Everyone meet Bushwick: Williamsburg’s cooler sister who doesn’t wear as much make-up.
The hardscrabble neighborhood known for its industrial buildings and once-mean streets has grown into an unpretentious artistic enclave surrounding the Morgan Avenue L train station — without any of the expected pomposity and hoopla.
“Bushwick is where most of the stuff in Brooklyn is going on — or at least most of the stuff that people who aren’t particularly wealthy can afford to do,” said Jeremy Sapienza, who runs the revered neighborhood Web sitewww.bushwickBK.com.
Sapienza touts the neighborhood nestled between Flushing and Bushwick avenues and the English Kills channel for its art galleries, impromptu performance spaces, cafes, eateries, and its diverse building stock of tenements, lofts, active industrial sites, and vinyl-sided homes.
“We don’t have brownstones, but we’ve got our own stuff,” he said.
But it’s not the buildings that transformed Bushwick into a place to be — it’s the people who moved to the neighborhood around the sixth stop on the L train, according to Wreck Room bartender Jose Reyes.
“When I first moved here back before bars opened up, you’d come off the train in the middle of the night and there would be like two people getting off the L. Now there’s like 50,” said Reyes. “Bushwick is the new Williamsburg, which is the new the Lower East Side.”
So if you decide to follow Brooklyn’s eastward march towards its hipster manifest destiny, where should you go? Hop an L train — easy to catch from 14th Street in Manhattan — and use this helpful neighborhood crawl:
Bushwick boozehounds and nightlife insiders flock to the seemingly hidden bar, King’s County, where finding the front door is half the adventure.
“Walking into Kings County makes you feel like you’re entering a speakeasy,” said neighborhood expert Jeremy Sapienza of the watering hole Kings County, whose only signage is a tiny metal crown above a non-descript storefront.
Once inside, revelers peruse the wide selection of whiskeys and bourbons, or take advantage of happy hour specials boasting $4 drafts and Budweisers served with a shot of Jack Daniels ($5) until 8 pm.
Kings County [286 Seigel St. between White and Bogart streets, (718) 418-8823]. Daily 4pm-4am.
The Archive Café has been one Bushwick’s main hangout’s since it opened five years ago, partly because of its Fair Trade coffee — and partly because it’s the only video rental shop in the neighborhood. Alongside its drip coffees and espressos, yogurts and bagels served with lox, tomato, onion and cream cheese ($7), the Bogart Street shop carries about 2,000 DVDs — a mix of crime, horror, documentary and foreign, according to manager Dan Mitchell, who rents to films for $3.50 apiece.
Archive Café [49 Bogart St. between Grattan and Moore streets, (718) 381-1944].
Ad Hoc Art is the gallery that best defines Bushwick’s ever-changing art scene, mirroring the diversity of the emerging cultural community.
“We take risks on people that are definitely not established artists,” said gallery owner Garrison Buxton. “We show very well-known artists and people that are completely under-exposed — from urban street art to pop surrealism and low-brow art like modern tattoo culture.”
Ad Hoc [49 Bogart Street between Grattan and Moore streets, (718) 366-2466].
Even Bushwick’s best pizzeria feels like an artist’s loft. The wood-oven pizza joint Roberta’s operates out of a massive, concrete-floored room at the corner of Borgart and Moore streets, but despite the industrial interior, Roberta’s feels like a cozy neighborhood eatery. Diners grub on 12-inch pies ($7 to $15) that range from classic styles to more experimental varieties — like a mozzarella pie topped with and homemade guanciale and a slightly runny egg.
Roberta’s [261 Moore St. at Bogart Street, (718) 417-1118].
The managers of this newly opened café, which poured its first cup of Stumptown coffee on Jan. 5, are hoping to turn their spacious coffee shop into a de facto community center.
“People here are trying to create places that aren’t the standard fare for Manhattan — or for Brooklyn,” said manager Nick DaMaison, who in February is planning to launch a series of contemporary chamber concerts and a monthly music forum with emerging composers.
Also on tap for the wood-floored coffeeshop — which doubles as an art gallery — is a monthly book club and an ongoing film series.
Despite the big plans, Café Orwell remains a low-key place to sip coffee ($2.25) or espresso ($2.50) amidst a pleasing array of eclectic furniture.
Café Orwell [247 Varet Street between Bogart and White streets, (347) 294-4759].
No offense to the guys behind the Bushwick watering hole Wreck Room, but maybe they should rename their popular pub “Junkyard.” The brick walls of the Flushing Avenue pub are adorned with fenders and lights plucked from trashed cars, and most of the chairs are still equipped with seatbelts. The regulars look past the automotive aesthetics (either a nod to the neighborhood’s industrial past or the film “The Fast and the Furious”) and enjoy cheap drinks, pinball machine and pool tables and a soundtrack provided by live DJs who spin hip-hop or rock, depending on the crowd.
Wreck Room [940 Flushing Ave. between Central and Evergreen avenues, (718) 418-6347].
This cavernous second-hand shop is the best place to purchase the North Brooklyn uniform, which experts say consists of patterned dresses, flannels, fedoras and Levis. Guys peruse the racks for lightly worn pairs of Carhartt trousers and checkered shirts, while ladies search for 1950s-style dresses, pumps and flats at Bushwick’s answer to Beacon’s Closet. The prices at Urban Jungle Vintage are low and organization is minimal, which just makes that diamond in the rough even shinier.
Urban Jungle Vintage [120 Knickerbocker Ave. between Flushing Avenue and Thames Street, (718) 497-1331]. Open daily, noon–7 pm.