John Heilemann co-wrote, with Time’s Mark Halperin, Game Change, a best-selling account of the 2008 presidential election recently adapted as a movie for HBO. The 46-year-old is national-affairs editor at New York magazine, where he writes a column that’s a must-read for anyone interested in politics. And he’s a nine-year Brooklyn resident, currently in Williamsburg, though he’s also lived in Fort Greene and DUMBO—“so I know the borough pretty well, brother.” He shares with us his favorite spots around town.
Best place to people watch?
As a professional watcher of politicians, I prefer to spend my free time observing nobler creatures—which is to say, canines (and, ok, the simians attached to them). For that, there are three prime options: Prospect Park, Fort Greene Park, and Hillside Dog Park on Columbia Heights.
Best place to drink?
Three-way tie, all in Williamsburg: Maison Premiere, for the gorgeous Old New Orleans space, excellent raw bar, and plentitude of drinks with an absinthe or sparkling element; Dram, in the old Chickenbone Café space, for its top-to-bottom, kick-ass cocktail selection; and Post Office, for its best-of-718 whiskey program.
Again, no way to pick just one, so I’m going with Roberta’s in Bushwick, for the incredible high-low culinary mastery and the pirate-radio vibe, and Prime Meats over in Carroll Gardens, where my pals the Franks have the steampunk mise-en-scene down pat—and also serve up the best red meat in this borough or any other. A confession, though: I picked those two having never been able to secure a table at Brooklyn Fare; come on, someone out there, can ya hook a brother up?
Best bookstore or record store?
I buy tons of music digitally but haven’t been in a record store in years (he said, sticking out his jaw and begging every vinyl snob in Brooklyn to take a swing). On the book front, I’ll always have a soft spot for powerHouse in DUMBO, where I once walked by on a warm summer night and saw what must have been 50 people milling around inside—buck naked. Why? Who knows? Who cares?
Best grocery store or farmer's market?
Fuck groceries. Fuck greens. I’m all about the animal flesh. And for that there’s simply nowhere better than Tom Mylan’s Williamsburg master butchery, The Meat Hook.
Best laundromat or dry cleaner?
I've lived in Brooklyn since 2003 in four places—Fort Greene, Williamsburg, DUMBO, and now Williamsburg again—and have yet to find a decent dry cleaner. As for laundromat—do I look 22 to you?
Best outdoor spot?
Any section of the emerging Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is really being done right, or down by the docks in Red Hook, where you can catch a scent of sea air.
Best place to attend a show/view a piece of art/see a movie?
Boring, sure, but I’m a longtime supporter of the folks at BAM, where I’ve seen some of the best theater of my life, and a newborn booster of the Brooklyn Museum, where the recent Keith Haring retrospective blew the doors off the place.
Best coffee shop?
Blue Bottle by a mile.
Best subway line or bus route?
I wouldn’t know – I’m from LA.
Best date spot?
Ten years out of the dating pool disqualifies me for an opinion.
Best person whose name you don't know?
The guy who’s a dead ringer for Zach Galifianakis—unless of course he actually is Zach Galifianakis.
Best celebrity in the neighborhood?
Zach Galifianakis. Or James Murphy.
Which are there more of: dogs, bodega cats, strollers, American Apparel ads, or old men on stoops?
I’ve lost count of all five.
What's missing from Williamsburg?
A first-rate seafood shop.
What's been the biggest change since you've moved in?
Since moving back to Williamsburg a year ago, it’s been hard not to notice the (not-unrelated) decrease in the number of hipsters and the increase in the number of strollers. Perfectly happy about the first part, uneasy about the second.
It's a Saturday night in August. You don't feel like traveling very far but you're antsy for a night out. Where do you go?
Right across the street to the La Esquina outpost on Wythe—the Pepino Diablo margaritas are what summer nights are for.
If you had to go to just one restaurant in your hood for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
Prime Meats for sure—though if it weren’t for insane waits for a table at Roberta’s, this might be a closer call.
Best late-night eats?
Andrew Tarlow’s indispensible dyad of Marlow & Sons and Diner.
Best food truck?
Love both of Williamsburg’s legendary rollling tacquerias—Endless Summer and El Diablo. But you’d be a fool to gainsay the totality of the Red Hook Ballfield scene.
What kind of restaurant is missing from Williamsburg?
Chinese. Indian. Sushi. Did I mention Chinese?
Most expensive thing in your fridge?
Either the bowl of Beluga as big as a fist (pricey), the bottle of vintage Dom Perignon (pricier), or the jug of homemade barbecue sauce (priceless).