Here's Our Travel Guide to This Nation of Over 7,000 Islands
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Best for a romantic pasta dinner: Lilia
567 Union Avenue
If you can manage to reserve a coveted table 30 days in advance, it’s crucial that you try the ever-popular salt-and-pepper-coated homemade mafaldini at chef Missy Robbins’ Williamsburg love letter to pasta. Share a few seasonal, veggie-focused starters before breaking into the bowls of homemade al dente pasta that are just dense enough to fill you up and multifaceted enough to leave you craving more.
Best for all-day brunch: Egg
109 N Third Street
A relic from when Williamsburg was just becoming a go-to neighborhood for brunch, this 12-year-old egg-focused institution (not to be confused with the recently opened offshoot of Manhattan’s Egg Shop) is known for its artfully plated Eggs Rothko, hefty homemade biscuits drenched in gravy (regulars know to go half mushroom, half sausage), and coffee served by the French press, also dating back to long before you saw personal glass carafes everywhere.
Best for an affordable tasting menu: Delaware and Hudson
135 N Fifth Street
Boasting a shiny new star from the Michelin guide, chef Patti Jackson’s ode to Northeastern cuisine (that is, food found in the region between the Delaware and Hudson Rivers), is a rustic yet gourmet treat. Reserve one of the quaint dining room’s 38 seats for the weekly changing four-course tasting menu ($65), completely inspired by regional seasonality. Shared appetizers and desserts dilute any pretense you may expect at a critically acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant.
Best for a Sichuan feast: Birds of a Feather
191 Grand Street
Helmed by the team behind Midtown’s Michelin-starred Cafe China, this whimsical Chinese restaurant melds modern and traditional Chinese cuisine to create a unique menu full of spicy dishes like pork and okra-stuffed egg rolls sprinkled with chili oil, homemade dim sum (including curry-studded steamed chicken dumplings), and a tea-smoked duck served with steamed buns for finger-friendly eating.
Best for post-hangover pancakes: Sunday In Brooklyn
348 Wythe Avenue
This Williamsburg newcomer is equal parts cafe, bar, rowdy late-night hangout, and trendy brunch spot popular with the Instagram crowd. While a visit here demands an order of the homemade black cod pastrami, served with rye sour cream and garden pickles, most flock into this multi-level space for the legendary pancakes, made extra fluffy with malt powder and served with a melting pat of butter.
Best for soy sauce on tap: Kings Co. Imperial
20 Skillman Avenue
Kings Co. Imperial is pretty much exactly what you’d expect a Chinese restaurant in Williamsburg circa 2017 to be. The Brooklynified spot serves small-batch soy sauce from a tap at the bar and grows ingredients for its menu (like Szechuan peppercorns, long beans, and peaches) in its backyard garden. Come with a group and sit at one of the circular booths equipped with a Lazy Susan to maximize your exploration of the menu, which ranges from “Get Sum-Dim Sum” to noodles and wok-fried dishes inspired by many regions of China.
Best for a life-changing sandwich: Saltie
378 Metropolitan Avenue
Saltie isn’t doling out your standard bodega menu. The tiny sandwich shop layers seasonal, nontraditional ingredients between a variety of carbs, ranging from naan to Southern-style biscuits to airy, just-salty-enough focaccia. A bite into the shop’s signature sandwich, the Scuttlebutt, layered with hard-boiled egg, crumbly feta, and salt-bearing pickles, black olives, and capers, should have you hooked. Keep an eye out for daily specials, should you have someone to go halfsies with.
Best for a getaway to Mexico City: Casa Publica
594 Union Avenue
Everyone and their subletters are going on last-minute getaways to Mexico City, but if you can’t make it there yourself, your next best option is this new Mexican spot slinging queso fundido, pozole verde, and tortillas handmade from Mexican heirloom corn. Stick around for a few cocktails after dinner, ranging from a weekly rotating frozen marg to the more inspired “Experimentos,” like the pineapple-infused rum, Hennessy VSOP, and banana concoction.
