Popular cultural lore has long hailed Brooklyn in New York as a bohemian alternative to Manhattan, with Williamsburg at its epicentre. Credited with birthing the hipster (The Hipster Handbook was published in 2003 by Williamsburg resident Robert Lanham), no other borough has garnered such global attention for its trajectory from an industrial site to gentrified ‘hood, and a byword for urban cool.
This myth of Williamsburg endures today, even if most artists have been priced out of their loft studios. Connected to Manhattan by bridge, it is propped up by neighbourhood restaurants, independent boutiques, a microbrewery and boutique hotels, as well as vast swathes of green space.
The Williamsburg model has been replicated in countless cities, but there is only one. Discover the best places to eat and drink in the borough, from laidback lunch spots with outdoor seating to perfect pasta, slice shops, and hidden bars with brilliant food, cocktails and live music.
The best restaurants in Williamsburg
Best for: Some of the best pasta in Williamsburg, booking ahead
Address: 567 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: upwards of 50 USD per head
In true New York fashion, the best of Italy was transported to a refurbished auto-body shop in Williamsburg for this airy pasta venture from renowned chef Missy Robbins. Lilia is one of the best restaurants in New York, which is open daily from 4pm. A hot spot for special occasions, it playfully blends high-brow Manhattan dining with a squeeze of Brooklyn zest. The pizzas are wood-fired and the pasta is hand-made, and you better call 30 days in advance to get a reservation.
Best for: Cantonese-American dishes, inventive cocktails
Address: 398 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: dishes from 16 USD
This elevated Chinese-fusion restaurant from the fast-growing restaurateur Calvin Eng has built a reputation as one of Brooklyn’s best restaurants since it opened in 2021. Inspired by his mother’s home cooking as a child, Eng’s Cantonese-American dishes are as experimental as they are mouth-watering. Negroni cocktails surprise with notes of pineapple and a mind-altering wok-fried version of cacio e pepe guarantee return tickets, as evidenced by the always energetic ambiance and lines out the door.
‘Noods and Chill
Best for: BYOB-lunches, comfort meals, take-out
Address: 170 S 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: dishes from 16 USD
This casual corner site combines a noodle shop with a charming Thai-style café. It is best known for its delicious take-out menu (though diners can sit, so long as they don’t mind a direct line of sight into the kitchen). Tuck into traditional favourites like pad thai and tom yum soup, as well as stand-out popcorn chicken and the best version of Khao soy you’ll ever taste — and that’s including when it’s made with subbed-for-chicken tofu.
Best for: A mid-budget charmer you won’t find in a guidebook
Address: 557 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: dishes from 12 USD
One of the newest restaurants on this list, Lamonte consistently delivers excellent food that won’t break the bank, replete with outdoor seating when the sun shines. And even if you’re not on a budget, it’s still well worth a visit — preferably at night, so you can lounge around in the string-lit backyard patio. The signature cocktail list includes a buttered-bourbon martini, which can accompany their mouth-watering moules-frites and pan con jámon.
The Four Horsemen
Best for: Small plates and natural wine by day, indie-sleazing it up by night
Address: 295 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211,
Price: dishes from 12 USD
The Four Horsemen’s casual, cosy ambience belies its status as a James Beard Award-winning natural wine bar. It also happens to be co-owned by James Murphy, a member of Brooklyn-based band LCD Soundsystem. It might sound like the kind of faddish destination that tourists flock to, particularly in this golden re-age of New York’s indie-sleaze aesthetic. Yet upon walking through its nondescript doors, one is more likely to find locals getting an informal lesson in oenology. Go for the wine but stay for the food: small-plate staples like charcuterie boards and homemade bread and butter tango with inventive dishes like mussels doused in aioli and cured fish with yuzu kosho, though the menu changes often. There is also outdoor seating, which is perfect for people-watching, and it opens for lunch Friday to Sunday.
