girl on Fire drink pays homage to The Hunger Games by combining house-infused jalapeño tequila with grapefruit, lime, orange curaçao and a chipotle-salt rim. For Salinger, it created the dish A Perfect Day For a Bananafish Fritter, a fried patty with plantains, lime, scallions and Caribbean spices. No matter what you see, make sure to get the signature truffle-butter-laced popcorn and indulgent tater tots with hot queso; they go with any film, especially if you opt to make it an all-nighter and go to a weekend midnight flick.
When you aren’t eating and drinking, stretch your legs with a stroll along East River State Park — the view of Manhattan is breathtaking. As far as shopping goes, steal the Williamsburg look at boutiques including Catbird and In God We Trust, which sells amazingly delicate jewelry with a gothic edge. The Artists & Fleas market is another fun way to spend the afternoon. It offers handful of vendors selling custom jewelry, designer frocks, vintage goods and art.
Change up dinner with some breakfast. Order fresh-baked biscuits coated in gravy or duck hash at Egg (it’s served until 6 p.m.), and pick up your second coffee at Blue Bottle, where each cup of single-origin brew gets made for you on the spot. Finally, before you head back to Manhattan — or on a plane to some other destination — catch happy-hour oysters and a deviant absinthe cocktail at Maison Premiere. If the weather is nice, try to sit outside in the garden and marvel at how so many fun and one-of-a-kind things can exist all nestled into one neighborhood.
Photos Courtesy of Adrian Gaut, Linnea Covington and Pedro Feria Pino