Monday, October 19, 2009


Brooklyn is full of beautiful tree-lined streets developed mostly from the 1830's-1890's with grand old brownstones and brick townhouses filled with original architectural details, dotted with the occasional historic church or huge patch of Olmsted and Vaux designed greenspace. Areas as diverse as Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene and Bedford-Stuyvesant all have amazing residential gems remaining from their origins as middle and upper-middle class neighborhoods (albeit often in varying condition today). Williamsburg, on the other hand, lacks this grander architectural history.

Both Williamsburg and neighboring Greenpoint have, since at least the 1850's and until very recently, been hardscrabble, working-class neighborhoods filled with a variety of industrial buildings and modest but often charming residential stock. The long decline of industry in New York, the gentrification of the area since the 1990's and the mega real estate bubble of the last decade meant Williamsburg was ground zero for an injection of new development. Massive rezoning from manufacturing to residential followed by a rush to beat a height restriction deadline meant that entire blocks, even stretches of multiple blocks were torn down just as the market collapsed. What is left is often depressing scenes like this one:

A mix of funky but original old warehouses, wood frame single and multiple family homes covered in vinyl siding, plus huge trash strewn empty lots and tacky new stucco and glass condos towering above the surrounding area. Not exactly a romantic landscape of architectural wonder. Despite its looks, however, I love my neighborhood. It has some of the best restaurants in Brooklyn (I'll even say in all of New York, but more on that later) and the list of well conceived, unique local businesses grows by the day. There are also lots of original "local" old family businesses that are hanging on or even thriving as the inexorable march of gentrification continues. It may be ugly, even tacky, somewhat toxic, and slightly forlorn at times, but it is home.

This past weekend was spent running a lot of errands and doing a little domestic shopping. In the spirit of a Bay Area friend who regularly recognizes the merits of her neighborhood in Oakland (in my mind, the sort-of Brooklyn of San Francisco) I have documented my errand run in a celebration of my favorite local businesses. First stop of the day: Brooklyn Kitchen at 616 Lorimer Street. I picked up two new cookbooks, the Cook's Illustrated Best 30 Minute Recipe book for when I need to whip up something for myself or my boyfriend as well as Ruth Reichl's Gourmet Cookbook, for when we decide to entertain. Skimming them both, I am excited to move beyond the beloved Barefoot Contessa rut I have been stuck in. I also asked the girls at BK about their new venture, which I mentioned here. Opening day is November 9th. I am going to start a countdown clock, but in the meantime went by to get a look at the building.

Not much to look at, at this point. Inside culinary bliss awaits. OP-EN! OP-EN! OP-EN!

While walking to my next stop, I came across this former gas station at Meeker Avenue and Lorimer Street (which I had often admired as a good spot for some sort of nightlife). Low and behold, it is under renovation to become a restaurant. I have researched and asked around, but cannot seem to find any information on it. Anyone know anything?

Judging from the interior details I spied, as well as the new window frames going in, my guess is semi-ironic BBQ joint. We will see if I am right.

Onward! I picked up some light bulbs at my local hardware store. The family owned Crest True Value franchise at 558 Metropolitan Avenue has really tweaked their business and marketing model to appeal the the neighborhood's younger newcomers, who seem to be into DIY home improvement. They always have great sales on gardening supplies, and are always super friendly to my boyfriend and me when we go in together... not a customer service quality you find often at all old-school local businesses in the area.

More to come tomorrow...


  1. so glad you are doing this. this makes me smile a lot.

  2. Meeker Avenue and Lorimer Street will be the Williamsburg outpost of German beer garden Loreley -