Le Crocodile at the Wythe Hotel
Best for: If your parents (or Wall Street hook-up) are in tow to front the bill
Address: 80 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11249, United States
Price: around 25 USD for a main dish
One of the best restaurants in New York, Le Crocodile is a surprisingly unpretentious French brasserie situated within the charming Wythe Hotel, which houses an impressive art collection and gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline from its rooftop bar. The restaurant’s high ceilings and generally cavernous environment suit its menu, which runs 40-plus dishes long (the standout roasted half-chicken with herb jus and fries is the dish most visitors would recommend). Whether visiting for breakfast or lunch, sipping pre-dinner cocktails at its long marble bar, or gorging on profiteroles in the privacy of a booth, this all-day Paris-transporting restaurant delivers.
Best for: Brooklyn’s best slice
Address: 254 S 2nd Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: slices from 5 USD
If you’re on the hunt for that iconic New York slice, L’industrie is the best slice shop in Brooklyn, open daily for lunch and dinner. Watch the chefs at work behind the counter, crafting the airiest crust you’re likely to bite into this side of the bridge. Classic Margherita is most popular, but for something more adventurous, try the fig-jam white. And don’t forget the homemade gelato.
For fans of thick-crusted, Detroit-style pizza, it would be remiss not to mention nearby Ace’s Perfect Pizza, with square cuts so tasty that its pompous-sounding name somehow seems humbling.
Best for: Mexican flavours on a budget
Address: 295 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: tacos from 3.50 USD
A stalwart of the Williamsburg dining scene since 2008, La Superior never goes out of style. Created by a Mexico City native in response to the lack of authentic taquerias in the city, this neighbourhood restaurant serves up mighty street food in a pocket-sized space. If you’re visiting during the summer season, your new favourite gorditas and quesadillas can be eaten on picnic tables outside (and if you’re passing by during the colder months, just get here early).
Best for: La Superior, but sexier; outdoor seating
Address: 91 S 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Price: main dishes from 15 USD; cocktails from 17 USD
If sipping imported mezcal cocktails out of clay copitas on wicker-crafted bar stools sounds sexy, then hightail it to Aldama. This sultry new restaurant has rapidly become a popular neighbourhood hangout, thanks to its Mexico City-inspired vibes and a stellar food and drinks menu, including plenty of vegan options. It is also considered one of the best restaurants with outdoor seating in New York. All of the cocktails are fabulous – particularly the tequila and Topo Chico-infused Citrus Fizz and the frozen hibiscus-flowered Encacahuatado Sangre de Mezcal. It is also an underrated brunch go-to, with pitch-perfect encacahuatados.
The best bars in Williamsburg
Best for: Candle-lit conversations, cocktails, Old New York glamour, outdoor patio
Address: 82 Berry Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: drinks from 15 USD
When Hotel Delmano opened in 2008, it was considered Williamsburg’s first proper cocktail bar. It remains one of the area’s hidden gems, balancing chandeliers and marble bar tops with turquoise walls tacked with old portraits. Inspired by New Orleans, it has a saloon vibe, serving cocktails, natural wine and mounds of ice piled with oysters and shellfish from the raw bar. In a city bounding with pretentious faux-speakeasies, Hotel Delmano playfully hints at this trend with wait staff dressed in suspenders and wingtips. There are also outdoor seating for hanging out with a group in the summer.
Pete’s Candy Store
Best for: Watching your wallet after Lilia, regressing to your college era
Address: 709 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: cocktails from 10 USD
Before this off-the-beaten-path watering hole came to fruition in 1999, it was a church run by the son of infamous televangelists Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker. Whether intentional or not, something about the dive bar’s gaudy decor, cheap well-made drinks, and multi-functional layout (the venue hosts both trivia contests and live performances) pay inadvertent homage to the unwitting gay icon who birthed its former landlord.
Best for: Impressing your date with an insider’s recommendation
Address: 61 Withers St, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: cocktails from 17 USD
This self-described ‘hidden’ cocktail bar and kitchen is open from Wednesday to Sunday. When local or visiting friends ask me to take them somewhere different, Bar Beau is always the answer. A snaking hallway at the entrance belies a cavernous, coolly-lit bar room with a half-circle bar. The space ups the ante every Sunday from 5pm to 10pm with an exclusive ‘Sunday Funday’ menu of signature cocktails with a seasonal twist (like the Aperol and chili-infused ‘Snow Bird’) and bites.
