Williamsburg, Brooklyn

It all started with a postcard taped to a former colleague’s desk.  A simple postcard from the Wythe Hotel, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Intrigued, I inquired, and my colleague raved.  She had gotten married there and her 5 star review made me swoon.  I came home and put it on our list.  

A pandemic put that list on hold, and on President’s Day Weekend 2022, after months of hiding from Omicron, we finally got to put a check mark next to Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Once used to manufacture barrels for the sugar refineries bordering the East River and later a textiles factory producing fabrics for the Space Program, the Wythe Hotel boasts unique character with its storied past.  With a French restaurant just off the lobby and a rooftop wine bar with a stellar view of the Manhattan skyline, one could enter the hotel and be tempted to never leave.  We certainly fell under this spell as soon as we checked in and made our way upstairs.  The interior design of our room highlighted the building’s exposed brick with a cozy bed made up in Italian linens and a mini bar we’d call more mega than mini.  Yet, you have to leave, no matter how blustery the wind or chilly the day because the Wythe Hotel is situated in the most convenient of places, just across the street from Brooklyn Bowl and the Brooklyn Brewery and within walking distance to a variety of shops and restaurants.

We started our weekend with a visit to the Brooklyn Brewery before heading to Bar Blondeau, the rooftop wine bar at the Wythe, for a light dinner.  While we were eager to sit at the bar and soak in the view of the brightly lit Empire State Building on a clear night, we arrived to find a crowd that intended to do the same.  It was impossible to get near the bar let alone sit at it.  Luckily, we had reserved a table for dinner.  Over shared plates of French fries, thinly sliced Serrano ham, Bacalao fritters, and mussels with artichoke hearts, we planned the following day’s itinerary, reserving the afternoon for a few friendly rounds of bowling.

If you want to enjoy a quiet morning view of the Manhattan skyline, make your way back up to Bar Blondeau for a cup of coffee.  In the early morning hours, we discovered there is little to no competition for a bar stool.  We started our Saturday here sipping on deliciously refreshing orange juice that came with a surprising price tag.  Somehow I justified it was worth it for the serenity and the view.

Our journey along the streets of Williamsburg led us to stumble upon an adorable French cafe, Cafe Colette. Here we sat at the counter and shared our favorite indulgence: a croque madame. Served on a long, crunchy baguette with a runny yolk over ham and melted cheese, this was just the fuel we needed to start our day.

After breakfast, we continued to explore the area.  After spotting a Madewell shopping bag, I made it my mission to find the store.  Once inside, I resisted the urge to make any purchases, but enjoyed admiring the spring collection.  Then it was back onto the streets of Williamsburg to explore some more.

In the afternoon, we laced up our bowling shoes for a few games at Brooklyn Bowl.  Brooklyn Bowl seems Asbury Lanes inspired with a grand stage for bands, a couple of bars, a restaurant, and wait staff tending to your every need right at your lane.  I started off strong, but lost every single game.  At one point, our pins got twisted and our lane went dark which resulted in us not being charged for a portion of the time we were there.  This was a great deal considering it cost $30 per half hour to bowl.  Add your $4.95 per person shoe rental, and a few beverages, and this quickly becomes no ordinary bowling bill.

Saturday night’s dinner reservations were at Misi, a popular Italian restaurant offering handmade pasta dishes.  Reservations seemed almost impossible at Misi, but we turned on the notify option on our Resy and somehow nabbed a couple of bar stools.  While Misi was incredibly crowded and highly recommended, we were not overly impressed with our selections.  The food was good, but not what we anticipated.  Would we go again?  Yes, as I think it is always worth trying a restaurant more than once.  

After a busy day, we returned to the Wythe and planned the next day’s itinerary.  We would be changing hotels and moving to downtown Brooklyn for a visit to Time Out Market New York

Leaving the Wythe on Sunday was our biggest mistake.  We should have spent the entire weekend there, but instead we moved to the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, a mega sized convention style hotel within walking distance to the bridge and not exactly “at it.” In retrospect, we could have checked out Time Out Market New York another time by easily by ferrying from downtown Manhattan.  Yet, this is the thing about travel, you live and learn and use these lessons for better planning next time.

Time Out markets bring the best of a city under one roof with multiple local food vendors serving up their best dishes.  Our first visit to a Time Out market was in Boston, and after having the best roast beef sandwich of my life there, I just had to check out what Time Out New York had to offer.  Located in DUMBO, just steps away from Jane’s Carousel and the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, Time Out Market New York will enrage the indecisive with its 24 different vendors and all of their varieties of food and beverage offerings.  We decided on a massive bowl of Jacob’s Pickles macaroni and cheese, the just-what-we-needed, stick to your ribs comfort food perfectly fit for a wickedly windy weekend.

We roamed DUMBO for awhile, taking refuge from the cold at Evil Twin Brewing Co., then at Bar Tabac, one of our favorite French cafes in Brooklyn.  The weekend concluded with a light dinner at Gage and Tollner, a shuttered restaurant recently reopened and ready to continue its 125 year legacy of being one of the most famous restaurants in Brooklyn.  Again, we weren’t impressed with our fried chicken selection, but absolutely devoured the Parker House rolls.  We’d be happy to return and try again as we envied our dining neighbor’s selections of roast chicken and steak.

We concluded our President’s Day Weekend Brooklyn vacation with a massive and delicious Essa bagel from their Time Out location before ferrying back across the East River and catching the Sea Streak for a beautiful ride home.  As we waved goodbye to downtown Manhattan, we eagerly discussed plans for our next visit.  After all, it will be Billy Joel who will welcome us back to the city in June.  

Until then, we’ll be in a New York state of mind…

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