Best place to sip wine with Jules Verne, Edith Piaf, and Bozo Texino (2008)


Created by photographer and vintage motorcycle builder Bill Phelps along with his wildly inventive partner and best friend John McCormick, Moto is a gesamtkunstwerk as much as it is a restaurant or café. There are at least a dozen shades of plaster on the brick walls, hand-mixed with beeswax, marble dust, and motor oil to give the impression of steam. An old porthole provides light for an antique mirror salvaged from a door found in a dumpster nearby. Archaic beakers and caged bare bulbs offset the glow of copper tabletops, marble, and burnished rough-cut scaffolding boards. Nearly every detail, from the hand-operated espresso machine to the pull-chain toilet, was created or culled by Phelps and McCormick from things they found discarded. The result is an exquisite coalescence of cultures and epochs that seems at once European and utterly American. The nightly music—old-timey jazz, sea chanteys, French chanson, folk noir, and hobo blues—is a similar amalgamation, with a distinct Moto patina. Arty regulars come for the music and the mood but they always stay for the food: baked eggs and ham or decadent grilled doughnuts for brunch; steamed mussels with fresh fennel or rotisserie pork ribs with herbes de Provence for dinner. The fare is simple, lovely, and reasonably priced, but Moto doesn't take reservations. Nor is there is a sign or address on the door. It will help to know that Moto is a wedge-shaped building between Hasidic and Dominican parts of South Williamsburg. (A large picture window on the Hasidic side of the building was frosted as part of their lease agreement.) The Dominican side is just a shoe's throw from the Hewes stop on the J and M trains.

Location Details

394 Broadway
Brooklyn NY 11211


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