Whether you want to line your stomach before hitting the bars (or soak up the damage afterwards) or grab an inexpensive lunch or pre-gig meal, there are plenty of cheap eats in the neighborhood. You'll find gastropub fare at The Commodore, greaseless fried chicken at Pies and Thighs and superior sandwiches at Saltie.
RECOMMENDED: The best cheap eats in NYC
Deprivation is the mother of New York restaurant hype. Pies ’n’ Thighs, the city’s most eagerly awaited Southern-fried grease trap, has kept Williamsburg in Pavlovian limbo since the start of 2008, when its first incarnation—a drunk-food closet at the back of a bar—was shut down to prep for a more spacious and permanent home. Last month, after endless delays, it finally debuted in a former bodega near the Williamsburg Bridge.
Venue says: “Come visit us for homemade breads, pastries, pizzas and more!”
This tiny, low-key sandwich shop comes to us from owners Caroline Fidanza (Marlow & Sons), Rebecca Collerton (Diner) and Elizabeth Schula (Il Buco). Together, they create simple yet remarkable sandwiches that rely on pedigreed produce. Most are served on house-baked sea-salt-speckled focaccia, a versatile vehicle that encases sardines, capers and house-pickled eggs in the Captain’s Daughter, a delicious riff on a pan bagnat. Mortadella, pecorino and green-olive spread combine in the Little Chef, an exceptional spin on the New Orleans muffuletta, and the Spanish Armada features a potato tortilla slathered in pimentón-spiked aioli. Saltie is also a great spot for sweets, like buttery apple galettes.
'Cue savant Daniel Delaney—who gained a cultish following with his online venture, Brisketlab—serves Central Texas-style smoked meat at this roadhouse joint. Inspired by Southern grocery shops, Delaney outfitted the counter-service spot with handmade benches and a glowing neon sign. The toque pulls pork and beef ribs, brisket and sausage from an ancient wood-fired smoker, which burns timber shipped in from the Lone Star State. Stuff your meat in a soft slice of homemade white bread, and get a salad or coleslaw on the side. Local and rare bottled beers are on offer, as well as Blue Bottle drip coffee. Finish your meal with homemade pie: Flavors—including seasonal varieties such as pumpkin, pecan and blueberry—rotate each week.
If you’re going to pay for artisanal pizza, it’s best served fresh: Here, slices of piping hot cheese ‘za will set you back $3.25, a whole dollar cheaper than Artichoke. Drop down another $3.75 to try a leopard-spotted white slice jazzed up with caramelized onions and sesame seeds, and wash it down with a Mexican Coke ($2.75).
Before this Williamsburg coffee bar and roastery came along, the only place in New York where you could find San Francisco’s famed Blue Bottle Coffee was at Gramercy Tavern. Now caffeine fanatics can sample the company’s shots of espresso and cups of joe—made to order from freshly roasted, mostly organic beans—without dropping a wad of cash on a dinner. Iced-coffee fans in particular should take note: Five contraptions from Japan will slowly cold-drip Kyoto-style brew, while those who like to add milk should consider the stronger New Orleans-style preparation, fortified with chicory. Pastries, meanwhile, will come from Park Slope’s Colson Patisserie until Blue Bottle gets its own in-house baking operation up and running later in the year.
First came the gastropub, an import from Britain featuring upmarket pub grub in an ale-drinking setting. Now, welcome the gastrodive, which further blurs the lines between restaurant and bar. The Commodore in Williamsburg, with its old arcade games, Schlitz in a can and stereo pumping out the Knight Rider theme song, offers the city’s best cheap-ass bar eats, served in a seedy venue where folks come to get blotto. The short menu—with descriptions as curt as the service you’ll encounter while ordering your food from the bartender—reads like a classic collection of fryolator junk.
New Jersey native Brian Shebairo expands his popular East Village hot-dog mecca to Williamsburg. True to its casual roots, the small Brooklyn outpost will be outfitted with old-school video games, steel floors and a vintage skateboard collection. You'll find the same late-night munchies on offer: Tater-Tots, chili cheese fries, milk shakes and snappy, deep-fried dogs in creative combinations, like the Tsunami (bacon-wrapped with teriyaki sauce, pineapple and green onions) and the John-John Deragon (cream cheese, scallions and a sprinkling of everything-bagel seeds). But this location will also appeal to the early-morning set with a takeout window serving Intelligentsia coffee and breakfast sandwiches a few steps from the Bedford L stop.
From the folks who brought you DuMont, this quintessential Williamsburg burgers-and-beer joint could get away with cooking just two things well: burgers, thick and bulging with juice to spare, and fries, browned and pleasantly mealy. Most of the 30 seats in this unfinished wood, counter-seating-only space tend to be occupied by worshipful patty lovers. Surprisingly, the Bibb salad and bacon-studded mac and cheese were our favorite items on the short menu.
This Southern-accented breakfast-only abode has no parallel in Billyburg or beyond. Perch on mismatched chairs at a paper-covered table, wake up at a leisurely speed to the old-time folk music on the sound system, and tuck into a cheap meal that may include eggs Rothko (a slice of brioche with a hole in the middle that accommodates a sunny-side-up egg, all of which is covered with sharp cheddar) or a terrific country-ham biscuit sandwich. If you must have dessert at breakfast, finish with a bowl of caramelized grapefruit and mint.
The Charleston—a dimly lit Williamsburg dive—offers some of the city’s best drunk food via this Cajun-themed takeout window. Order from a short menu and snag a pitcher of Abita from the bar while you wait. The “O.G.” po’ boy is the most joyously junky offering: The humongous two-hander resembles a poutine sandwich, with a mound of salt-and-pepper fries smothered in shredded-beef gravy and stuffed inside a mayo-slathered hero. Prices fit the setting: A $5 heap of andouille-and-chicken jambalaya, served on white rice to offset the heat, is a deal too good to pass up.
Restaurateur Besim Kukaj strays from his Italian-accented portfolio (Cara Mia, Gallo Nero, Il Bastardo) with this colorful, Chelsea-set Mexican eatery. From the kitchen, find shareable appetizers such as shredded beef tacos, poached shrimp ceviche and a gluten-free salad built with cactus, grasshoppers, roasted corn and cipollini onions. For a larger bite, signature entrees range from plancha-sautéed Chilean sea bass to huitlacoche (corn truffle) enchiladas.
Venue says: “Come to try Camarones en Salsa Oaxaqueña. Jumbo Shrimp, squid ink rice, chile mulato dry and Shrimp Sauce - Yummy!”