The Brooklyn Guide
At this point, Brooklyn is really a city unto itself. The transformation started with Williamsburg, which is what put Brooklyn on the map for this generation of New Yorkers, though each neighborhood has its own little personality and ecosystem—Cobble Hill and Park Slope are great residential neighborhoods for young families, Boerum Hill (which has some excellent shopping) offers beautiful walks among the brownstones, and Bushwick still has a plenty of reliable mom-and-pop type stores nestled in with the trendier businesses. Needless to say, this is a guide that will continue to evolve and expand, as new, exciting spots are popping up at lightning speed.
Achilles Heel180 West St., Greenpoint | 347.987.3666
Local restaurateur Andrew Tarlow (who brought you other old-school-Brooklyn-inspired destinations Diner, Marlow & Sons, and the Wythe Hotel) opened this low-key neighborhood gastropub in an early-1900s bar facing the East River that was once frequented by the workers from nearby shipyard docks. The kitchen here is minor, but chef Lee Desrosiers designed a menu of light, gently cooked fare—think poached fish, beef tartare, or heirloom veggies in broth—sourcing ingredients, naturally, from its sister business, Williamsburg butcher shop and artisan grocer Marlow & Daughters.
Black Mountain Wine House415 Union St., Carroll Gardens | 718.522.4340
This warmly-lit, cozy, wooden house offers an excellent selection of wines and a small menu of casual small plates. Brimming with charm, this is a great spot for a laid-back date or for meeting up for a drink (and then just never leaving).
Brooklyn Winery213 N. 8th St., Williamsburg | 347.763.1506
Take a tour of the winery—a truly unexpected but welcome addition to the neighborhood—or grab a carafe of their house varietal in the attached old-Brooklyn feeling wine bar. In addition to the wine, there's a small but mighty menu of small plates, which can be expanded and built upon to accommodate large parties from weddings to office parties.
Cafe Erzulie894 Broadway, Bed-Stuy | 718.450.3255
Whether you’re looking for a place to buy flowers, sip coffee, or enjoy a cocktail and dance to a live DJ set, you can find it all under one roof in Brooklyn. Cafe Erzulie—named after the Haitian Voodoo goddess of love, beauty, and dance—is a lush indoor-outdoor tropical cafe. A flower shop by day, it seamlessly transforms into an intimate cocktail bar at night. On Thursdays, there's live Caribbean jazz set under strings of lights in their outdoor space, and on the weekends, the dance floor opens up for some of Brooklyn's best up-and-coming DJ’s. Don’t leave without trying the green tempeh sandwich, and for a drink, the summer sorrel
Clover Club210 Smith St., Cobble Hill | 718.855.7939
Like many of its brethren, this bar has a hint of speakeasy décor and the usual cast of suspender-clad and bearded bartenders. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the cocktails they make are good, old-fashioned stiff drinks and inventive combinations. Brunch here is also delicious—great eggs, fried chicken, and perfect pancakes.
Diamond Reef1057 Atlantic Ave, Bedford-Stuyvesant
The particular strip of Atlantic Avenue that Diamond Reef inhabits isn’t exactly a tropical oasis, but the tiki-themed cocktails designed by the famous barmen Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy absolutely are. With wood-paneled walls and bright-turquoise booths, the place is what we imagine a mid-century modern party house would look like. The drinks—like the Booze and Juice, a shot paired with fresh Granny Smith apple juice—are playful, and the backyard, which is huge and heated, is a good time almost any time of year. The bar’s version of the classic Penicillin cocktail (honey, lemon, ginger, and scotch), thrown into a slushy machine and renamed the Penichillin, is especially delicious.
Henry Public329 Henry St., Cobble Hill | 718.852.8630
This Brooklyn saloon, with a limited “Bill of Fare” of simple and homey food, including a great burger, is perfect for a late supper and whiskey cocktails with friends. On weekends, the boozy brunch has locals flocking from all over the borough. Photo: Daniel Krieger
Honey’s93 Scott Ave., Bushwick | 347.669.1473
There’s no place like Honey’s—and not just because you feel like you’ve stepped out of Bushwick into some other realm as you sit in one of the wooden booths surrounded by cinder blocks and concrete. (Fun fact: The space, once a restaurant-equipment repair shop, was designed by one of the set designers for the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild.) Honey’s is the tasting room for Enlightenment Wines, as well as a meadery/mead bar—the only one we’ve come across in Brooklyn—and it serves exquisite cocktails infused with the ancient alcohol. (Made from honey fermented with well water and mixed with various spices and herbs, mead figures strongly in Norse mythology but is much older than that.) The herbalist owners pick many of their ingredients upstate, which is reflected in fresh, always-inventive drinks like the Montauk-seawater-infused Ocean Martini.
Hotel Delmano82 Berry St., Williamsburg | 718.387.1945
Slide into one of the leather banquettes or the long marble bar at this tattoo-parlor-turned-cocktail lounge for one of the best cocktails on the north side of Williamsburg.
