Williamsburg food tour
Now that the weather is getting nicer (hopefully), my family and I were discussing doing a bit of a food tour of Williamsburg on a Saturday in May. We are local (northern NJ and CT) and my husband and I are fairly familiar with Williamsburg, but my parents probably haven't been to Brooklyn since the 80's. There will be 6 of us and I figured we'd go from brunch/lunch through dinner (probably eating a little bit at each place as we go rather than just doing 2 full meals). I have a couple of places in mind, but I figured I'd use the collective Chowhound knowledge to get some more suggestions/tips.
So far the places on my list are:
Spuyten Duyvil (my husband and I are big beer geeks and we've been here a bunch of times) - possibly having something to eat at St. Anselm
Mast Brothers (my parents used to own a chocolate store, so they really want to go here)
Pie's and Thighs?
Brooklyn Brewery? (we've been here before and I'm not sure it's right for this day, but I thought it might be a good place to sit and have a beer while we take a break from walking around)
What other places should we not miss? My sister is a pastry chef, so I was wondering if there are any other really good pastry shops/bakeries that we should definitely make sure to go to.
Okay, I know that you said that you & your husband are "fairly familiar" with Williamsburg but so are my wife and I (and we live in Bklyn Hts, fairly close). However, we were very unprepared for the dense crowds we encountered on any weekend we ventured there last spring, summer and fall. A Saturday in May may be pretty darn hard to take parents thru the neighborhood, unless they'll get a kick out of that many 20 & 30 somethings everywhere. Parking will be scarce. And it wont be that easy getting in to Pies and Thighs, Fette Sau, S.Duyvil or St. Anselm either (all places I like as well).
So, if you try to do this and succeed, great. If not, consider the same idea in Red Hook. The Latin ball field vendors will be out by then, Fairway is open and their food/coffee seating out back is a great view, there is a great chocolate & spirits (whiskey, etc) manufacturer (http://cacaoprieto.com) right there on Conover St, 6 Points & Red Hook Wines are headquartered there (not sure of whether they're open to the public right now though), the Good Fork is an excellent place for dinner & other places like Hope & Anchor & Fort Defiance fit your bill. And there is at least one excellent bakery (Baked: http://bakednyc.com/about/our-story/ ) Just sayin'.
Williamsburg is definitely not impossible on the weekends if you strategize. For instance, you'll want to sit down for dinner before 7 PM, and if you want brunch try to be there at 11AM sharp, rather than 12 or 1. You could always nosh it up at Smorgasburg, which has a lot of variety and is a lot of fun. For better restaurant options, I've always really loved Dressler, and it has a fairly large dining room. Aurora (Italian) and Potlikker (eclectic small plates) are two other favorites. You would never have to twist my arm to get me to go to Roberta's, but again if the weekends, you need to go at strategic times (v. early for dinner, or very late for brunch).
You're getting great suggestions here as far as beer -- Torst is the new spot and Spuyten Divul is great. You might also swing by Barcade. I love hitting Brooklyn Kitchen for kitchen novelties too. Bakeri is great, and I've always loved the baked goods at Blue Bottle.
There are things I *like* about Red Hook, but it's no alternative to the 'Burg food-wise, and if you wanted an alternatives in the realm of beer, I'd say Carroll Gardens/Smith Street would be better, and bakeries, other areas of Brooklyn are teeming with awesome ones, Bien Cut on Smith (for bread), Four and Twenty Blackbirds (Gowanus, for pies).
Thanks! Definitely added some of your suggestions to my list and I think doing Smorgasburg sounds like a good brunch/lunch noshing option since we can try different stuff all in one location.
We've been to Spuyten a bunch (and my husband has been to Torst way too many times since it opened - he's there right now in fact), so we'll probably stop by both of those. Barcade is great but we actually have one in Jersey City now so I think we'll skip that for this trip.
You might want to look into this
As a parental type person I find these kinds of standing around in a crowd to buy fairly expensive food specialties a lot tiring and tend to avoid, but your group may like it.
What is called Williamsburg is a pretty big geography, so make sure you map it out before you go to avoid fatigue and disappointment.
I like the idea of Red Hook better too, but its closer to my home turf. It just feels like a more manageable destination, but by car, not by public transport
Torst, a new beer place just up in Greenpoint that serves rare and small batch drafts, may be a nice alternative to Spuyten Duvyil....Radegast, Berry Park, and Spritzenhaus are three neighborhood beer gardens that I would recommend over the brewery if you are looking to chill in the afternoon...
