The first time I knew Brooklyn was a force to be reckoned with was while I was living in Paris. There were restaurants and cafes popping up all over Paris with heavy Brooklyn influences. The trendy Parisian kids could be seen wearing Brooklyn T-shirts and talking about how cool it was, without ever having visited. Brooklyn was the pinnacle of hipsterdom. Luckily for me, my friend Doni, owner of Girls' Guide to Paris, has a home in Williamsburg, and she was in town during a recent visit back east to give me a fun food tour of Brooklyn.
Doni is a fellow foodie (see some of our favorite Parisian meals together here), so she took me on a food focused tour of Williamsburg on a rainy Monday.
Any proper food tour should begin with a drink, non? You're going to want one of the two hander mugs of beer on tap at Radegast Hall & Biergarten. At night the hall gets pretty raucous, so you're going to be happy with one of these big boys and a large, warm Munich pretzel with spicy mustard.
If you're looking for a more local based beer than that of the German variety, then look no further than Brooklyn Brewery, where you can tour and sample some homegrown favorites. There are also multiple beer gardens to partake in other local beer, assuming you get better weather than I did.
Shelter is a cool spot for a drink and some good people watching. The food is your typical pizza/empanada joint set in a woodsy camping lodge. Ok, not typical for most places, but perhaps typical for Brooklyn.
On the same street as Radegast is Mast Brothers chocolate lab. Yes, lab, because they're making up some awesome flavored chocolate bars like Chile Pepper Chocolate and Vanilla & Smoke. You can even tour their chocolate making factory on site. As you might expect, they are using top quality ingredients like organic beans from Madagascar. The pretty chocolates make great gifts or even art pieces with their colorfully designed packaging.
If you go a few doors down from Mast Brothers, you can take a food break at The Brooklyn Art Library, but this is a library like no other. This library is home to The Sketchbook Project. The Sketchbook Project is the world's largest collection of crowd sourced artists' books. Nearly 30,000 artists from over 130 countries are a part of the project, and the Brooklyn Art Library is the storefront with drawings and illustrations that you can pick up and peruse once signing up online. It's an inspirational and fun stop during your tour of Williamsburg.
Brooklynites take their coffee as seriously as most. Blue Bottle Coffee is the stop in Williamsburg. You can find Blue Bottle in a few cities like San Francisco, LA and Tokyo, but people line up in Brooklyn for their craft brewed, filtered cup of Joe.
If you're ready for lunch, House of Small Wonder provides the right amount of cool mixed with homey furnishings and fresh fare. Everything is small and cozy. The tiny place wraps around a live tree inside and has a menu of just a few interesting items, several of which were sold out when we arrived. They're not in the mass production game, preferring quality over quantity. Salmon is prepared simply, but expertly done with a spicy fish paste and a side of mixed greens with carrot ginger dressing.
Choose your baked goods from an old school classic Jewish deli or French bakery.
I need to return on the weekend for their free-for-all food fest, Smorgasburg where over 100 vendors sell their tasty treats by the waterfront.
I have a feeling during my next visit, there will be even more places to discover as many of the places I visited were already deemed "over" as the hipsters always seek to find the new, untouched places. Hopefully I'll continue to have friends like Doni to keep me in the loop. Doni has her finger on the pulse of many things and in fact just wrote a book on Paris Cocktails. If you want to stay in the know of fabulous French drinks, check out her new Paris Cocktail book coming out with over 100 Recipes Inspired by the City of Light. I'm looking forward to digging in there soon and the good news is that those drinks never go out of style!