Best for Japanese comfort food: Okonomi/Yuji Ramen
150 Ainslie Street
You may remember Aziz Ansari’s character losing his mind here over the delicious ramen in Master of None, but the intimate neighborhood spot is good for more than just noodles. Operating as Okonomi during the day, the restaurant offers a traditional Japanese set breakfast and lunch, featuring the likes of fresh fish and vegetables. At night, it transforms into Yuji, where you can order off a la carte bowls of seafood-centric ramen, including a rich, tonkotsu-style tuna broth. You can also book tickets for special omakase dinners, or head around the corner to the restaurant’s fish market and cooking school, Osakana, on nights when it’s impossible to snag a seat.
Best for a secret mid-day snack: House of Small Wonder
77 N Sixth Street
It’s after lunch but before dinner and there’s no way you’re waiting until 9pm to eat again. Enter this secluded cafe, sequestered off the street via a wooden wall, behind which lies a whimsical dining room full of plants, garden furniture, and eclectic tableware to complete the French-Japanese aesthetic. Pick from a spread of “small sandwiches” on homemade bread, ranging from salami and avocado to fluffy organic scrambled eggs and complete your bonus meal with a bowl of yuzu-pepper flavored edamame and a lavender latte.
Best for fried chicken and tiki drinks: The Commodore
366 Metropolitan Avenue
This unmarked fried chicken joint is perfectly good for weekend tiki drinks alone, but you’d be remiss to skip over the perfectly crisp fried chicken sandwich, served with fluffy biscuits and honey butter to balance out the textures and load on the greasiness.
Best for oysters and absinthe: Maison Premiere
298 Bedford Avenue
Step back in time to this antique-feeling lounge channeling both New Orleans and Paris pre-iPhones. A grand, oval-shaped marble bar welcomes you into the dimly lit space that’s made more dramatic by the platters of freshly shucked seafood and steamed lobsters that get passed to tiny candlelit tables around the perimeter. On weekdays from 4 -7pm and weekends from 11am-1pm, a market selection of oysters starts at $1 per shuck, to be chased down with absinthe dramatically dispensed from an antique fountain.
Best for a classic steak dinner: Peter Luger
Williamsburg’s OG destination restaurant, this legendary steakhouse dates back to 1887, and, naturally, it’s still hard to score a reservation (try calling for a night in the future, or go visit during the less-crowded lunch hour). The menu is simple: Dry-aged steaks for one, two, three or four are cooked to order and served with your selection of classic steakhouse sides, like creamed spinach and baked potatoes. Cash only, of course.
Best for natural wine and small plates: The Four Horsemen
295 Grand Street
Helmed by LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, this intimate wine bar offers an expertly curated selection of additive- and preservative-free wines from small producers across the globe. Bottles start in the low $40s, leaving more room in your budget to splurge on vino-friendly small plates like beef tartare, charcuterie, and eggplant toast with ricotta.
Best for farm-to-table dishes: Marlow & Sons
Brooklyn is inundated with New American, farm-to-table joints, but Marlow & Sons has been at it with which a daily rotating menu since 2004. The minimalist, white-washed dining room illuminates through breakfast, lunch, and winner with a rainbow of vegetable-forward dishes, like pale yellow chilled corn soup accented with shishitos or a sweet potato and bacon sofrito topped with a yolk-gushing fried egg.
Best for homemade udon noodles: Samurai Mama
205 Grand Street
Noodles are taken extremely seriously at this wood-lined Japanese restaurant. So seriously that it takes at least 48 hours to perfect a bowl of udon, from the homemade ropes of thick noodles to the specially filtered, chemical-free Kaiki Water used in the kitchen. Start with a few pieces of avocado-heavy sushi and homemade gyoza served sizzling in a cast-iron pan, before indulging in a bowl of steamy udon, available both as traditional soup noodle and “dump style,” which allows you to dip or dump your udon in a thicker sauce.
Best for a low-key dinner without a reservation: Lighthouse
145 Borinquen Place
Lighthouse’s laid-back environment (and lack of wait) welcomes visitors in any night of the week for light, sharable, no-fuss dishes that show off a local bounty of produce. Pair natural wines with plates like charred eggplant tahini with tomato and soft egg, poached branzino, or a dry-aged cheeseburger, served with a layer of jalapeños.
