Street Wise: A Stop-by-Stop Guide to Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg

You can still find the Williamsburg spirit percolating through the indie fashion boutiques, craft breweries and artisan coffee shops on Bedford Avenue
You can still find the Williamsburg spirit percolating through the indie fashion boutiques, craft breweries and artisan coffee shops on Bedford Avenue | © agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

New York’s epicenter of cool lays on craft breweries, warehouse-style hotels and ready-to-rummage vintage stores, especially along its main artery.

The Brooklyn district of Williamsburg might never shake off its reputation as the crucible of the hipster boom that sent a shockwave of fixie bikes, avocado toast and sculpted facial hair rippling around the world. While gentrification has squeezed out many of the pioneering scenesters who first put it on the map, it remains one of the coolest and engaging ‘hoods in New York. Along its main artery, Bedford Avenue, you can still find the Williamsburg spirit percolating through its indie fashion boutiques, craft breweries, artisan coffee shops and on-point places to stay, bookable with Culture Trip.

1. McCarren Park

Park

New Yorkers exercise in McCarren Park, Brooklyn, New York during the COVID-19 pandemic.
© Rogerio Manata / Alamy Stock Photo
Bedford Avenue officially starts at the corner of this popular urban park, which covers 35 acres (14ha) of running tracks, baseball fields and lots of lawn to lounge around on. It’s a great spot for warm weekend barbecues and picnics, when it can feel like half of Williamsburg splays out here to catch some rays. A huge public swimming pool draws the summer crowds, too, plus there are regular movie nights and live music that really gets the good vibes going.

2. The William Vale

Hotel

The stylish dining room of the restaurant at the William Vale looks out over the Midtown Manhattan skyline from double-height windows
Courtesy of the William Vale / Expedia

Overlooking McCarren Park, this towering five-star hotel dwarfs practically every other building in Williamsburg. Its impressive dimensions don’t end there, since it features the longest outdoor pool of any hotel in New York, no less. Post-dip, flop on one of the plentiful daybeds or U-shaped sofas – great when you’re hanging with friends. Every guest room opens to a balcony with views, which get headier the higher up you ascend. Go all the way to the 22nd-floor rooftop bar for dizzying 360-degree panoramas.

4. Café Beit

Cafe, Coffee

As much a community hub as a coffee shop, Café Beit is owned by three baristas who deftly handle the impressive La Marzocco espresso machine behind the bar. The compact interior opens up to a backyard garden oasis, where locals sip cold brews and macchiatos depending on the season. For a caffeine-free option, try the House Golden Milk with its mellow mix of spices. Hungry? Their breakfast burrito will set you up for the day.

5. Sweet Chick

Restaurant, American

Sweet Chick, 164 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY. exterior of a southern fried chicken and waffles restaurant in the Williamsburg neighborhood.. Image shot 08/2018. Exact date unknown.
© Robert K. Chin - Storefronts / Alamy Stock Photo
Serving up what they like to call “new American comfort,” this homage to hearty Southern fare is sure to leave you patting your belly in appreciation. Fried chicken and waffles sit at the heart of the menu, but with gourmet twists that elevate the classic combo. The breakfasts here are a treat as well, with goodies like their Spicy Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit making up the best part of your daily calorie intake. While you’re at it, why not treat yourself to a morning mimosa, too.

6. Think Closet

Store

Owner Wendy Chun looks to her native Korea and its neighboring countries for designer fashion pieces to populate this fab little boutique. It largely specializes in one-of-a-kind vintage items: clothes are grouped by color, plus there’s a tightly curated selection of handbags, jewelry and shoes to browse. A Bedford Avenue fixture since 2007, it’s fair to say Think Closet has been one of Williamsburg’s top fashion influencers for longer than most.

7. The Williamsburg Hotel

Boutique Hotel, Hotel

The Williamsburg Hotel
Courtesy of the Williamsburg Hotel / Expedia.com

Two blocks from Bedford Avenue, towering red-brick facades, marquee signage and chic retro design come together at the Williamsburg Hotel to embody the essence of the neighborhood. Loft-style lodgings provide a seriously plush experience with floor-to-ceiling windows and marble-and-brass bathrooms. Crowning this landmark is a rooftop terrace where you can cool off in a 50ft (15m) pool before retiring to your clamshell lounge chair. Just above, a hip restaurant occupies a reconstructed water tower with spectacular views over the Manhattan skyline.

8. Awoke Vintage

Store

What started in 2006 as a little market stall in Perth, Australia, found a new, more permanent home on Bedford Avenue in 2012. It carries a colorful range of pre-loved vintage clothing, mostly from the seventies and eighties for both men and women. You can rifle through a good range of accessories, too, including designer handbags, belts and sunglasses. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, they’ve opened a couple other stores in Greenpoint, an easy stroll away.

9. Maison Premiere

Bar, Restaurant, American, Seafood, Gluten-free

Maison Premiere in Williamsburg, New York, USA
© Noah Fecks
French Quarter N’awlins is the main inspiration behind this outstanding Williamsburg oyster bar. It’s rooted in the ceremony of the traditional absinthe café, and you won’t find a greater choice of the Green Fairy anywhere in the US. There’s up to 30 oyster varieties to choose from, too, all directly sourced and expertly presented. Not an absinthe fan? The cocktails here are also outstanding, mixed from recipes from old bar manuals.

10. Randolph Beer

Gastropub, Restaurant, American

Randolph Beer, a restaurant bar in Nolita, Lower Manhattan
© Ed Rooney / Alamy Stock Photo

Located just off Bedford Avenue, this heavily graffitied, semi-industrial space serves up some serious ales from the eponymous Randolph brewery. Aside from their own, you’ll find a dizzying array of beers to sample, from IPAs to stouts, pilsners and fruity numbers. It’s no slacker on the food side, either, with belly-pleasing brunch and dinner menus. Best of all, there’s no losing precious time between drinks thanks to their “beer ATM” where you can self-serve from a choice of a dozen taps.

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