Night of Joy
Best for: rooftop drinks, botanical cocktails
Address: 667 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: cocktails from 12 USD
Ottomans, throw pillows, and a cocktail menu with ingredients sourced from a herb garden entice drinkers with a penchant for green-thumbed libations (including one cocktail comprising vodka, beet and dill). The graffiti-strewn rooftop at Night of Joy is perfect for outdoor people-watching in the summer, while downstairs is low-lit and furnished with vintage furniture for a laidback setting.
Best for: A photo-perfect backyard patio, wine lovers
Address: 331 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: wines priced by the glass
There is no menu at Sauced. While wine enthusiasts can forge their own path, it’s recommended to leave it up to the expert sommeliers behind the bar. It’s the ideal entry point for anyone intimidated by the grape to be guided towards a recommendation that feels personalised and unique. And if by the time you leave you’re still confused by the bar’s name, then perhaps you did it wrong.
Best for: Oysters, oysters, oysters (and absinthe!)
Address: 298 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Price: cocktails from 18 USD
An upscale ‘oyster and absinthe cafe’ on the busiest street in Williamsburg, Maison Premiere is a well-known across-the-bridge mainstay, and one of the best bars in New York. The menu is filled to the brim with crudo, caviar, and to the delight of anyone three cocktails deep, a cornucopia of different kinds of oyster plates (and the plating is divine!) The best modus operandi here is to dress to impress because there is a garden patio, primed for people watching. A bountiful gin martini called the Old King Cole is stirred tableside upon order, and there’s also a collection of house favorites under the moniker, ‘Maison Juleps.’ In other words, there are no wrong orders.
Best for: Pre or post-showtime drinks, vegan plates
Address: 136 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Price: drinks from 6 USD
Hidden inside Williamsburg’s coolest movie theatre, the Lo-Res bar at Nitehawk Cinema is decked out with obscure and fashionable movie posters to make you feel like a resident cinephile. Specialty cocktails are named after the films they show (the Fire Walk With Me, titled after David Lynch’s cult classic TV show Twin Peaks, is a favoured frozen margarita). Food-wise, unconventional small plates like Dorito Dusted Crispy Chicken or a bucket of assorted gummy worms (Charlie Bucket) make this an essential visit, regardless of if you’re buying a movie ticket or not (though your bill gets discounted if you do). There are also ample vegan and gluten-free options.
St. Mazie Bar & Supper Club
Best for: Whiskey cocktails, live jazz music, outdoor seating
Address: 345 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: cocktails from 10 USD
The titular 20th-century figure Mazie Phillips after whom this bar is named was known for her kindness and charity to the homeless and downtrodden. What that has to do with this honorary establishment is not quite clear, however her spirit is represented in the cosy atmosphere and generous pours. Dimly lit, intimate, and tucked away on a discreet street, this is an ideal place for a date, or an opportunity to lose yourself in the jazzy sounds of saxophones and trumpets during its live performances, which occur almost nightly. Anything with whiskey or bourbon is a good choice here, while the food menu reels off oysters, coq au vin, and truffle gnocchi.
Best for: Channeling the edginess of 1980s New York City, live music
Address: 595 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: small plates from 7 USD
A modern take on the neighborhood dive bar, Thief riffs on the aesthetic and energy of 1980s New York City, which translates to checkerboard ceilings, a grungy soundtrack, and walls adorned with graffiti and Polaroids of Basquiat from the collection of era-defining stylist Maripol. Frankly, if you’re here, you’re sipping on a frozen wine drink called Friesling and not caring where your afternoon is heading. And while you’re idling away your time, get the Bavarian pretzel. There is also regular live music on weekends.
Best for: Oysters, oysters, oysters (and free slices)
Address: 790 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Price: cocktails from 7 USD
Philomena’s is so-called after the owner’s Irish grandmother that absolutely no one knows… and yet you’ll feel like you do after a visit. Allegedly she was the life of all parties, who hosted elegant dinners in celebration of life, love, and eternal youth – it’s quite an essence to live up to. So do your part to channel your inner Philomena (she’s in us all!) and hop over on Wine Wednesday, where every glass of wine comes with a complimentary slice of pizza. On other days, you can meet the rest of the family via their eponymously named drinks: Tish (vodka and espresso), Felix (mezcal and orange), Olivia (bourbon and fig), Ginny (gin and sage), and Father O. (Find Out!)