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This neighborhood may have become the butt of every hipster joke, but the young and the cool flock to Williamsburg, situated in the postindustrial north of Brooklyn, for a reason. The neighborhood's established Hasidic, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Italian and Polish communities continue to put their own unique stamp on the diverse but gentrifying neighborhood. But some underdeveloped spots east of the BQE still have rents that allow for experimentation and specialization, and the area continues to be a magnet for artistic 20-somethings looking to pursue creative dreams or start a family of their own.
Kevin Bracken, cofounder of interactive public art group Newmindspace (newmindspace.com)
"My favorite place to eat is Danny's Pizzeria, and the reason is not the pizza—which is pretty good—but in the wintertime they have the most excellent chicken soup that I think I've ever had. I think Danny makes it himself."
Danny's Pizzeria, 241 Bushwick Ave at Montrose Ave (718-381-1669, dannyspizzeria.com)
"If I want to get really cheap snack food while I'm drinking, I go to The Levee. It's not really that cool; it's the kind of place where you can get 50 bowls of cheese puffs."
The Levee, 212 Berry St at North 3rd St (718-218-8787, theleveenyc.com)
"I love the people who run 3rd Ward, and the events that they do there. I've been to lots and lots of excellent parties there. My favorites are thrown by Will Etundi from the Danger (thedanger.com). He's been an inspiration for my own events."
3rd Ward, 195 Morgan Ave between Meadow and Stagg Sts (718-715-4961, 3rdward.com)
"There's a great thrift store called Urban Jungle, if you're looking for clothes to modify. At the end of summer, a lot of Burners [people who go to the Burning Man festival] look for their costumes there. This is year five for me. We've been working on our costumes for a while. We have a different idea for each evening, borrowing from different eras: the Greco-Roman past, the dystopian future and everything in between."
Urban Jungle, 120 Knickerbocker Ave between Flushing Ave and Thames St (718-381-8510, urbanjunglevintage.wordpress.com)
Dave Herman, founder, City Reliquary Museum
"The delicious Puerto Rican--style drink Morir Soando at Reben Luncheonette is the equivalent of a creamsicle in a drink. It's made fresh to order by squeezing oranges and mixing the juice with condensed milk. I believe this luncheonette has been serving them since the '50s, and they still have an old hand-painted sign of a young couple sipping one from two straws."
Reben Luncheonette, 229 Havemeyer St between Broadway and South 5th St (718-388-7696)
"La Villita Bakery is one of the few places right along the main drag that's kept the old character of the neighborhood. It's a Puerto Rican--style bakery and known by people in the neighborhood for its cake displays. I've heard them referred to as the Miss Havisham [from Great Expectations] of cake displays: they're browning from being in direct sunlight, or they're getting dusty, but for me it's part of the character. When I started the City Reliquary windows, I wanted to feature the local flavor, so a cake from La Villita was an essential addition. The cake I ordered had a scantily clad plastic doll alongside a Speedo-wearing male sunbather. They always have one of each in the window, right alongside kids' cakes and cakes with plastic clowns and ballerinas. I usually get the bacon, egg and cheese on a croissant with mayonnaise. They'll always ask, 'Do you want mayo on that?' So I always get it with mayo at their suggestion."
La Villita Bakery, 171 Grand St at Bedford Ave (718-486-8761)
"The carved Styrofoam hammer sign by artist Stanley Wisniewolski outside Crest Hardware is one of the last two remaining signs in the neighborhood left over from an early-'80s business-improvement-district plan implemented by the St. Nick's Alliance. [The previous] Crest Hardware owner Manny Franquinha took special care of it, recoating the sign with protective paint each year."
, 558 Metropolitan Ave between Lorimer St and Union Ave (718-388-9521, cresthardwareartshow.com)
Michael Pinto, publisher, fanboy.com and anime.com; owner, graphic design studio Very Memorable Inc.
"What's cool about Williamsburg is you can just flop out of bed on a Sunday and walk to a bunch of art galleries. Where else in the city could you affordably do that? Cinders Gallery is a hole-in-the-wall art gallery with amazing shows, and their opening parties spill out onto the street. What I really love about it is that while they display artwork in the front, in the back they have a collection of very affordable small works of art, from artists' fanzines to little knickknacks."
Cinders Gallery, 103 Havemeyer St at Hope St (718-388-2311, cindersgallery.com). Now showing: Allyson Mellberg, "An Unearthly Child," through Oct 10.
"The area around Barcade is being surrounded by yuppie building projects springing up left and right, but [it's] like some lone hipster holdout. This bar is nothing short of amazing. From the outside it doesn't look like much, but when you get inside it's the size of a mini warehouse. It's filled with retro '80s video games, and their beer selection there is amazing."
Barcade, 388 Union Ave at Ainslie St (718-302-6464, barcadebrooklyn.com)
"Desert Island is my favorite comic-book store; their selection of small-press indie publications is a delight. I had to get a birthday gift for a friend and met the owner—because he's the only one in there—and we put together this amazing package. He knows his stuff, inside and out."
, 540 Metropolitan Ave between Lorimer St and Union Ave (718-388-5087, desertislandbrooklyn.com)
"Bedford Cheese Shop has the most amazing selection of fresh cheese I've ever seen, and they're fanatics. I took a foodie friend there as a treat and she fell in love with the place. She said, 'Give me your best smelly cheese,' and they served her five tastes within five minutes, with a summary of each cheese. Then they recommended food and wine pairings."
