Missing Grand

I live on South 2nd Street at Bedford in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I like my neighborhood.  A lot.  So did this person who made this time-lapse video of South 4th Street and Bedford, just two blocks away from me:

I hope to open my own café/restaurant/gallery/workshop space in the near future and so one of my favorite things to do is walk around and look at the spaces that others have created, pulling ideas from all of them and letting my imagination go wild.

I want to tell you about a street I missed until last week–Grand Street in Williamsburg.

I never would have guessed I could live in a neighborhood for a month and a half and miss a magical and extraordinary street that is only two or three blocks away!   But I have a feeling I’m not the only one in this very charming, European-like backroads neighborhoods of Williamsburg who misses the gems around here, because unless you spend time in this neighborhood, you tend to stay along the packed Bedford Avenue.

In southwestern Williamsburg some streets are deceptively hidden. While they seem to lie on a grid of simple numbered streets (North 3rd, North 2nd, North 1st, Grand, Metropolitan, South 1st, South 2nd, etc) there is an odd curvature to the way the merchants of a couple hundred years ago set up this town just east of the East River.  Some of the streets don’t go past the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.  Others don’t go through in the same way that a old, recently repared wagon wheel might have some spokes that don’t go directly through to a “hub.”   Even diagonal streets like the West Village, if they are somewhat predictable and linear, are easier to understand and navigate than some of these streets.  It is along these “irregular spoke” streets that some of the most out of the way, charming and even magical cafes, restaurants and lounges exist in southwestern Williamsburg.

To be sure, most of this confusion happens between North 3rd, Metropolitan (which seems to replace North 2nd), and North 1st.   Things “straighten out” when you get to Grand Street, although any walker might still be confused and have to stumble upon Grand Street.   I intend to be a guide for you on four blocks of Grand Street between Bedford and where Grand stops ends at Marcy Street just before the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

To begin, take the L train to the Bedford Stop in Williamsburg.  Walk south about 8 blocks from North 7th Street to Grand Street. Make a left on Grand.

Before we start our tour, I want to give a shout out to two amazing places that are not officially on my tour of Grand Street below Bedford.  The first is actually far away but it is my favorite spot in Williamsburg so far which I could go on and on about:  D.O.C Wine Bar on North 5th and Wyatt.

The other is  a restaurant called Aurora which is actually on the same street as this tour.  I can’t say enough about this place on a quiet part of Grand Street just blocks away from a view of Manhattan.

OK, now for the official 4 block tour.

First stop: Iona bar at 180 Grand Street.  Iona is named after an historic Scottish island.  It is beautiful inside with a piano, special seat by the sidewalk, and one of the most interesting back patios around town.  You can grab a chess set or Scrabble game and take it out back, switch to ping-pong and all the while be warmed by movable fire pits.  It’s really worth checking out!

Second stop: Continue on to the Lucky Cat at 245 Grand Street on the left side.  Their food is made of organic and seasonal ingredients from local farmers and suppliers.  Pizza, bagels, pannini, brunch food, etc.  They also have regular performers and the place itself feels very good to be in.  I think they have games you can play as well.  Be sure to check out their photos link!

Third stop: Fiore restaurant at 284 Grand Street between Roebling and Havemeyer St.  718-782-8222.

I’m literally going to lift something I read off the Village Voice about Fiore: “This place is so girly,” exclaimed Mary, an East Village artist originally from Ohio, noting the wallpaper printed in a juvenile pattern and the display of serving plates, lunch boxes, and other kitchen paraphernalia on shelves near the ceiling. Also surrounding us were 19th-century prints of pliéing ballerinas, though the rest of the room – which narrows as it goes deeper, culminating in a small garden – sports the kind of nondescript, bare-bricks décor you find in most Williamsburg restaurants.”

Here is the link.  Be sure to read other reviews including “Free Williamsburg: Resaurant Guide”

Check this place out. Look up the reviews and you will see consistent 4 stars and people ranting and raving about it.  They particularly mention the outdoor patio.  I loved this place and can’t wait to eat there!

Fourth stop: Walter Foods at 235 Grand Street, 718-387-8783.

You gotta love the unusual picture of the cow-fish.  They include their entire menu on their website.

Here is a slide show.

Here is my favorite comment:  “I recently ate dinner there. The food was delicious. The decor was crisp but homey. The unisex bathroom was clean and bright. The atmosphere was buzzing and very much like Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood! … even though it’s call Walter’s. I’m just calling it Walter’s! (The ‘Walter’s Food’ name sounds more like a grocery store.)  I had grilled shrimp as the appetizer with a basal sauce and it was yummy. I also had the steak which was done to perfection. The chef was cute … you could see him through the window opening. The bar was so busy and people were waiting to get in. I highly recommend it.”

Fifth stop: Bozu at 296 Grand Street, 718-384-7770.

Free Williamsburg’s comments.

Sixth stop: By now you might just want a coffee shop that allows you to relax and have a good latte. Atlas Café does not have it’s own web site, but once again Free Williamsburg does a pretty good job describing this place.

Here is another fun description:  “I recently heard a customer complain, as he walked out of Atlas, that it is like a library. My own first impression, when I walked in one workday morning, was that I had arrived where I belonged. Computer users from the information technology class had taken every table. Two seats per table but one person per table. Most had their ears plugged in to their computer. Conversation does not interrupt here. The huge windows of this corner cafe have a great view. Here you can be in a room full of people with zero obligation for interaction – except when plugging in to a decaying chord bar. Here you can maintain the pretense that there may be interaction while also maintaining beautifully routine isolation.”

Seventh stop: Now for the climax.  You’ve visited various restaurants and cafes with a variety of environments.  You notice that Grand Street is coming to an end just before the gargantuan Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.  There, on the left, is one of my favorite spots in all of Williamsburg:  Rose

My favorite comment came from our trusty Free Williamsburg site:

“A Rose is like any other rose, except when it comes to Rose Lounge. The subtle lighting inside makes it a wonderland for couples. The newly opended wine cellar gives you the variety that no other lounge in Williamsburg offers you. The back patio reminds you of some small cafe in Italy. The Staff are brilliant. The owners C and G ( I wont give up your names) make you feel like family the first minute you come in. This is the first place that I have been to where the owners come and greet you and truly want to know about you. Their performances cannot be beat, from Latin percussion and Jazz, to classical music to old school salsa to hip hop. not to mention the DJ’s that put on a great show for all. The drinks are greatly priced and they have some sort of specialized beer dispenser that the beer always comes out ice cold. This is where the heart goes to be free, the crowd is only overwhelming because they are so delightful, and you find it hard to believe that a place like this actually exist in NY. The place is virtually admission free with some exceptions which of course does not stop me from coming in, its worth the payment. I come here every week and I refuse to stop. ROSE lounge is a place where everyone and anyone can come to enjoy themselves. The stage is set in the middle in front of the patrons so that they too can be a part of the music. Rose lounge, the only rose I know without thorns.”

Grand Street Block Party Postcard

Oh, and one more thing… the Grand Street Block Association this past spring held a block party with the theme of Superheros!

So there you have it, a tour along four blocks of Grand Street.  Don’t miss Grand!

-Scott

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3 Responses to “Missing Grand”

  1. Darling!
    You make me miss NYC and Brooklyn.
    Keep writing!
    Much Love,
    Pen

  2. fractalbridge Says:

    Penny!

    For every person and place you miss, there are at least 5 who miss you just as much and are in tears that you moved back to San Francisco! You’ll always have a home here! By the way I love the art on your blog (see link on my blog!).

    Much love back,
    Scott

  3. wythe, not wyatt

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