Much like a cardiac patient, Williamsburg in Brooklyn has had somewhat of a change of heart in recent years.. What used to be a sketchy neighborhood of New York with a worse homicide rate than the Gaza strip and more crack than a fat guy tying up his shoes has evolved to become the trendy modern haunt of artists, musicians, writers, poets and of course, hipsters.
The Definition of ‘Hipster’: Definitions are too mainstream. (Hipster’s can’t be defined because then they’d fit in a category, and thus be too mainstream).
Having just shaved off my beard I felt somewhat under-dressed as I wandered the streets of Williamsburg, passing countless groups of hipsters (Fact: ‘fixie’ is the collective noun for ‘hipster’, other popular choices include: a ‘douche’, ‘fedora’ or ‘shrug’ of hipsters), waltzing from record store to thrift shop like only a ‘fixie’ of Hipsters can.
Anyway Williamnsburg now has far more to offer than being mugged or a narcotic addiction and is a really fun place to while away some time, wandering the tattooed streets, sipping lattes, jamming in the record shops and generally just feeling all ‘hipster yo’.
The streets, like most of New York are grimy but not without charm. Walls of really good street art piggy back over what looks like decades of graffiti and tagging, which I found added to the atmosphere of the area making the streets colourful and interesting.
Between the record stores, cafes, eateries and bars squat vintage thrift stores of various persuasions and styles, don’t think for a moment that you’ll find a bargain here though as they all seemed to cater for the ‘try hard to look like you don’t try hard’ sort of customer and are actually quite expensive in some cases.. $170 for a jacket I could have found on the side of the road? Sure! But, on the plus side, they’re fantastic ways to explore previous decades of cool stuff just asking to be re-born.
Williamsburg has some pretty trendy little bars too with my favourite being Barcade, which combined a great selection of beers with old school (I mean old school) arcade games – Think the original Donkey Kong, Frogger and Pacman. I had a fantastic time feeding the machines quarters and guzzling some local brews while rubbing shoulders with guys that had more facial hair than my dad. Another special mention goes to Union Pool, which has a cool 60’s vibe as well as a permanently parked taco truck out back (a fantastic idea, common in places like Texas).
If you’re down an out with a hangover after an evening in the bars why not check it out at the Nitehalk Cinema (like the Alamo in Austin) where you can order food to be served during the film and they do fantastic re-runs of terrible B-grade classics as well as things like quote-alongs and cartoon marathons (plus some of the better new releases). It’s a fun way to spend a few hours, and given the staff look like they’re from That 70’s Show and serve the best popcorn ever to grace my gullet it was well worth the $12 bucks I paid to get in.
Food in Williamsburg is fantastic and mostly inexpensive with literally anything you could hope for served somewhere in the local area. I normally explored or Yelped my way to food Nirvana with some of the best burgers, bagels, hotdogs and Vietnamese food I found in New York hailing from the surrounding area.
Located just over East River from Manhattan the J, G or M trains will be your main workhorses for transport. If you’re a first timer in New York don’t let the industrial revolution era looking subway system put you off, it’s literally the only way around, and contrary to my initial misgivings it does actually still work without needing a push. Keep an eye out while moving between some of the Manhattan stops as the older trains (possibly built sometime in the dark ages if I had to guess) don’t have any form of digital ‘heads up’ for current or upcoming stops and the speaker systems sound so old that messenger pigeons may still have been a new idea. Once you spend a few days taking the wrong train and running between platforms (which you will) it’s easy to work out.
Williamsburg has been reborn to become a trendy area, as fun as it is grimy. It’s easy to access, has great food and a fantastic bar scene with the added bonus of some great ‘people watching’ opportunities. This area of Brooklyn was one of my top picks for ‘interesting places to go’ while traveling the USA and for first timers in New York, I think it’s a must see.