Why do some $1 beer specials attract the loft-living artist while others lure in the fresh-out-of-school frat boy? What makes one restaurant popular with polo shirts and another a hit with the skinny-jean set? And why do people use three different subway lines just to get somewhere when there are so many closer options? Whether you’ve lived in the city your whole life or are just looking for a good neighborhood hangout while you sweat through your summer internship, it’s nice to know what kind of crowd you’re going to have to endure at a spot before you book a reservation. And the scene at Williamsburg’s La Superior is still hot six years after the spot first put down roots in the neighborhood.
Walk south down Berry Street, and you’ll pass through the quirky industrial enclave that’s slowly transitioning into the world’s largest collection of nearly completed condos. You might get the sense that you’ve found a block away from the madness of central Williamsburg: Houses without scaffolding occupy lots on quiet, tree-lined streets where children play; it’s a reminder that the area has always had strong familial roots that remain even as the neighborhood experiences insane growth and hype. That serene setting might lead you to believe a quiet family-friendly cafe looms nearby, but walk through the door at La Superior, where pictures of everything ranging from the Holy Mother to President Obama sporting a bandanna, and you’ll feel more like you’re in someone’s kick-ass basement than a full-service restaurant. Music blasts from the speakers, and the fact that everyone’s dressed alike–in well-worn Converse sneakers, frayed black jeans, and old T-shirts–makes it hard to pick out who actually works here and can help you. If you do spot a polo shirt, by the way, it’s likely being worn by an out-of-towner.
Opened during the summer of 2008 by Felipe Mendez, who also operates nearby Cantina Royale and the soon-to-debut Ceveceria Havemeyer, the taqueria is renowned for offering authentic Mexican dishes that should impress even your friends who hail from the left coast. Start with margaritas in plastic cups, Negro Modelo, and Mexican sodas, and then order rounds of food. While La Superior offers an extensive menu of Mexican fare, popular orders are the weird ones, like beef tongue tacos and sesadillas (pork brain quesadillas). Grilled scallions are a good side order, as are chips and salsa.
As the night gets going, you begin to feel as though this crowd might push back the tables and start an impromptu indie music dance party. People show off tattoos and drop casual curse words into conversations about relationship and work problems. (La Superior might just be the spot for the ‘Burg’s best therapy session–chances are, people around you can’t really hear you, so friends can offer advice and condolences freely.)
The pervasive attitude of the La Superior regulars highlights the fact that Brooklyn is not Manhattan, and it’s not trying to be.