69 Grand St., Williamsburg
A massive roaster occupies the front half of this vast Williamsburg café, adding an industrial vibe to this otherwise cheerful, sunlight-flooded brick space near the East River. Arrive early to snag a seat (this is freelancer HQ for the surrounding blocks, and tables go quickly), but once you’re in, there’s strong Wi-Fi and stronger coffee. We especially appreciate the daily newspapers and magazines available for catching up on the news the old-school way.
150 Wythe Ave., Williamsburg
A tiny café in the heart of Williamsburg, Bakeri is one of the original neighborhood hangouts in this ever-evolving slice of Brooklyn. All of the bread and pastries are made in-house, but locals also swear by the breakfast items, like organic eggs Provençal, baked in tomato sauce and served with a side of sourdough rye, and the lunch salads, like grapefruit avocado with kale, red onion, fennel, pepitas, and sea salt. Most people take their food to go, but the main dining room is small, cozy, and highly recommended in winter, while the backyard is a shady, cool escape in the middle of hot, humid NYC summers. There are also outposts in Greenpoint and the East Village in Manhattan.
232 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg
Australian cafés have been popping up all over Manhattan in the past several years (Two Hands and Ruby’s being two of our favorites). Now Brooklyn is getting a few of its own—including Sweatshop, which was opened on a busy stretch of Williamsburg’s Metropolitan Avenue in 2014 by Melbourne natives Luke Woodard and Ryan De Remer. The menu is full of Aussie classics (including a killer flat white and Vegemite-enhanced sandwiches), and their version of avocado toast is done with chunks of ripe avocado mixed with feta, citrus, and herb oil on a thick slab of sourdough, topped with flaky sea salt and chili flakes.
93 S 6th St., Williamsburg
The fabled Dr. Cow sells precisely the opposite of what you might imagine: the best tree-nut cheeses, and the most delicious golden milk (turmeric, nut milk, etc.)—its thick luxuriousness reminds us of the best kind of hot chocolate (think: Angelina in Paris, City Bakery in NYC), without the sweetness. Plus, you can pick up some Sun Potion adaptogen powders while you're there.
378 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg
Caroline Fidanza—opening chef at Diner and well-versed in Brooklyn’s restaurant scene—opened this nautical/Moby Dick-themed take-out counter. It's a quick walk between the G train and the Williamsburg Bridge, and it serves up delicious little sandwiches on focaccia, as well as soups, and egg bowls. Their desserts range from quick bites like cookies, Eccles cake, and brioche, to ice cream, chocolate mousse, and fruit coolers. In addition to coffee, try their turmeric tonic with lemon, honey, and cardamom, which makes a great immune-system-booster. Note: There’s little room to sit if you want to hunker down (a few stools and a narrow bar), so this is more of a quality grab-and-go stop than a dine-in experience.
204 Wythe Ave., Williamsburg
Whether you’ve had Van Leeuwen on the streets of Brooklyn or parked up on Abbot Kinney, it’s instantly recognizable by its sunny yellow truck. They’re particularly famous for their vegan ice cream, a combination of cashew milk, coconut milk, cocoa butter, and carob beans that’s incredibly creamy and indulgent (and a major victory for the dairy-sensitive). They’ve got a few locations now: Greenpoint, Boerum Hill, and Williamsburg in Brooklyn; the East and West Villages in Manhattan; and the Arts District and Culver City in LA. You can always track their many food trucks on their website.
The Vale Collective
113 N. 7th St., Gowanus
Vale can't be described as any one thing since it is a perky boutique, art gallery, coffee shop, and backyard garden all in one. What's really special though, is that it does all four things really well, particularly the coffee shop part. Grab a cup of Birch Coffee and pick between a street-facing window seat or the aforementioned garden (the Wi-Fi totally holds up back there).
125 N. 6th St., Williamsburg
This is one of few places around that roasts their own beans, which are responsibly sourced from all over the globe. Meanwhile all four Toby’s Estate locations (the other three are spread out between Flatiron, the West Village, and Midtown) are consistently simple and comfortable in design—think communal tables, couches, and excellent lighting. Yes, it’s a great set-up for work, but also worth stopping by on your day off for a simple and hearty lunch. (They also offer a random assortment of classes in everything from art to cupping.)
Tiny Empire (Closed)
142 N. 6th St., Williamsburg
Marked by a neon green sign, this clean, minimal shop is filled with juices, raw snacks, and green plants. Chose one of their cleanses and begin each morning with a nice jolt: Orange, grapefruit, and a shot of cayenne. After that, it's an all-star line-up of delicious green juices, a root juice, and a creamy almond milk to finish the day.
East River State Park, 90 Kent Ave.
We’re big fans of Sunday’s Smorgasburg on Pier 5, where vendors like Dough (the ideal doughnut), bigBao (little rice pancakes stuffed with South Asian goodness) and Takumi (Mexi-japanese tacos) roll out their wares. Situated right on the water facing downtown Manhattan, this is the perfect family pitstop thanks to plenty of seating and multiple playgrounds.
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