Bushwick is one of those New York neighborhoods that everyone always talks about, but doesn’t always go to and we say it’s time to change that.
This weekend, spend a day exploring a neighborhood that’s a blend of artsy-hipster, Latino immigrants, and industrial warehouses. In neighboring Williamsburg, you can’t walk five steps without being greeted by a shiny condo development or the next hot eatery. But Bushwick — dubbed an “up and coming” neighborhood long ago — has largely been left alone by the glass condo developers that plowed through Williamsburg. It’s character remains. Art galleries exist beside giant factories, hipster coffee shops share the sidewalk with bodegas, and tiny taquerias live on the same blocks as new bars and restaurants.
If you can get your butt out of bed early enough to grab brunch, Tandem will be a tasty start to your day. Though it’s also a night time hotspot for its cheap drinks and dance floor, Tandem’s brunch should not be missed – though you could easily miss the place all together on it’s residential block. Inside, the walls and tables are works of art; they’re covered with brightly colored tiles, hand-dyed by owner Jane Vigra. The menu is small, but the ingredients are superb, with a pot of coffee straight from your own French press. The eggs strata is a perfect casserole with gruyere and Canadian bacon, and the biscuits and gravy are rich and plentiful. A meal here will soak up what remains of last night’s booze.
For those who want to sleep in, start the day with lunch at Tortilleria Taqueria Tres Hermanos. This tiny kitchen is attached to a tortilla factory, with seating in an unique garage-turned dining area. It can get pretty packed around lunchtime with doctors from the nearby medical center and residents craving their favorite local spot. Here’s how it works: Take a menu and a notecard from the counter. Write your name and your order (i.e. 2 carnitas taquitos) on the card. Place your card at the end of the card line. Wait for them to call your name. Feast. The tortillas are freshly pressed and cooked as the orders come, and they will undoubtedly be the best you’ve ever had. The tacos drip with flavor, especially the spicy pork and chorizo. While we have a hard time straying from tacos, the quesadillas are massive and a regular told us they’re so good, he eats them at least three times a week. “It’s beginning to be a problem,” mumbled Paul Granite, in between bites. “I think I might be addicted.”
When you’re done with lunch, take a few hours to dig around Bushwick’s massive warehouses turned vintage shops. Green Village (unfortunately closed Saturdays, but open Sundays), just across the street from Tres Hermanos, is not for the faint of heart. The warehouse overflows — literally, there are piles on the street — with used furniture and housewares. Do you need a new desk chair? Green Village may possibly have every type of chair created in the last fifty years. How about some new glassware? Green Village has more options than every Crate and Barrel in the city. If you can get past the tiny isles and claustrophobic feel, you will be rewarded with inexpensive treasures. But you may want to think twice before falling in love with the vintage oak armoire — buying it means unloading the hundreds of glasses, plates, and knick-knacks stored inside.
Green Village sells clothing, too, but they have nothing on the selection at nearby Urban Jungle (pictured). “This is my absolute favorite place,” said customer Maria Blackburn, a stack of clothes draped over her arm. “I mean look at this!” She held up a mod yellow dress straight out of the ’70s. “And it’s only,” she thrust the price tag toward us, “fifteen dollars!” The store spans nearly a full block, filling an old warehouse with a sea of clothing racks and shelves of neatly lined shoes. You could easily revamped your entire wardrobe for under a hundred bucks.
After your shopping binge, take in Bushwick’s booming arts scene. Exhibition spaces, galleries, and studios are scattered throughout the neighborhood. A few of our favorites are Nurture Art, Factory Fresh, and English Kills Art Gallery. As an organization dedicated to helping emerging artists, Nurture Art’s current show couldn’t be more fitting. The exhibit is a group show by curatorial students at Juan Morel Campos Secondary School, featuring work that explores the process of making art. Factory Fresh looks for “fresh” talent across the globe. If you want a more hands-on art experience, plan ahead so you can take a class at Third Ward. They offer sessions on everything from an introduction to New York’s art world to creating felt from scratch to making metal belt buckles.
If there is one thing in life that we can never refuse, it is pizza. And that is why we say you must go to Roberta’s for dinner. Baked in a wood fire oven, the Neapolitan style pies come out with a perfectly charred crust, but the real star is what’s on top. All of the produce is grown right out back, meaning that the fresh tomato sauce was made this morning. If you’re a pizza purist, please forgive us when we say Roberta’s creative pies are where they win big. The Cheeses Christ — mozzarella, taleggio (we don’t know either), parmigiano, heavy cream, black pepper — was the tastiest white pizza, while the tex-mex style Cortes had the perfect combination of spicy sausage, tangy sauce, and sweet splotches of creme fresh.
Bushwick’s music scene is just as booming as its art, so after dinner, hit up a local venue for a show and some drinks. Brooklyn Fire Proof has a different band every night, and Goodbye Blue Monday has about five different bands every night. This Saturday, a few performers will be punk-rock-soul group The Brooklyn What, and the acoustic funk band Chalk & the Beige Americans. If you’re not in the mood for live music, spend the evening relaxing over cheap drinks at Beauty Bar, where you can get a martini and a manicure for just $10. The place caters to the female clientele, but don’t let that scare away any male companions — the crowd is an even mix. The attractive female bartenders may have something to do with that.
Discard your irrational fear of hipsters and hop on the J train! We’ll see you there.
This post updated Spring 2012