L to Morgan Ave
We took the L to Morgan Ave and found killer street art, cheap vintage and no barf.
Wed Nov 5 2008
35 mins from midtown
Upon exiting the Morgan Ave stop, the first thing we notice about Bushwick is its abundance of street art: Wheatpasted installations have supplanted the gang graffiti of yesteryear—well, most of it, anyway. We step inside The Archive Cafe (49 Bogart St at Grattan St, 718-381-1944), a video-rental store and cornerstone of what some locals are calling Morgantown, and ask assistant manager and Cool Hand Luke fan Dan Mitchell for the nabe’s best spots. He recommends Life Café (983 Flushing Ave at Central Ave; 718-386-1133, lifecafe.com) for its vegetarian options, especially during brunch; the voguishly divey Wreck Room (940 Flushing Ave between Central and Evergreen Aves, 718-418-6347), notable for its pool tables and cheap swill; and thrift store Urban Jungle Vintage (118 Knickerbocker St between Flushing Ave and Thames St, urbanjunglevintage.wordpress.com).
We head in the direction of Mitchell’s faves, but get sidetracked by two guys filming a music video near the gates of a Boar’s Head warehouse. Lensman Tyler Ribble loves the ’Wick. “I’ve lived here a year and a half and there are always rooftop parties and barbecues,” he enthuses. The crew gives a thumbs-up on Mitchell’s picks, and vocalist Matt Singer adds one more to the mix: Roberta’s (261 Moore St between Bogart and White Sts; 718-417-1118, robertaspizza.com), a brick-oven pizzeria known for its gourmet pies and homey vibe.
Urban Jungle Vintage
While chowing down there, we chat with Juan Figueroa, owner of the NY Loft Hostel just down the block. “It used to be a clothing warehouse, like most of the neighborhood,” says Figueroa, who says the only clothier left in the ’hood is Martin Greenfield—famous for dressing notables like Bill Clinton.
We head over to Tina’s Restaurant (1002 Flushing Ave at Wilson Ave, 718-821-9595), a nook of a diner with an odd schedule: 3:30am to 4pm. The predawn business is strong with “night owls and Boar’s Head drivers,” says owner Tina Skermo. “Sometimes they’re waiting outside for me to open up.”
Farther down the block, we spot a packed crowd feasting on vegan scrambles at Life Café. Manager Andy Mills says the joint reflects the neighborhood’s arty vibe even when its doors are closed: “All three of our gates were done by graffiti artists that I’m told are extremely famous.” (A little research tells us the scrawlings belong to Jace, Pez, Eine and Aiko.) We soldier on until we hit art studio and “social space” Pocket Utopia (1037 Flushing Ave between Morgan Ave and Vandevoort Pl, pocketutopia.com), whose open door beckons. Artist-in-residence Amy Lincoln points out a wheatpasted piece across the street, compliments of Swoon. We admire the work en route to another gallery: Factory Fresh (1053 Flushing Ave between Knickerbocker and Morgan Aves, factoryfresh.net), whose current show, “Quality of Life,” displays four photographers’ takes on New York’s forgotten spaces. Codirector Ali Ha reports that the previous night’s opening party was a success, but they had a problem curbing attendees’ BYO inclination. “We’re trying to do everything legit,” says Ha. “At our last spot [in the LES], we got talked to by the chief of police.” So why the move to Bushwick? “The Lower East Side is done—it’s where everyone starts puking into garbage cans at 7pm. Lots of artists live out here now.”
We leave, turn the corner and finally arrive at Urban Jungle, ready for flannel shirts (priced at a paltry $7). Adam Wistar, a student who has lived in the neighborhood since last summer, is trying on threads. “Getting some shirts for the winter—one-of-a-kind items, you know,” he says with a grin.
On our walk back to the subway, we spy a massive Barack Obama mural, just blocks from a new condo development and a community garden. Good or bad, big changes are happening here, and the motto seems to be, “Yes, we can.”
Ad Hoc Art Space
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