We decided to take a little office field trip to Brooklyn yesterday, to the ever-popular, ever-changing Williamsburg streets to lunch at Bedford's Rabbit Hole--a local fave--and wander about, taking in architectural and conceptual inspiration on many a dilapidated or reborn corner. Williamsburg has always been that wondrous anomaly New York is so good at providing. The epitome of gentrification, these streets have endured more facelifts than mature Hollywood elite. If any original residents still call this area home, it's because they are smart, and very fortunate owners, or equally lucky adopters of rent controlled agreements--depending on your personal preference of course.
Williamsburg (and whomever you are talking to) is known for many things: A casualty of New York City inflation; the borough's birthplace of the hipster; a massive divide of old vs. new, commercial vs. private; fantastic restaurants and shops and those that never make it beyond their first birthday; a dying memory of decades-old establishments--and we've only just scratched the surface here. Regardless of how much Williamsburg has changed and continues to change (some will never look at Domino Sugar again--pun intended), or how you or your neighbor might feel about the neighborhood of late, it's still a place that harbors many little gems within its vast nooks and crannies. Some old, some so new that a few letters of the previous owner's names are still visible. Allow us to share some of our personal picks to peruse the next time you decide to take a little Williamsburg-walkabout:
Rabbit Hole - This Bedford Avenue eatery feels like a cozy, little bistro tucked away in an alley along the Seine, and rather not exactly in prominent American Hipsterville. The service is super relaxed, the staff is always very friendly, and they serve brunch every single day of the week. Solid food choices all around, and kind to those who just dropped all their savings on rent the day before. An added bonus--they have a nice size garden out back for those days and nights you couldn't fathom sipping your rose indoors.
352 Bedford Ave; (718) 782-0910
Robinson Brooklyn - Independent retailer and designer Craig Robinson opened a second bespoke tailoring shop, this time in Brooklyn, for those ladies and gents with a penchant for custom tailoring and seriously sharp suits. Ready-to-wear (RTW) threads are reasonably priced from trousers to cuff links ranging from $50-350. Custom tailored suits start around $1k and completion times are rather brief, considering the overall quality. We love this place not only for the large cutting board in the center of the showroom and the adorably chic storefront, but also because we like a little bespoke with our graffiti and skateboards.
85 N 3rd Street; (718) 218-9800
Spoonbill & Sugartown, Booksellers - We are mad about this literary cubbyhole tucked inside the kitschy mini-mall off Bedford Ave. The layout of new and used paperbacks and hardcover books makes organizational sense as you wander through, inhaling that fresh-cut paper scent (that really should be bottled) while simultaneously admiring both the popular and obscure selection of diverse reads. We love the unique, handmade journals from Prague, the adults-only calendars, the wide variety of New York-centric photography and art books, and the curated selection of rare magazines. We could spend hours in this little bookshop, and we think you should too.
218 Bedford Avenue; 718-387-7322
Ludlow & Blunt - Named after Commodore Ludlow and Cornelius Blunt, the very first full service salon opened on 5th Avenue in Manhattan in 1901. A century later, there are now two salons, one [fittingly] sits on Manhattan's Ludlow street, and the other resides in Brooklyn, on N 3rd. The gorgeously vintage inspired interior and storefront initially stopped us in our tracks as we were moseying about one lazy afternoon in The Burg. The overall appeal is a step back in time, when barbers were buttoned up in crisp whites, and men indulged in long lunch breaks for that classic, hot towel and single blade razor-shave. Today, the Ludlow & Blunt stylists may not exactly be buttoned up, but the services offered for men and women are still as classic as they are modern. We just really appreciate an homage to early New York amidst the scaffolding, the high-rises, and the ever changing storefronts and facial hair.
85 N 3rd Street; (718) 388-8288
Crossroads Trading Co - At first glance, this warehouse-style, single level thrift shop can come off as a bit of an eyesore. If you've ever browsed through a serious discount store, complete with bare walls, florescent lighting, and over-stuffed aisles--you'll be right at home here. Forget about the décor and space however, it's what's for sale that counts. So many gently used clothes carrying various well-known and respected labels at seriously cheap prices. Shoes galore too, and plenty of accessories. Men and women who love bargain digging and awesome finds shouldn't skip over this place. 135 N 7th; (718) 387-3010
Mast Brothers Chocolate & Brew - Brothers and founders, Rick and Michael Mast, have turned a homemade dinner party favorite into a booming business. They source cacao from Ecuador, Venezuela and Madagascar, and their popular chocolate bars come in various artisanal flavors like sea salt and black pepper, red chili, and Brooklyn-appropriate Stumptown. The Iowa boys have also just opened a cold and hot brewed chocolate store next door to the sweet factory. The interiors of the two shops are as clean and artisanal as their packaging which we are huge fans of. The thick Italian paper and foil that perfectly envelopes each chocolate bar is as stylish as some of the best dressed candies we've ever seen. 111A N 3rd Street; (718) 388-2644
We could go on, but we'll save some of our other 'Burg favorites for a later post. Things are always changing, after all.