The daylight floods in through the factory size windows, as steam rises up in such a beautiful way it looks like intricate lace. Taking in whiffs of hazelnut and pumpkin, listening to the murmurs of freelancers and friends and faint orchestral music. I watch the baristas pour warm milk and the crowd take slow sips as I sit at the communal table, littered with coffee granules, at my favorite café, Toby’s Estate. My apartment in Williamsburg is nestled in the midst of some wonderful cafés. Over the years, I have spent a good chunk of my free time curled up in their couches, doing schoolwork and writing stories, and staring at the ceiling and passers-by when I can’t focus. It is no easy task to pick the best coffee shop in Brooklyn, given the high density with which they are strewn on practically every street. Williamsburg is a hub of cool cafés that exhibit the very distinct culture of the neighborhood. The cafés are laid back, alternative, vintage and rustic. Although a difficult selection to make, I’ve chosen a few to tell you about, based on quality and ambiance. If you ever find yourself in New York, these are the cafés you want to check out!
1. Toby’s EstateToby’s Estate, first. Off the main street, Bedford Avenue, Toby’s Estate is brightly lit with a large wall of windows, and shelved walls that display various objects – anything as simple and normal as plants and jars to more rare, unexpected items, like typewriters and ship anchors. I tend to see young couples snuggling while enjoying some cranberry bread and ginger cookies, as well as singles working on artistic projects – sketching or writing poetry. Many times I have struck up conversation with strangers and seen others do the same; it’s a friendly atmosphere.
2. Tea BarA few blocks away is Tea Bar, a cozy space with, if you couldn’t guess, a huge selection of teas. Williamsburg has an omnipresent coffee culture, but this quaint café seriously threatens the standard. Incredibly serene, it is very quiet with mostly tables for two. The décor is dainty and ethereal with twinkling string lights to brighten your mood, and the café always smells sweet, so stop in for a comfortable read or invite someone here for a charming date.
3. BakeriBakeri has the best quality pastries and sandwiches, hands down. Choose from a delicious selection of quiches, tartines, cookies, and crumbles. Try the lavender shortbread, the kale and cheese brioche, or raspberry muffin – you cannot go wrong with anything you pick. The small blue-green interior feels like a mix of a country farm, with the waiters and waitresses in overalls, and chic Parisian café, with beautifully decorated, floral tableware and adorning mirrors. Stay inside to hear the bakers in the back churning out all of the treats, or step outdoors, where there is a delightful garden. With a romantic ambiance, the garden has a fountain and pond and is covered overhead by vines, making it a little slice of tranquility in New York – a quiet respite from the bustling, noisy streets.
4. Blue BottleCompletely open on one side, Blue Bottle feels expansive, as you can see the beans being ground as well as all the other action taking place. It has an industrial vibe with glass and brass machines and large, high cemented tables where you can sit and converse with friends or strangers. Benches outside add more space to the crowded hotspot, and allow for you to watch the skateboarders who frequent this street do cool tricks and compete with one another.
5. Black BrickLastly, but without an equal, is Black Brick. This dimly lit café has a subdued but intense ambiance. The walls are wood and exposed brick, and the ceiling is made from old multi-colored crates. The décor is earthy, organic, raw and rustic with vintage furniture that has an odd charm – none of it looks comfortable, but once you settle into it, you are planted in it for hours. Here, you will find young people reading Dostoevsky, old couples who have been in Williamsburg decades before it was “cool,” tortured writers, grungy rock star-looking folk, and some with lattes at the chess board. Take a step outside to discover the hidden courtyard in the back and relax in a hammock in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world. Black Brick is a great treasure in Williamsburg.
Each of these cafés is a true gem and worth a visit if you can get there. I normally am quite secretive and would like to keep these to myself, but I realize that it’s a crime to not share them.