Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer Weekend Guide: Bushwick

Posted By on Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 12:12 PM

  • Here.

Granted, we write about things that are happening in Bushwick all the time. But in my own experience trying to coax people out here on the weekends, unless you live nearby, it's pretty easy to find excuses not to make the trek. Hence, it deserves the summer weekend guide treatment. This particular weekend, the neighborhood will play host to the Roberta's-backed Bushwick Block Party. You may have heard about it:

Uh, yes. This is all well and good, and if you can handle crowds (and very long lines for free pizza), then by all means, dive in. But it's by no means the only option. Over the span of not very much time at all, a lot of good stuff has cropped up throughout the neighborhood, and even for the most skeptical tourist (or non-North Brooklyn resident), it's imminently worth spending a day or two poking around.

  • Photo via WHRTNY

Because this is another neighborhood in which the food scene is so varied, we had to divide it into two categories: meals and snacks. Also, now would be the time to note that things'll be roughly divided between L train and JMZ Bushwick, generally about a 20 minute walk from one another. So, first things first. The area around Myrtle-Broadway tends to be the best hub for brunch, with Skytown Cafe, Little Skips, and Athom Cafe all within a few blocks of one another. Hit Athom if you're in the neighborhood early—they have the best omlettes and croissants I've ever eaten, but the owner is bafflingly unapologetic about running out of everything early in the day—Skytown if you want to sit for a bit with an egg sandwich and a bloody mary, and Little Skips if you'd rather grab a coffee and bagel to-go and eat while you stroll down Flushing towards the hub of stuff around the Morgan stop.

Elsewhere, Northeast Kingdom is still the neighborhood gold standard for a stellar farm-to-table meal, and Falansai, a much-needed new Vietnamese place, is worth going to for the "Dad's shrimp rolls" alone (though they've got pretty amazing wine pairings, too). Then, there's Verde. It's a little farther out, near the Myrtle-Wyckoff stop, but well worth it for the stuff that comes out of their 100-year-old coal oven, and a reliably low-key, old-school atmosphere that's the ideal antidote to the sweaty throngs down by Roberta's. Frank Sinatra will be playing, fresh cannoli will be in a display case, and everything will feel exactly right. Also, for what it's worth, Burger It Up! (their exclamation point, not mine) out on Knickerbocker has what may be the best veggie burger in the entire borough, as well as some of the best spicy fries. It's a potent combination. Cafe Ghia's got a good one too, which is certifiably vegan, to boot.

Skytown, 921 Broadway
Little Skips, 941 Willoughby Ave
Athom Cafe, 1096 Broadway
Falansai, 112 Harrison Pl.
Northeast Kingdom, 18 Wyckoff Ave.
Verde Coal Oven, 254 Irving Ave.
Burger It Up!, 146 Knickerbocker Ave.
Cafe Ghia, 24 Irving Ave.

  • Photo via TV Foodies

The king of neighborhood snacks obviously are the rice balls at Arancini Bros, which we've talked about rapturously, and at length. Never pass up an opportunity to eat these (especially the beet and goat cheese version). But also, save room for other stuff. Lots of it.

Generally speaking, the bar snacks situation is a good one, and even if you're just there for drinks, it's worth getting a plate of the deviled eggs at Heavy Woods, say, or an order of hush puppies down the street at Mama Joy's. Also, if we can qualify a taco as a "snack" (we can), Los Hermanos is the beloved, BYOB neighborhood classic, but if you're by the Morgan stop or Myrtle-Wyckoff, we'd direct you to Taqueria El Fogon and Taqueria El Paisa, respectively. Or really, to all of them.

Down near Myrtle-Broadway, there's the wholesome ice cream parlor option at Evergreen, or the less-wholesome frito pie at Happy Fun Hideaway. Crucially, there's also a dominican stand that stays open late nights directly across the street from Bossa Nova Civic Club, with stomach-lining fare like fried yucca.

Arancini Bros., 940 Flushing Ave.
Heavy Woods, 50 Wyckoff Ave.
Mama Joy's, 1084 Flushing Ave.
Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos, 271 Starr St.
Taqueria El Fogon, 1050 Flushing Ave.
Taqueria El Paisa, 298 Irving Ave.
Evergreen Ice Cream Co., 144 Evergreen Ave
Happy Fun Hideaway, 1211 Myrtle Ave.


