On our last trip to New York in 2013, we’d only been over to Brooklyn to walk back to Manhattan across Brooklyn Bridge, so when we decided to extend our stopover to the Deep South in New York for a couple of nights, we wanted to see life on the other side of Manhattan too.
Staying in Brooklyn also makes for an easy commute from JFK airport – essential when you’ve got a big bag on your back! After a bit of expert MTA Subway map reading, we managed to make our way to East Williamsburg via the Airtrain to Howard Beach, changing to the L Train at Broadway Junction.
We stumbled out of the Subway at Morgan Avenue into hipster central: loft apartments and art spaces, communal graffiti projects, book exchanges on street corners, beat-up old convertibles, an organic 7-11 serving 50 different types of quinoa and coconut water, Ray Bans, Mom jeans, norm core, crumbling warehouses, industrial distribution centres and a distinct whiff of edginess. We suddenly felt a bit uncool.
Our hostel, the New York Loft Hostel (Varet Street) was in the thick of the local neighbourhood. Right outside was a barbecue and brunch joint, Tutu’s, though we never needed to eat here as the hostel put on free bagels and coffee for breakfast, served in their kitchen and sunny yard. Roberta’s (Moore Street) was just around the corner, and though it looks like a run-down lock up, the pizzas are incredible and the restaurant and outdoor space are always packed. Each evening, Mexican food trucks and a mobile vintage shop park on Bogart Street: everything in the vintage caravan is $10! If I had enough room in my rucksack I would definitely have picked up a pair of the leather cowboy boots.
East Williamsburg is a safe area to walk around, but it is “up and coming” and there’s no denying some areas are definitely not there yet. We needed to top up our MTA cards, so walked west to Melrose Avenue to use the subway ticket machine – this area was a little bit “sketchy”, to use the American phase, but like a lot of New York, areas can change quickly from block to block. Just remember your street smarts and put your phones away; once you’ve Instagrammed your soy flat white against a graffiti art backdrop.
Would we stay here again? Maybe. The hostel was nice, but overpriced (this is New York, after all). If you’re looking for more of a bar and restaurant scene there is a lot more going on in the Bedford Avenue and Carroll Gardens areas of Brooklyn, as we were to find out!