For noshing, the Smorgusburg food festival right on the river overlooking Manhattan, is held on Saturdays and is an interesting place to check out with lots of different vendors. Suggest going toward the early side, like close to open at 11am, as it gets crowded. They serve beer there now in a special section....
I love all the stuff at the Polish bakery on N.8th St. The breads are good, but if you are looking for snacks, the packzi, little light cream filled donuts, are good. So are the blintzes. And lately, they've been making nice little cinnamon cannoli. Assorted other stuff available as well. Tight place, gets crowded...If you want more full on donuts, you can walk up to Peter Pan in Greenpoint.
If it is warm that day, fresh shucked oysters and juleps at Maison Premiere might make a nice rest stop.
Roberta's is a few stops away...Pies and Thighs and Fette Sau I don't think are really destination worthy....If you've been noshing all day, some place like Traif, which does interesting small plates, might be nice. Lighthouse is another interesting spot with small plates...backyward at Caracas Arepas bar might be good too...
Neighborhood gets packed with tourists- out of town and local- on weekends. Once you do the Bedford Ave. saunter, might want to switch to a parallel street to avoid the circus.
Double check L schedule before you go. MTA sometimes does construction on weekends and shuts down the link to the city.
Yes, Williamsburg will be crowded on a nice weekend, but that shouldn't dissuade you from going - that's one of its charms. Try to arrive early, as others have suggested, especially if attending Smorgasburg. Smorgasburg is close to the train, so it would probably be good to go there first.
Nearby is Bakeri, on N 8th & Wythe, a Nordic-leaning pastry shop with a gorgeous aesthetic, beautiful backyard, and excellent baked goods. The only things I've had there that I didn't love were some of the shortbread cookies (a bit too delicate in flavor) and the Spanish tortilla. Their signature item is the vanilla cardamom skølebread.
Mast Brothers is also a must-visit. I go there weekly to taste what they have out, pick up a bar or two, and occasionally sample their growing roster of in-house baked goods. They took on a pastry chef last year and have been turning out bonbons, truffles and other tasty bites since then.
As Silverjay says, Pies & Thighs is not really a destination spot anymore, but their old-fashioned donuts are worth a stop. Don't let your head be turned by the other flavors; they've only added them recently, but the original old-fashioned have a nice cinnamony crunch and good texture but aren't too sweet.
Marlow & Sons (next to Diner, one of my favorite Williamsburg restaurants), can be a madhouse, and probably will be on a weekend, but the front boutique/bakery/cafe is mostly takeout only, and their baked goods are special. Everything's made in-house, and they have some unusual things. The delicious homemade ice cream is served with a biscotto (http://www.flickr.com/photos/aranciap...)
Blue Bottle is a beautiful shop, with quality in-house baked goods and quite close to Mast Brothers, but I'd recommend going to Parlor Coffee instead (at least for coffee), just off the corner of Metropolitan and Havemeyer, across the street from Spuyten Duyvil, and in the rear of Persons of Interest Barbershop. Their coffee is seasonal and single origin, from famed importer Coffee Shrub and is hand-roasted locally by the owner/proprietor. It's an espresso or espresso drink only shop, with standing room only, but you can drink at the communal barbershop table if space allows.
Nearby is a branch of Momofuku Milk Bar if you want to try their over-the-top takes on classic baked goods. Many things are way too sweet. The pistachio/marzipan croissant is a gut bomb but quite delicious - it's too big for one person but good for sharing.
Spuyten Duyvil is across the street, and yes, it does get crowded, but it's not impossible to get a table in the backyard. If you go early, you might be lucky.
I also recommend Tørst (http://www.torstnyc.com). Incredible beer menu, with cheese and charcuterie plates, although it's on the other side of Williamsburg from all of these other recommendations.
re: Peter Cuce
Thanks for all the suggestions everyone.
My husband can't get enough of Torst (he's been there all the way from Hoboken 1-2 times a week since they opened), so we'll most likely make a stop there. I'll have to look through all of the suggestions and map everything out so I can get an idea of what's feasible to do in one day. I didn't even think of Smorgasburg (I think my sister has gone once before), so that is definitely something to think about... so many choices...
Tørst is great. It can get noisy in there with all the hard surfaces, but the beers are great... When I was in there a couple weeks ago they said they were doing their best to keep the total meal and beer pairing for Luksus as close to $100 as possible without going too far over. I asked if that meant skimpy portions and the guy at the bar said they wanted people to leave feeling full. So please do report back on food...and fullness.