, 229 Bedford Ave at North 4th St (718-599-7588, bedfordcheeseshop.com)
"Blackbird is one of my favorite cafes in the 'hood. The walls are filled with books, and it's just comfortable. They're open late, which to me is the real appeal. They have amazing grilled cheese; that's the thing they do best after hours. And the desserts there are really amazing."
, 197 Bedford Ave between North 6th and 7th Sts (718-599-2707)
"Foodswings is one of my favorites. It's a greasy-spoon vegetarian fast-food place. You can get vegan nachos and vegetarian hot dogs and burgers. They may even have vegan shakes. There are people that come in from as far as Westchester to eat there. It's one of these unique hole-in-the-wall places."
, 295 Grand St between Havemeyer and Roebling Sts (718-388-1919, foodswings.net)
"There's this beautiful community drug store, Kings Pharmacy. It has a cool entrance and it's cavernous, the size of a Duane Reade. They're the pioneers who made life livable in the 'burg when no mainstream corporation would dare go into the 'hood. Now there's a Duane Reade going up across the street in a modern yuppie building that just shot up. It kind of summarizes the neighborhood. The edge of Williamsburg, by the river, gets very expensive, very gentrified, and the cooler people keep moving out so they're in Bushwick, East Williamsburg. The further you go out, the more raw it gets."
Kings Pharmacy, 41 Bedford Ave between North 3rd and North 4th Sts (718-782-1000, kingspharmacy.org)
Joseph Franquinha, co-owner, Crest Hardware; curator and producer, Crest Fest
"Williamsburg is a perfect microcosm of NYC, despite what cynics have to say. The demographic really spans the spectrum, there's a ton of cultural happenings, and I'm most proud of the civic pride and neighborly spirit that resounds in a majority of inhabitants."
"My gal and I like to eat out, and there is no shortage of great food. French bistro Le Barricou is a nice little romantic joint with great mussels and house-made pasta. I'm really impressed with the pasta, and this is coming from someone who's eaten at a ton of Italian restaurants and eaten tons of pasta growing up."
, 533 Grand St between Lorimer St and Union Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-782-7372, lebarricouny.com)
"The arepas at Caracas Arepa Bar are dynamite, and they have this coconut milkshake with rum that is off the hook."
Caracas Arepa Bar, 291 Grand St between Roebling and Havemeyer Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-218-6050, caracasarepabar.com)
"[If I'm with my girlfriend, I] can spend the whole night at Vutera at Rose Live Music. They're known for their music upstairs, and it's a retro, funky scene. It's really dark and sultry and swanky. Then you can hop downstairs and it's old-school: mismatched chairs, wood tables, wine racks line the wall. It's very cozy and the food is really good, too. If it's nice out, I like to eat in the garden under the grapevine canopy."
, 345 Grand St between Havemeyer St and Marcy Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-599-0069, roselivemusic.com)
"A new gallery just opened up called Rouge 58. Their last show of photos from Kareem Black was great, and I expect many more interesting shows from gallery owner Nadja."
Rouge 58, 555 Metropolitan Ave between Lorimer St and Union Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-882-4396, rouge58.com)
"My favorite bar is Pete's Candy Store. It's got the best bartenders, unique music and a great outdoor space. I can always walk in by myself and find someone I know."
, 709 Lorimer St between Frost and Richardson Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-302-3770, petescandystore.com)
Baruch Herzfeld, owner, Traif Bike Gesheft
"My favorite place to dance the meringue with waitresses is Vecino, a pizza-place-slash-Dominican-restaurant. You can get a cup of coffee for a dollar, or they'll sell Coronas for $2. It's not a bar, it's just a place where old men sit and drink beer. I just talk to the ladies in Spanish and dance meringue with the waitresses sometimes. I talk to the old men at least."
Vecino Pizza Restaurant, 139 South 4th St between Bedford Ave and Berry St (718-387-2675)
"I'm unique in that I get to spend time with the Hasidim, which other people don't do. There's a gas station where I like to hang out with the 'bad' Hasidim; that's where they can get kosher sandwiches and kosher potato chips. They're not bad, it's just that's where they go to be a little bit looser than what you'd expect."
Hewes Service Station, 677 Kent Ave at Hewes St (718-596-6755)
"People talk about Kosher restaurants—Gottlieb is the famous one—but there's a whole bunch of other interesting places that people don't know about. There's a place called Gusto where you can get a good steak for $22."
Gottlieb Restaurant, 352 Roebling St between Division Ave and South 9th St (718-384-9037) * Gusto Restaurant and Takeout, 868 Bedford Ave between Myrtle and Park Aves (718-852-7400)
"Time's Up is a great place to hang out on Wednesdays and Sundays—they're fantastic. I always tell women: The best place to meet a man is at their free bike repair class, because there's always cute boys, they're volunteers, know how to work with their hands and they have nice bicycles. Plus, they are all in excellent physical condition. You have the slim type who rides a bike in Brooklyn, not the fucked-up Jersey-shore type."
Time's Up, 99 South 6th St between Bedford Ave and Berry St (212-802-8222, times-up.org)
"On Sundays, I like to go to BUSHFLIX Sunday Screeners at Bushwick Project for the Arts. They set up an old movie-theater projection, and you can watch an old movie for free. It's a lot of fun, there are a lot of people, and then you have a discussion forum afterward."
Bushwick Project for the Arts, 304 Meserole St between Bushwick Pl and Morgan Ave (bushwickprojectforthearts.blogspot.com). Sun 5pm; free.