Williamsburg, your reputation precedes you.
In an attempt to prepare myself for the well-publicized hipness of the ‘hood, I did a visualization exercise. If Brooklyn is to Manhattan as Oakland is to San Francisco, what would that make Williamsburg? I pictured, as its equivalent, the Temescal district: young, eclectic, and cool. I quickly discovered that both areas were every bit their caricatures of 20-something-dominated gentrification. Unlike its West Coast counterpart, however, I found Williamsburg sprawling, residential, and cleaner cut. I also found it full of delicious eats.
My favorite way to explore a city is on foot. You can really get a feel for a place when you’re hitting its pavement — even when those sidewalks stretch out and over bodies of water. From our AirBnB in the East Village, Jay and I took a nice half-hour walk across the Williamsburg Bridge, pausing often to take in its views and admire lewd/hilarious/thought-provoking graffiti. As we crossed over to Brooklyn, I stopped more frequently in order to eye artsy lofts and rooftop decks with envy. I hate to draw the comparison again, but it really did remind me of the East Bay: cute, cozy digs among gritty, industrial buildings.
Pies N Thighs
Where to sate our post-walk appetite? Jay and I made a beeline for the insanely popular Pies ‘n’ Thighs, a Southern cookshop I’d bookmarked immediately after watching their promo video four dozen times in a row. Thanks to our off-hours arrival, we were seated right away in the airy back room. We ordered a fried chicken box (three pieces of fried chicken with a buttermilk biscuit and a side – macaroni and cheese, in our case) and fries. I assembled my own chicken biscuit, slathering the whole thing with honey butter and hot sauce, and basically swallowed it whole. Jay finished off everything else, grunting in manly approval to the two public employees next to us. Our neighbors devoured their combos with gusto, but Jay and I agreed that our shared plate was just enough food for the both of us. We also agreed that, while totally satisfying and worth many visits, Pies ‘n’ Thighs didn’t displace our Bay Area go-to for best chicken fry-master.
Oh, I didn’t mention this little gem? I grabbed a slice of banana cream pie for the road — not an easy decision, considering Pies ‘n’ Thighs offers some ridiculously delicious-looking donuts and pastries. The pie, not enjoyed until a bit later, melded into luscious, gooey bites of vanilla-scented, banana-y cream. Surprisingly, however, Pies ‘n’ Thigh’s take didn’t do it for BCP-fiend Jay, who prefers a lighter, fluffier cream to a richer custard base. I ain’t complainin’, though… especially not where ‘Nilla wafers are involved.
Pies ‘n’ Thighs (multiple locations)
166 S 4th St
Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory
I was determined to see the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory — and crestfallen to realize they weren’t offering tours at the time of our visit. Regardless, it was nice stopping by their brick-and-mortar. The space is exactly what I picture when I envision the Brooklyn aesthetic: exposed brick, clean lines, unfinished metal, bright whites and natural light. I nabbed myself a ginger cookie, which, while good, wasn’t particularly special. Next time, I’d try something that shows off the Mast Brothers cocoa better (perhaps a truffle or decadent flourless chocolate cake!).
Mast Brothers Chocolate
111 N 3rd St
New York, NY 11211
Only a few blocks away was another food-based destination: Whisk, a home cook’s haven. Crammed into the corner space are kitchen tools and wares of all kinds. Bakers, pitmasters, bartenders, chefs — all culinary creatives are guaranteed to find a wish list want within Whisk. I pined after a pressure cooker and adorable baking molds, but decided against splurging [more than I already had, at least].
Whisk (multiple locations)
231 Bedford Ave
New York, NY 11211
I also stopped by the adorable, pint-sized Catbird NYC, where I fawned over the jewelry I’d theretofore only seen online. We peeked in the many vintage boutiques in the area, though none were veru memorable. Once we were done strolling around, we headed over to Nitehawk Cinema to catch a screening of Richard Linklater’s new film, Boyhood — but, to our dismay, found that the show had sold out. Word to the wise: buy those tickets early! Word to the wiser: see Boyhood! We ended up catching a show at tiny IFC Center in Greenwich Village and were totally transported. Though we missed out on the fancier bar and theatre atmosphere at Nitehawk, not all was lost. We still had quite the nice date night ahead of us.
Tucked away in a nondescript corner of Williamsburg is Traif, a gleefully indulgent restaurant. If not apparent from glancing at its menu, its name means not kosher — and, true to the word, Traif’s fare is decidedly unconventional. Every dish delivers big, bold, unabashed flavor, which, at times, became a bit overwhelming and heavy. This, however, could certainly be attributed to our enthusiasm for its signature pork-heavy dishes. Not a single vegetable nor salad crossed our minds (or lips) that night. As such, it was a good meal, though not our favorite.
I’d definitely advise against adopting our sort of tunnel-vision. Though Traif is known for its bacon-based food, we were infinitely more impressed by the seafood. The lighter treatment of the shellfish typically resulted in more delicate, well-balanced dishes: exactly the kind of food we wanted to be eating.
I should also add, however, that the “we” in question refers to me and Jay only. I’d briefly considered taking Jay’s parents here for dinner, but wisely decided against it. Traif’s casual and eclectic atmosphere makes it a perfect place for a date — but a reserved family meal? Not so much. Bring your friends with the most adventurous appetites!
229 S 4th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211