Best for whiskey with a side of sushi: Suzume
545 Lorimer Street
While most restaurants specialize in either sushi or ramen, Suzume is one of the exceptions that does both right. Order a few pieces of dressed-up raw fish, like a poke-style salmon topped with citrus zest and a bowl of grilled salmon ramen, before moving onto the main course: booze. A well-curated sake list helps intro beginners into fermented rice beverages, but those wanting a sweeter, slower sip can turn to the cocktail menu, full of fruit and vegetable juices and a wide range of liquors.
Best for barbecue: Fette Sau
354 Metropolitan Avenue
A barbecue mecca unlike any other, this stylish, refined restaurant is all about smoked meats (sold by the pound) and craft beer (sold by the gallon). House-smoked hormone- and antibiotic-free meats range from beef brisket to pork belly, all rubbed in signature fragrant spice mixes. If you’re not filling up completely on meat, go for a side of baked beans with candy-like burnt ends.
Best for grilled everything: St. Anselm
355 Metropolitan Avenue
Pack up that George Foreman grill and head out to this radical non-steakhouse for a gourmet (but still affordable) version of your steakhouse favorites. Entrees range from cuts of steak to lamb, pork, whole fish and a sweet tea-brined chicken, all complimented by gastropub-style renditions of sides like long beans and blistered shishito peppers. An excellent wine list, with yellow, pink, orange and red options by the glass and half bottle round out the experience.
Best for old-school cooking in a trendy space: Barano
While Lilia may reign supreme for Italian in Williamsburg, don’t overlook this handmade pasta and pizza spot that’s far easier to get into (and equally worthy of attention). Start with antipasto (including three different types of mozzarella) before enjoying house-made pastas and pizzas that get hand-cut by the diner with a pair of special scissors.
Best for Taiwanese food: Win Son
159 Graham Avenue
Designed with the goal of introducing Taiwanese food newbs to the delights of the fragrant, flavor-packed cuisine, Win Son puts a Brooklyn spin on traditional Taiwanese dishes, in the form of sloppy joe-style pork buns, Instagram-friendly stinky tofu, and wu yu zi mian: a noodle-pull worthy dish flavored with mullet roe, chili, and cilantro. The creative cocktail menu also mixes Eastern and Western flavors, like in the Breakfast of Champions, shaken with peanut milk, roasted black sesame, aged rum, rum cream, and toasted coconut.
Best for an artisanal doughnut: Du's Donuts
107 N 12th Street
Oddly enough, Williamsburg seemed to be one of the last New York neighborhoods to get a destination-worthy specialty donut shop, but the wait was well worth it when former wd~50 genius Wylie Dufresne opened his gourmet yet accessible donut spot in spring 2017. Donuts ($3.50), range from the familiar apple cinnamon to the more exotic brown butter key lime, peanut butter and yuzu, and a kaffir corn kruller that’s a much-welcomed substitute for a boring corn muffin.
Best for unpretentious, hearty meals: Diner
Marlow & Sons’ neighbor and sibling restaurant dates back to 1999, and despite being housed in the converted dining car of a train, serves a legit, daily changing menu of satisfying yet complex dishes you could not eat in transit. A no-reservations policy brings a steady wait during brunch and dinner for a table, but you’ll be rewarded with dishes like a fried green tomato sandwich with mozzarella and fried eggplant schnitzel.
Best for Peruvian food: Llama Inn
50 Withers Street
Boasting plenty of natural light, plant-lined ceilings, and a diamond-shaped bar (where you can sip you’ll pisco-based cocktails, like the Llama Del Ray), this corner Peruvian spot is known for its shareable anticuchos i.e. skewers of grilled seafood and meat, like scallops with crispy capers. Other small plates are also available, including a range of ceviches, as well as large-format feast, like the whole branzino served wrapped in a banana leaf with homemade Peruvian hot sauces and coconut rice.