Bushwick, Brooklyn is a mash-up. It’s a mash-up of the new and the authentic. It’s mash-up of people, style and food that blend together in a way that is uniquely its own — uniquely Bushwick. Many people say that Bushwick today is what Williamsburg was like about 10 years ago. Actually, many people call Bushwick the new Williamsburg.
But Bushwick is years away from becoming the Disneyland-ized version of Brooklyn that Williamsburg has become — and no disrespect to Williamsburg, it’s a fantasy land of cool shops, great restaurants and buzzing outdoor events that I’ve spent plenty of time in myself. But the hope for Bushwick, at least it’s my hope, and I’d venture a guess and say it’s also the hope of many residents, is that it never becomes Williamsburg — even years down the road.
Although in recent years parts of the neighborhood have been changing with an influx of, for lack of a better term, hipsters, fleeing sky high rent prices in Manhattan and other parts of Brooklyn, Bushwick has been home to a melting pot of cultures, the majority of which hail from Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean, for the past several decades.
It’s Bushwick’s diversity, its flavor — the mash-up — that makes Bushwick something special, something that should be guarded. Because really, where else can you sample small batch craft beer at a new beer bar, then walk down the street and eat the most delicious Mexican meal you’ve ever had at an authentic hole-in-the-wall taqueria that’s been there for 20 years? Few places.
So whether you’re a New Yorker looking for a new weekend adventure, or a traveler looking to go beyond Manhattan and Williamsburg on your trip to the big city, hop on the L train to Bushwick and get ready to shop, eat and drink.
No trip to Bushwick would be complete without a spin around Urban Jungle, a massive thrift and vintage store overstocked with quality clothing at bargain prices.
Looking for cut-off jorts (jean shorts)? Urban Jungle has got you covered. An American flag windbreaker? Check. Cowboy boots? Take your pick. Enough camouflage gear to start your own small army? Yes sir. Sure this place is packed with plenty of unique conversation starters, but Urban Jungle also has a killer selection of t-shirts, flannels and jackets that’ll make you question why you ever paid 500% more to buy similar items new when you have gotten them here for $5 to $10.
Address: 118 Knickerbocker St, Brooklyn, NY 11237. Phone: 718-381-8510. Hours: Open 7 days a week from 12-7pm.
Right around the corner from The Wheelhouse (see “Eat” below) you’ll find Molasses Books a bright used bookstore, cafe and bar where the average book costs between $1-$10. You can even barter your old books for cash, other books, or credit at the bar to buy coffee, beer and wine. Books for beer — I like it.
If you need to step up your vinyl game, and what hipster doesn’t, check out Heaven Street Records, a record shop specializing in heavy/death metal. For non-headbangers, swing by Vinyl Fantasy for a more varied selection of genres (including a healthy jazz section) as well as comic books.
Opened in April of 2014, The Wheelhouse is a newer and crazy delicious addition to the neighborhood that serves up gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches along with a selection of snacks, shakes, beer, wine and sake.
While you can build your own sandwich, selecting from locally made bread, artisanal cheeses, hormone-free meats and a long list of vegetables, I’d suggest ordering the Morning Wood — maple and thyme roasted applewood smoked bacon, sharp cheddar cheese and a fried egg on multigrain bread (tip: order the House Made Jam to dip it in). To go with your grilled cheese, do not, I repeat, do not leave without trying the Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts.
Then, finish strong with the Charlie Brown (Nutella and bananas on multigrain bread grilled to perfection) and a Bananas Foster Milkshake.
Address: 165 Wilson Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11237. Phone: 718-483-9970. Hours: Tues-Fri 11:30am-10:30pm. Sat & Sun 10am-11:30pm
Home to a large Mexican-American population, Bushwick knows how to do Mexican food right. So for an authentic taste of Bushwick and an authentic Mexican meal, head down Wyckoff Avenue to Taqueria Cocoyoc, a hole-in-the-wall eatery with a menu so extensive it’d take you a year to eat your way through it — and what a delicious year it’d be.
From classic Mexican breakfast dishes, to huaraches, chilaquiles, enchiladas, gigantic burritos, and much more, deciding what to order might be the biggest decision you’ll have to make all day. While it’s impossible to go wrong, I’d suggest trying the barbacoa enchilada tacos — spicy goat that’s been marinated for hours then slightly crisped after a short stint on the griddle, topped with cilantro, lettuce, tomatoes and double wrapped in fresh tortillas.
