Nightclub Owner Kae Burke’s Ideal Day Is a High-Energy Romp Through Bushwick
She may not be on the dance floor, but this nightlife trailblazer likes to keep it active on her day off.
By Liz Provencher and Kae Burke
Published on 9/29/2022 at 5:34 PM
Kae Burke at VITAL Climbing Gym | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Kae Burke and her longtime friend Anya Sapozhnikova are best known for creating the off-the-wall nightclub and performance venue House of Yes, which quickly became a cornerstone of Bushwick’s nightlife scene. Even before the club opened, she had been making art and celebrating the neighborhood for nearly two decades. Despite running one of the most vibrant, high-energy party spots in Brooklyn, Burke still likes to spend her days off embracing all that Bushwick has to offer, from roaming streets that make you “feel like you’re walking in an art gallery” to eating, shopping, and exercising all over town.
In general, I really like to spend my days off just moving my body. I own this high-energy nightlife space, but I spend a lot of time in meetings and get a lot of screen time. It’s a lot of sitting, so when I have a full day of freedom I really like to get out and about around Bushwick.
We're in the warehouse, industrial area of Bushwick, and there's just a huge variety of creators, whether they're artists or entrepreneurs, people doing various projects. There's the Bushwick Collective, which has been here forever, and they’re the ones who spearhead all the street art and murals, so just walking around the neighborhood makes you feel like you're walking in an art gallery. There are tons of bars and restaurants now, but when we first opened here in 2007, there weren't many bars and restaurants in the area. Now there's a really wide variety of arts, entertainment, food, drink, and that's one of the things I love about Bushwick. It’s really dense with opportunities, options, and things to do.
Bushwick Collective murals | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
“It’s woman-owned and -operated, and they’ve created a really engaging community there of really, really great people.”
I usually like to start off the day at Kala Yoga. It opened right before the pandemic. I didn't get to go until just a couple months ago, but I was so happy to finally find a yoga studio close to me that has so many classes. They offer heated yoga and I started going in the winter when it was so cold. It's been so good for my mind, body, and soul—I feel like I’m really giving myself a proper reset. It’s woman-owned and -operated, and they’ve created a really engaging community there of really, really great people.
If I’m not starting the day with yoga, I like to just run wild in Ridgewood and go down whatever street inspires me in that moment. I just put on my playlist and go with the flow, and then usually end up stretching in Maria Hernandez Park.
When I really feel like treating myself and pampering myself with good food, I go to Pitanga. It's been in the neighborhood forever. I don't even know when they started, but it's been a go-to for vegan food since I can remember. It's a very authentic Brazilian cafe and breakfast spot, and the smoothies and acai bowls are out of this world. I always get the Brazilian breakfast, which is slow-roasted black beans with pico de gallo, avocado, a baked egg, and pao de queijo, or a Brazilian cheese bread. I'll always get that and some sort of smoothie, like banana cacao.
Kae Burke at VITAL Climbing Gym | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
“It's my favorite, favorite thing to do on the weekends. I mean, it's drag happening in the street with the best food ever. It's truly the perfect weekend experience.”
My business partners from House of Yes opened up Queen right before the pandemic. It's the evolution of Queen of Falafel, which used to be the falafel spot that was on the corner of House of Yes, but it’s a full-on Middle Eastern feast. The restaurant is super cute, and they do brunch on the weekends. Naturally, because they're part of the House of Yes community, they offer drag brunch hosted by Pixel the Drag Jester and Nikita Petrovna on the sidewalk outside the restaurant. It's my favorite, favorite thing to do on the weekends. I mean, it's drag happening in the street with the best food ever. It's truly the perfect weekend experience. My favorite part is just sitting there and watching people walk by and stumble upon this absurd drag show—it’s amazing.
Then, just like people go bar hopping, I like to go thrift-store hopping. Other People's Clothes just recently opened right down the block from drag brunch, so it's really easy to just pop in. The shop is definitely curated but not crazy pricey. Urban Jungle is another good spot, but it’s definitely more for the crate diggers. Sometimes I find it a bit overwhelming, but if you really want the challenge of the hunt, Urban Jungle is the spot to be. I don't really like buying new clothes anymore. It’s so much more fun to go thrifting.
Then I’d hop on a CitiBike and head over to VITAL, a climbing gym in Williamsburg. It’s definitely been one of my favorite spots over the last year. They offer classes that I love, but it’s a bouldering gym, so you can also just go rock climbing without the lines and the harness. The best part is they have a really epic rooftop where you can climb with an amazing view of the city. It's one of the best little gems of Williamsburg because you feel like you're in this awesome clubhouse for people who like to move their bodies.
If I'm really going for it after a crazy week or a super high-energy weekend, I always feel like I need to treat my body and reset my brain. For those times, I’ll go to Bathhouse. They have different types of saunas and steam rooms, plus cold, neutral, and hot plunge pools that you can use with a day pass or purchase of a treatment like a facial or massage.
Cafe Balearica | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
“They have a beautiful outdoor backyard, and it feels like your best friend's backyard house party with the dopest music ever.”
To finish off the day, I’d have a nightcap at Cafe Balearica, which is also a new restaurant in the family. Our previous bar manager, Dave Doyle, opened this spot a couple months ago, so for us it feels like the family hang in Williamsburg. It's a cute, proper bar with really solid cocktails, and there’s even a little disco club downstairs. I love it because it’s super friendly and has something for everyone.
If I'm not going rock climbing and doing the whole Williamsburg thing, then I would go into deep Bushwick and go to Nowadays for the party they host called Mister Sunday. That’s another legacy party and they opened their venue around the same time as House of Yes. They have a beautiful outdoor backyard, and it feels like your best friend's backyard house party with the dopest music ever. The music is so solid—it's really just made for dancing. Everybody's there to have a super good time. I just love to get down in the daytime, and it has healthy, happy, party-people vibes, so I really enjoy that.
Liz Provencher is an editor at Thrillist. You can follow her on Twitter or see what she eats on Instagram.
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