How To Do Brooklyn
Samantha Garbarini and Amy R. Partridge set the rules for exploring NYC’s coolest borough like a local.
The rooftop bar at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge boasts the best views of Downtown Manhattan.
Photo by James Baigrie
Hit a Hotel
Gone are the days when “hotel bar” conjured up a room of weary businessmen drinking away the hours until their flight home. Today, dazzling hotels offer chic bar scenes and restaurants, like the newly opened 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn Heights, where the rooftop boasts you-can-almost-touch-it views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline, that nearly make up for the $18 drinks. In Williamsburg, a night at The William Vale’s rooftop bar, Westlight, means inspired cocktails, eye candy, and sweeping views. And, it’s not a BK weekend without a swank hotel brunch; our pick goes to upscale American eatery Reynard at Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel.
One of Brooklyn’s best pies at cult-favorite pizzeria Lucali in Carroll Gardens. Photo by Jeffrey Gurwin
You’re Going to Lucali
Here’s the truth: NYC’s best pizza isn’t in Manhattan. From pies at Roberta’s to bare-bones slices from Di Fara (now also at Williamsburg’s North 3rd Street Market) to the iconic squares at L&B Spumoni Gardens, Brooklyn is where it’s at. Why Lucali? Because that crazy-long wait (show up by 5 p.m. and don’t be shocked if it’s a few hours), is the best possible excuse to sit on a Brownstone stoop, bar hop with friends, and maybe even get invited to a random house party across the street, while you wait to sit down to seriously good old-school pies and a side of crispy, oven-fired pepperoni.
Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra’s mural of Warhol and Basquiat. Photo courtesy of the artist's archive.
Get Your Culture Fix for Free
Save your money for $16 cocktails. Yes, we love all of Brooklyn’s museums and indie galleries, but sometimes the best way to see some art is to pound the pavement. Ride the L Train to Jefferson Street to visit The Bushwick Collective, an outdoor street-art gallery, featuring murals and graffiti from artists around the world. (The best stretch is on Troutman Street between Wyckoff and St. Nicholas). DUMBO Walls showcases eight murals from internationally renowned artists below the BQE. Or take in just one piece, like Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra’s mural of Basquiat and Warhol at the corner of Bedford Ave and 9th Street in Williamsburg.
Artists & Fleas sets up in a Williamsburg warehouse on weekends. Photo by James Baigrie
Shop a Neighborhood
There’s no better way to get to know a neighborhood than by wandering amongst its unique storefronts, and Brooklyn’s are some of the city’s best — with charm and style in spades. In Cobble Hill, you’ll find loads of can’t-resist-going-in boutiques along Smith Street, including Bird Brooklyn for independent-label clothing, chic “general store” Regular Visitors, Stinky Bklyn cheese shop; and indie Books Are Magic. Hit Williamsburg for vintage finds, including weekend market Artists & Fleas, plus Awoke Vintage, 10ft Single by Stella Dallas, The Quality Mending Co., and Amarcord Vintage Fashion. Boreum Hill’s stretch of Atlantic Avenue is another must-shop spot for antiques at City Foundry, Consignment Brooklyn’s high-end labels, and the curated mix of artisan home good at The Primary Essentials.
Sunny’s old-school bar in Red Hook. Photo by Julienne Schaer
Get Thee to Red Hook
Maybe you’ve heard about the free water-taxi to IKEA that people ride just for the great views? Or perhaps you saw all the Insta-foodies drooling over some of New York’s best smoked meat at Hometown Bar-B-Que? Did a hipster friend drop a hint about knocking back a few at Sunny’s the neighborhood’s ultimate old-school dive bar? Whatever piqued your interest, heading to Red Hook is simply a great idea. (Trust us.) The waterfront is the star with stellar Statue of Liberty views (and free kayaking!) at Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier; the area’s seaport-hub history at the Waterfront Museum, housed in a wood-covered barge; and free tours/tastings at Red Hook Winery. Then, head inland a few blocks to explore the neighborhood’s galleries, shops, and eat/drink options.
Drink Like a Hipster
Kick off your morning with Nordic-style coffee at minimalist, plant-strewn Sey in East Williamsburg. Then, line up for the latest can release from Other Half Brewing, or hit its taproom in a former Carroll Gardens warehouse. Get your natty wine on — sparkling orange, chilled reds, and obscure varietals — in a cozy booth at June in Cobble Hill. Or chill at Williamsburg’s The Commodore, a gastro-dive bar with old-school arcade games, frozen piña coladas, and fried-chicken sandwiches.