Address: 211 Wyckoff Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237. Phone: 718-497-4489. Hours: 7 days a week from 11am-11pm
Bushwick has so many places to eat that you’d have to move here to be able to try them all. But if you’ve only got a few hours, here are a few more places to try out. For more Mexican food from a business with deep roots in Bushwick, head to Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos. This small tortilla factory has been around for awhile, but in 2006 they opened a small cantina to dish out super inexpensive tacos, quesadillas and tacquitas using tortillas hot of the presses. Get a few chorizo and carnitas tacos and you’ll be set.
For a hearty brunch of belgian waffles, potato bowls and biscuits with gravy served seven days a week, visit Cafe Ghia.
For an acid trip of a lunch, check out King Noodle, a psychedelic and neon-lit restaurant that serves up what’s been described as “hyper-Americanized Chinese food.” Try the Crispy Wings, Glazed Ribs and the Doritos Kimchee Carbonara — which yes, is exactly what it sounds like.
When the weather allows, snag a table on the oasis-like back patio at Mominette Bistro, a French bistro with a $1 oyster happy hour that runs from 4pm to 7pm on weekdays and 5pm to 7pm on weekends. You’ll want to stick around for dinner, when the restaurant shines with a dim golden glow, for escargot, entrees under $20 and crème brûlée.
For late night eats, swing by Central Station which is open until 2am during the week and 4am on Fridays and Saturdays. Order their freshly battered and fried fish sticks or a bacon cheddar burger, both of which are sure to fill you up.
With 250 types of beer from around the world on the shelves, 20 ever-changing beers on tap and a knowledgeable staff to guide you on a beer odyssey, The Sampler Bushwick welcomes beer aficionados and beer rookies with open arms.
Whether you’re here to geek out or you have no idea what IPA stands for, just come in, sit at the bar, and with the help of your bartender, start tasting. Once you’ve found the beer that makes you happy inside, order a pint (and the charcuterie if you’re still hungry) and relax.
Address: 234 Starr St, Brooklyn, NY 11237. Phone: 718-484-3560. Hours: Mon-Thurs 12pm-12am, Fri & Sat 12pm-1am, Sun 12-10pm
Hops & Hocks
When it comes to the beer, Hops & Hocks is not a bar — it’s a beer store and growler filling station with an impressive selection of bottled beers and several beers on tap. Start by sampling a few beers, and if you drink something you like, choose from one of three growler sizes and get a fresh pour bottled up to take with you.
When it comes to the ham, Hops & Hocks doesn’t mess around. At their ham bar (yes, ham bar), I found a cured country ham from Kentucky and a Jamón Serrano ham from Spain ready for the slicing. In the meat case, you’ll find lots more to choose from, including a variety of salamis and prosciuttos. You can get your meat to-go, but if you’re hungry, try one of H&H’s sandwiches made with the aforementioned meats, or a meat cone, a paper cone stuffed with a selection of meats, pickles and a piece of bread.
Address: 2 Morgan Ave, New York, NY 11237. Phone: 718-456-4677 Hours: Mon-Wed 11:30am-9:00pm, Thurs-Sunday 12-10pm, Sat 10am-11pm
If all that beer has left you wanting more beer, head over to The Rookery. There you’ll find eight beers on tap, an extensive selection of beers by the bottle and an awesome beer garden out front. With its 16ft wooden horse shoe bar and black and white checked tile floor, the space is refined but the attitude is relaxed and friendly.
For a dive bar, check out Gotham City Lounge, a superhero themed bar decked out in superhero memorabilia from floor to ceiling. Outside, a 3D mural of Superman and Batman will draw you in, and inside, cheap drinks ($3 for a PBR and a shot of whisky) and a pool table will convince you to stay.
Located near the Morgan Ave L stop you’ll find Pine Box Rock Shop. Once a casket factory, this entirely vegan bar has a weekly line up of events that includes a comedy open-mic night, karaoke night and trivia night. Don’t worry about the vegan thing, you’d really never know (unless someone tells you) and the bar attracts both meat eaters and non-meat eaters alike.
It’s easy. From Manhattan or Williamsburg, take the L train (subway) and get off at Jefferson St. or Morgan Ave. Here’s a map.
Video Credit: Shot by Michael Schleifer, Produced/Hosted by Trevor Morrow.