TikTok Bestie and Pop-Culture Connoisseur Tefi Pessoa’s Guide To Brooklyn
Always ready with BFF-worthy advice, the hottest tea, and celebrity backstories, this Miami native cherishes her favorite neighborhood spots.
By Izzy Baskette and Tefi Pessoa
Published on 9/8/2022 at 12:30 PM
Tefi Pessoa | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Since posting her first TikTok in 2020, charming online personality Estefanía Vanegas Pessoa, aka Tefi, has enthralled the internet with her pop-culture expertise, approachable vibe, and BFF-worthy advice. It’s no wonder Pessoa (better known by her handle @hellotefi) has gathered more than 1.5 million followers on her account; commanded a slew of blockbuster red-carpet events; and blessed us by hosting InStyle’s official TikTok as well as the new digital MTV show Merch Masters. When she’s not traveling around the world or attending glamorous events, the Miami native kicks back in her favorite Brooklyn neighborhoods: Williamsburg, East Williamsburg, and Bushwick.
My TikTok journey basically started when I was looking for an uncomplicated and safe space to talk about all the things I liked. Whether it was pop culture, mental health, or dating, I just wanted to be able to post whatever and whenever without that whole “only for the likes” energy. And even more than that, I feel like I’ve let myself be vulnerable, or “touchable,” on this platform. For example, my mom used to tell me how when she was my age, dating in New York was so different. In order to run into your next boo, you had to physically and unexpectedly meet them at the bodega or bar. People couldn’t see what you were doing via your IG story, and it’s that aura of genuineness that I’m really drawn to. My followers and I get to share in these little moments together, where I’m just talking as if it’s just the two of us, and that’s really special.
Since moving to New York in 2013, I’ve lived in a couple spots around the city. But, without a doubt, I’ve fallen in love with my current Brooklyn neighborhood of East Williamsburg and the surrounding areas of Williamsburg and Bushwick, where I used to live.
In my mind, kicking off a perfect day would probably start with continuing on my bodega crawl. Lately, I’ve been hitting different bodegas around my apartment in East Williamsburg and ordering the two things I’m obsessed with right now: a turkey wrap and berry smoothie. There’s really no better combination.
Tefi in McCarren Park | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
"It’s old-school, friendly, and romantic. There’s no cell service and I love that—it’s kind of like you go back in time."
If I’m looking for a cocktail plus something to snack on, I’ll be perched at the bar of my favorite Cantonese spot in Williamsburg, Bonnie’s. One of my best friends, Channing Centeno, runs the beverage program, so it’s fun to see what drinks he comes up with, but most of the time I’m set up with a glass of white wine (which my friends have nicknamed a “Tefi-tini” because it’s my go-to). My rule for this is: If you can’t drink it on a boat in Miami, then it’s not a good drink. Food-wise, I can’t miss ordering the Hup To Ha at Bonnie’s. It’s made with shrimp and candied walnuts, apples, and honey Kewpie mayo, which makes for this perfect sweet and savory treat. Also, I’m a huge fan of the Wun Tun En Brodo (fish and shrimp wontons) and the Fuyu Cacio E Pepe Mein, which is tossed in this amazing fermented bean curd and black pepper combination.
Following that, if it’s still the afternoon, my favorite spot for an outdoor hangout is McCarren Park in Williamsburg. It’s easily the best place for dog- and people-watching, plus you’ll literally run into everyone you’ve ever known (in a good way). I feel like I’ve never had a bad experience being there, and the weekend farmers market is incredible.
Next up, one of my all-time favorite spots sits right next to McCarren park called Bernie’s Restaurant. What you need to know about Bernie’s is if you love any movies like Goodfellas or that sort of mafia-film vibe, this spot captures that ambiance. It’s old-school, friendly, and romantic. There’s no cell service and I love that—it’s kind of like you go back in time. Also, the food here channels that truly authentic home-cooked feeling. Essentially, it tastes like whoever’s cooking it loves me. It’s also a perfect place to eat before a night out because the menu is filled with hearty Italian dishes like the Bernie’s Chicken Parm and the ever-classic meatballs with spaghetti and red sauce.
Bernie's | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
"I feel like when I’m there, I can actually have a conversation with my friends and we’re not fighting to hear each other over noise, plus the interior is so aesthetically pleasing, with gold accents everywhere and mirrored tables."
Alternatively, if I’m going on a date or want to grab cute cocktails with my girlfriends, I’m at Hotel Delmano in Williamsburg. They’ve got to-die-for signature drinks like the Perro Y Gato (mezcal, tequila, carrot, habanero) and The Alibi (pineapple-infused tequila, cinnamon, molé bitters), which I always order alongside small plates like a dozen East Coast oysters or a meat and cheese board. I feel like when I’m there, I can actually have a conversation with my friends and we’re not fighting to hear each other over noise, plus the interior is so aesthetically pleasing, with gold accents everywhere and mirrored tables.
On chiller evenings, I’ll inevitably end up at Gnostic Tattoo. It’s actually Bushwick’s oldest tattoo parlor and the interior is so cool and intimate with plants, spiritual figurines, and some sort of animal tank in the corner. I recently got a couple new tattoos done there by my favorite artist, John Starr—I highly recommend it.
Westlight | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
"It’s moments like those, shared with your best friends, that really makes you remember why living in New York City is so magical and worth it."
When I was younger, going out to me meant clubbing, especially because I grew up in Miami. But now, the best part of my nights has become actually being able to sit down and talk with my friends. That usually leads me to The Three Diamond Door in Bushwick. It’s an unpretentious, laid-back bar where there’s never a long line and you can always secure a booth. After a few drinks, we’re probably in the backroom dancing the night away to hip-hop classics that we haven’t heard in years (like my personal favorite, “Gasolina” by Daddy Yankee). Part two of dancing and we’re headed over to Ciao Ciao. Co-owned by one of my good friends, Rikki Nobre, this retro-themed club/discotheque is primed for late nights out, plus there’s a fabulous light-up dance floor.
For an al fresco ambiance, Westlight atop The William Vale has one of the most stellar views of the city and plays a really good range of more contemporary music. It’s one of those spots where you’ll be looking out and have that random realization of “oh my god, I really live here.”
It’s moments like those, shared with your best friends, that really makes you remember why living in New York City is so magical and worth it.
Places to Eat & Drink
Things to See & Do
776 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn
1089 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn
97 North 10th Street, Brooklyn
111 North 12th Street, Brooklyn