Loosie Rouge91 S. 6th St., Williamsburg
Loosie Rouge is one of the coolest Williamsburg openings in recent years. The cocktail menu and food take their cue from New Orleans bars and kitchens, while the interior decor feels more Scandinavian, with white-washed brick walls, a dark wood bar, and geometrically cut tables. On a warm day, the bright outdoor patio space has the best seats in the house, though. Check out Loosie Rouge's changing calendar to see what live music is on offer before you go.
Maison Premiere298 Bedford St., Williamsburg | 347.335.0446
This restaurant/bar feels like an old-school New Orleans club that’s been recently rediscovered. Distressed walls, gas lamps, a deco bar, and Thonet bentwood chairs just add to the effect. With a raw bar and a menu of seafood classics, it’s a solid choice for a weekend brunch or dinner, but we prefer it later in the evening for an old-fashioned drink at a dimly lit table. There’s also a long list of absinthes to choose from, which is fitting for the epoch this spot evokes.
Moto394 Broadway, Williamsburg | 718.599.6895
Located in South Williamsburg, this wine bar and restaurant is one of a kind. In sparse, industrial interiors that are nonetheless warm and inviting, the good wine, good food, and good music combination is a winner. We especially love it for the rotating schedule of live jazz each week.
Nowadays56-06 Cooper Ave., Bushwick | 347.523.8535
There’s no dearth of awesome tiny bars in New York City—but Nowadays is something else entirely. With its sprawling outdoor space that easily fits DJs, dance parties, and picnic tables, it’s the ultimate spot to while away summer Saturdays sipping cocktails and grazing on incredible food (the White Rhino sandwich is cauliflower-caper-Gruyere heaven). On the border of Bushwick, Brooklyn, and Ridgewood, Queens, the breezy hangout is a fantastic time day or night. In colder months, everything moves indoors—you lose the whimsy of partying with friends under the night sky, but you gain a legit dance floor (with a smoke machine).
Pearl’s Social and Billy Club40 St Nicholas Ave., Bushwick | 347.627.9985
With rustic wall-hangings and candles tucked into cozy corners, and a curio-shop feel, the atmosphere at Pearl’s is a draw in and of itself, but the cocktails are incredible. There are shots of bone broth (the same broth also infuses their perfect Bloody Mary) or tequila-spiked kombucha; beers galore, and wine, much of it served in adorable Mason jars. The bartenders dole out delicious snack bowls with pretzels, sesame-crunchy-things, and other savory crisps to accompany your drinks. This is the sort of place that compels you to stay and sip into the night—unless you happen to be there on a sunny day, of course, when sitting outside with a bone-broth Bloody Mary is heaven on earth.
The Greene Grape Annex753 Fulton St., Fort Greene | 718.233.2700
This café/bar from beloved neighborhood grocer, Greene Grape Provisions, attracts a casual crowd during the day for great coffee and a snack, and turns into a full-fledged wine and craft beer bar in the evening, complete with cheese plates and charcuterie. We love the design of the space (it's helmed by two Domino magazine vets): It's light and airy.
The Three Diamond Door211 Knickerbocker Ave., Bushwick | 718.576.6136
Brooklyn vibes are strong at the Three Diamond Door, where the tattooed bartenders look as imposingly cool as they are friendly and easygoing. There’s no bar in the area more festive on Friday and Saturday nights, when every inch of the place is packed, including the yard and back bar room where amazing dance music blares. There’s prosecco on tap, an excellent selection of beers, leather booths to sink into, and incredible people-watching.
Tørst615 Manhattan Ave., Greenpoint | 718.389.6034
The walls here are clad in distressed wood that contrasts nicely with the room's main feature: A long, sleek, white marble bar. In short, this is exactly what you'd imagine a great bar in Denmark might look like. To complete the concept, the chef is a Noma veteran, and bar snacks include the requisite rye breads and Nordic-style pickles and smoked fish. The food and the great selection of rare craft beers attracts a pretty hip, Greenpoint crowd. Meanwhile, in the 25-seat back room known as Luksus, it's a decidedly more formal affair, with an oft-changing tasting menu of Scandinavian-influenced fare.
Weather Up589 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights
White subway tiles, a relaxed bar, and great music sum up this bar in Prospect Heights, worth traveling to for a drink (or many). Another bonus? You can still hear yourself speak. To make a night of it, grab dinner at The Vanderbilt, a very solid, lively restaurant across the street. There's another outpost in Tribeca.
Westlight111 N. 12th St., Greenpoint | 718.307.7100
Located on the rooftop of the William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn, Westlight is a go-to for after-work drinks (and after-after-work drinks) thanks to incredible views of New York's skyline and a great food and beverage program by Andrew Carmellini's Noho Hospitality Group. The menu has a few great small bites, like oysters, duck carnitas tacos, and tequila-cured salmon, but you really come here for the cocktail list: Our favorites are the Ruby Spritz for a hot afternoon, or the In Bloom, a vodka and cava drink that comes with fresh beet juice. Photos: Noah Fecks & Andrew Boyle