The Williamsburg renaissance transformed an industrial afterthought into a world-renowned enclave of artistic endeavors. Lucky for us, some of those artists chose to work with a grill rather than an easel to display their talents. With the backdrop of Manhattan providing a perfect canvas on which innovation, risk, and failure could all be explored, the neighborhood best known for that steakhouse by the bridge has come a long way gastronomically during the last several years.
Here are the 10 best restaurants in Williamsburg right now.
10. Briskettown, 359 Bedford Avenue, 718-701-8909
The menu isn’t as expansive as it is at other restaurants on Bedford, but Briskettown does one thing–brisket–exceptionally. This permanent location rose from Daniel Delaney’s undergound brisketlab dinners, where his Texas-style barbecue first earned its Texas-sized reputation. At the brick-and-mortar shop, order your char-encrusted meat by the pound and watch it be carved off onto butcher paper; supplement it with a seasonal side or two. Delaney’s success has allowed him to expand into other acclaimed ventures, including breakfast tacos.
9. Kristophe, 221 North Fourth Street, 718-302-5100
Kristophe looks the part of a place where you’d enjoy comfort food; the warm interior makes diners immediately feel welcomed. The Eastern European spot resembles a warm inn a weary traveler may stumble into from the cold, and they’d be greeted by items like duck pierogies, venison burgers, and plates of wild game sausage. We love the backyard garden for a retreat, and the beer list and cocktails demonstrate owner Kris Drzewiecki’s understanding of what the neighbors love to drink.
8. Fette Sau, 354 Metropolitan Avenue, 718-963-3404
No other restaurant in Williamsburg captures the dark and devious spirit quite like this mecca of barbecued beef. With beer taps shaped like meat cleavers and a line that can stretch out towards the entrance way on select nights, Fette Sau is embedded within the fabric of the neighborhood. Wend your way through the queue to pick a combination of smoked meats and sides (don’t miss the sausages, we say) and then nab a seat at a picnic table where you can get to know your neighbors and their out-of-town friends.
7. Samurai Mama, 205 Grand Street, 718-599-6161
While Grand Street is littered with worthy dining options–consider it the main Williamsburg thoroughfare of culinary desires–this unassuming dimly lit Japanese joint should be your first stop. With several varieties of udon soup–we suggest going for one that includes a poached egg–Samurai has no trouble filling its large communal table. Supplement your slurps with something from the list of shochu and sake, and consider trying the sushi, too.
6. Motorino, 139 Broadway, 718-599-8899
A top 10 list for any Brooklyn neighborhood wouldn’t be complete without a pizzeria, and in Williamsburg, that means Motorino, the return of which to the ‘burg picked up right where Mathieu Palombino’s crew left off. The new digs offer the same freshly baked pizzas along with new items like a porchetta calzone. Don’t miss the soppresatta piccante; the pie offers a good spicy kick. And by the way, the new spacious digs make it much easier to bring a large group.
5. Xixa, 241 South Fourth Street, 718-388-8860
There’s a pattern for popular Williamsburg restaurants: small plates, small space, big aspirations. That formula applies at Xixa, where Jason Marcus’ interpretation of Mexican small plates has quickly made it one of the most innovative restaurants in a neighborhood that takes pride in being different. And consider the back story: “The menu at Xixa is the work of Jason’s fictional twin who grew up in the suburbs of Mexico City.” We love the chef’s tasting menu, which samples everything from roasted lamb meatballs to charred octopus. And though the vibe here mirrors a Victorian cocktail den, the beverage list steers clear of the traditional margarita and offers an extensive wine selection instead.
4. The Brooklyn Star, 593 Lorimer Street, 718-599-9899
Perhaps the most refined of Williamsburg’s southern-inspired retreats, Joaquin Baca’s secluded sit down on Lorimer Street continues to pack in crowds–especially during weekend brunch. We love dishes like bacon jalapeño cornbread, the hot meatloaf sandwich on pullman bread, and drinks served out of mason jars. Though the restaurant is a step below formal, it doesn’t forgo quirkiness–see the pictures of Chuck Norris for proof.
3. Egg, 135A North Fifth Street, 718-302-5151
Brunch abounds in Williamsburg, but this no-frills shoe box that specializes in breakfast all day packs in daily crowds. With a focus on farm fresh veggies and eggs–the restaurant has its own farm upstate in Oak Hill–there are few better ways to start your morning. We love the individual French press coffee pots and the country ham biscuit, even if we have to squeeze ourselves into digs that are a bit tight.
2. Traif, 229 South Fourth Street, 347-844-9578
When it first opened, Jason Marcus’ offbeat menu in a space right off the Williamsburg entrance way gained notoriety for its decidedly non-kosher items in an area well known for its devout faith. Years later, its bacon donuts are still converting customers week in and week out. With a menu preaching “globally inspired soul food”–the restaurant pumps out seasonally changing small plates like chopped chicken livers and buffalo-style frog legs. If you’re dining with a group, you might opt for the chef’s selection, which gives you a nice customized tour of the menu.
1. Aska, 90 Wythe Avenue, 718-388-2969
Some of those ingredients on your plate at Aska might have been plucked from right here in Williamsburg. Such is the foraging philosophy at this new age Scandinavian that has even the most tepid of Manhattanites booking a table inside Kinfolk Studios. A coffee shop during the day and a cocktail den by night, the space embodies the neighborhood’s constant transformation. Aska is dictated by tasting menus and a chef hell bent on changing the American perception of pig’s blood, and the restaurant embodies the intricacies, quirks, and passion for great food for which Williamsburg is now known. Oh, and if you’re having trouble getting a table–or you want a little more control over your meal than a prix fixe affords–head to the bar, where you can order a number of snacks a la carte.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 8, 2013