Actual Activities
Should you need a break from eating, at some point. The neighborhood's taken a big hit to its roster of venues lately with the sudden loss of Big Snow, and Market Hotel is still inching toward its much-anticipated re-opening. That said, since moving to the neighborhood from Ridgewood, Silent Barn has been gathering momentum with a solid rotation of bands, and nearby Fort Useless continues to be a good champion for smaller bands, as well as a monthly comedy showcase. With those, it's worth checking the websites to see who's playing on a given night. But for weird spontaneity, there's Goodbye Blue Monday. For about a decade, they've stuck to the same model, which is booking literally everyone who asks. If you're really lucky, you'll be there on a night when someone's taking their first shot at stand-up.

The area's also become something of a hub for galleries (hence, this year's Bushwick Open Studios, which hosted 600 shows.) 3rd Ward is the biggest and most varied, and, incidentally, is hosting a pig roast on-site this Saturday. Brooklyn FireProof, which has an on-site cafe and bar, multiple stages, and an entire building worth of workspaces for artists, has also turned itself into something of a neighborhood institution. For smaller spaces, though, the Living Gallery is a good jumping off point (check their calendar for specific events), as is Storefront Bushwick, which has been showcasing local artists for longer than just about anyone else. Schema Projects also has reliably good exhibitions, and also houses Blonde Art Books, a good source for smartly curated art publications.

And, in the category of "things that are hard to categorize but we like a lot anyway," there's Mellow Pages Reading Room, which is tucked into the 56 Bogart, a collection of small spaces that's well worth wandering around in and of itself. Somehow, they've created the perfect place to drink a little beer, rent a couple books, and read in peace. Not as easy as you'd think.

Fort Useless, 36 Ditmars Street
Silent Barn, 603 Bushwick Ave.
Goodbye Blue Monday, 1087 Broadway
The Living Gallery, 1094 Broadway
Storefront Bushwick, 16 Wilson Ave.
Schema Projects, 92 St. Nicholas
3rd Ward, 195 Morgan Ave.
Brooklyn FireProof, 119 Ingraham
Mellow Pages Library, 56 Bogart St.

  • Photo via Brooklyn the Borough

Another place to read in peace while drinking beer? Molasses, which has perfected a model of beer, wine, coffee, and an excellent collection of used books (here, you can actually buy them, as opposed to Mellow Pages, which runs on a membership-based rental model). If you really just want to buy a lot of beer, though, you can do that too, at the delightfully extensive, just-opened beer emporium The Sampler, which'll even let you do an on-site tasting before you bag up your (hand-labeled) bottles to take home with you.

The neighborhood's also become a pretty solid hub for thrifting, with Urban Jungle as its cornerstone, and a rare balance of men's and women's clothing (there's also a well-stocked Goodwill directly up the street, which doesn't hurt). Those more inclined toward serious digging can spend hours pawing through Green Village Used Clothing and Furniture, while anyone who'd rather pay a little more for higher-end pieces that someone else dug around for, C O L L E C T I O N S just opened down the street from Storefront Bushwick, and has been known to have free champagne kicking around, too. Something for everyone, and all that.

Molasses Books, 770 Hart St.
Urban Jungle, 118 Knickerbocker St.
Green Village, 276 Starr St.
C O L L E C T I O N S, 16A Wilson Ave.
The Sampler, 234 Starr St.

  • Photo via Metromix

Possibly the neighborhood's greatest strength. Or at least, it can feel that way sometimes—a new one opens up at least once a month. Tandem is the longtime stand-by (and a great spot for brunch if you're around earlier in the day), and only recently rivaled as the go-to "place to dance around in lasers and get a little weird" by the opening of Bossa Nova Civic Club this winter. Bossa Nova's music leans very heavily toward electronic; Tandem tends to vary from night to night.

The Narrows gets a lot of deserved cred for having the best-crafted cocktails in the neighborhood and is absolutely worth a pilgrimage, but as far as a good spot to just sit with your friends and have a laid back drink, the best place in the neighborhood is still Pearl's Social & Billy Club, just off the Jefferson stop. It's rivaled pretty closely by Alaska, though, which tends to be less crowded and has the benefit of a massive whiskey collection. Another neighborhood stalwart (and a good place two doors down to duck into if things at Goodbye Blue Monday get out of hand) is Lone Wolf, which is dark, cheap, and a good place to catch an unexpected, surprisingly good burlesque show or a DJ that unapologetically breaks out every major top 40 hit of the past 20 years. Whatever they have going on, everything here is as it should be.

Tandem, 236 Troutman Ave.
Bossa Nova Civic Club 1271 Myrtle Ave.
Pearl's Social & Billy Club, 40 St. Nicholas Ave.
The Narrows, 1037 Flushing Ave.
Alaska, 35 Ingraham St.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

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About The Author

Virginia K. Smith

Virginia K. Smith

Virginia K. Smith is the Assistant Editor at The L Magazine and a Bushwick resident. Her profile picture was taken at Summerscreen, because she is a real team player.

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