A few months ago, we asked if you'd sightsee in NYC, but sleep in Jersey City, just a river's train ride west of Manhattan. Your overwhelmingly positive responses got me thinking: Would BT readers be interested in not only staying overnight, but also spending their days outside of Manhattan? What about Brooklyn, a river east? As many creative types, the arts, and immigrant communities get further priced out of Manhattan, Brooklyn seems more and more like the go-to borough for a true-blue New York experience.
A new book of photos and art, Brooklyn Diary: Walk, Shop, Home, and Studio ($32, Lines & Shapes 2010), illustrates Brooklyn as the truly beautiful mishmash of cultures and personalities that it is, and provides the perfect pre-trip guide to what many consider to be New York's greatest borough. Curator Lena Corwin chose 21 Brooklyn-based artists to open up their homes and studios, and share their favorite shops, restaurants, and neighborhood spots through their own artwork and the collective lens(es) of 10 different photographers. Divided into five sections: Walk, Eat, Shop, Home, and Studio, Brooklyn Diary is an excellent guide to the lesser-known pearls of a less-frequented, but no-less-electrifying, borough.
Of course, the book outlines the daily lives of those 21 artists in a very personal, neighborly way, but the greatest value for travelers are the places to shop and eat. Without further adieu, here are my favorites:
Immediately east of the mid-to-lower section of Manhattan is the trendy neighborhood of Williamsburg, a straight shot from 14th St. across the river on the L train, or a quick, southern hook over the Williamsburg Bridge on the J or M. In this traditionally Hasidic, Italian, Hispanic, and African American neighborhood, you can sip coffee and watch hip 20-somethings stroll by at Verb Café (218 Bedford Ave.; Bedford L), take a private booth at the beautiful Japanese brasserie, Zenkichi (77 N. 6th St.; Bedford L), or browse the great collection of books (especially art books) at Spoonbill and Sugartown (218 Bedford Ave.; Bedford L), among other things. Also, nothing, and I mean nothing, beats a $5 chicken biscuit slathered in honey butter and hot sauce from Pies 'n' Thighs (166 S. 4th St.; Marcy J or Bedford L).
Just north of Williamsburg is Greenpoint, a traditionally Polish enclave. I prefer the Pierogi platter at Lomzynianka Restauracja (646 Manhattan Ave.; Nassau G) and the fresh donuts at Peter Pan (727 Manhattan Ave.; Nassau G) simply for their unbelievably cheap, home-cooked goodness.
And of course, no New York experience would be complete without pizza, right? Closer to where I live in Bushwick, there's a little hole in the wall called Roberta's (261 Moore St.; Morgan L), which serves up some of the tastiest slices in the city, complete with fresh, artisanal ingredients and unusual toppings. If you're willing to go down to Carroll Gardens, try Lucali (575 Henry St.; Carroll F or G). Besides being the rumored favorite date spot of Beyonce and Jay-Z, it's quite possibly the freshest pizza I've ever had. Toppings are brought in and vary by day, and it's BYOB, so take your own bottle of wine—from the jumbled, bulbous neighborhoods bursting with swagger to the independent galleries, shops, and shows, it's all about doing it yourself, in Brooklyn.