Williamsburg is the East Village of Brooklyn. It’s packed with restaurants and bars, tourists love it, and it’s easy to convince people to meet you there. So even if you don’t live in North Brooklyn, you probably spend a decent amount of time in the area, and you probably return to the same handful of restaurants on repeat. If you want to branch out, use this guide. It has a bunch of great places that aren’t the most famous spots in Williamsburg, and once you become a regular at all of them, people will think you’ve lived in the neighborhood for several decades.
Call 30 minutes before going to Testo, and there will be a reserved sign on one of the butcher paper-topped tables when you arrive. It’s just one of the things that make this neighborhood Italian spot feel like your neighborhood Italian spot. Others include a wine list almost entirely under $40 per bottle, big portions of housemade pastas, and fried calamari served with a totally unnecessary amount of tomato sauce. Use this cash-only spot in East Williamsburg for low-key dates, and share a couple of the piadine to start, which are flatbread sandwiches filled with cheese and cured meat.
Pates Et Traditions feels like the living room of someone who has a pen pal in France. The entire space is covered in postcards and pictures from the South of France, as well as plant-lined bookshelves and hand-stitched pillows. The menu stays on theme with dishes like baked eggs with foie gras during the day, and steak au poivre at dinner. We like it here most during weekend brunch, when the long list of savory crepes and inexpensive glasses of French wine make us wish we had a pen pal, too.
One day, we’ll write a guide for Where To Eat Tofu Stew On A Weeknight When It’s Cold Outside, and ChinGoo will be on it. This is a neighborhood Korean spot on Graham Avenue, and it’s exactly the kind of place where you want to grab a meal for less than $20 on a Tuesday night. The tofu stew is our go-to order, but we also like the mandoo and kimchi pancake, and there are a bunch of other things like galbi and bibimbap. The space is pretty small and can fill up during peak dinner hours, but if you encounter a wait, it shouldn’t be too long.
Beco and Miss Favela are both airy, cash-only Brazilian spots in Williamsburg with live music, sidewalk seating, pitchers of caipirinha, and very good pão de queijo and feijoada. But if they’re like siblings, then Beco is the responsible one that’s put in charge when the parents are away. It has boozy brunch and bongo drums, but it never gets wall-to-wall packed like Miss Favela, and the focus here is always more on eating big portions of filling food than taking shots with strangers.
Jimmy’s Diner isn’t the sort of brunch spot where everyone already looks dressed for a big night out. It’s the place all those people go the next morning. This cash-only diner has a long menu with lunch options like burgers and disco fries, but you should focus on the breakfast dishes, like the giant breakfast burrito or the egg and pancake platter that comes with cornbread, grits, and bacon. If it’s one of those mornings when food on its own isn’t enough to cure your feeling of general brokenness, try a boozy milkshake, like the one with maple, vanilla, and bourbon.
Williamsburg has lots of good pizza places, but most of them are either slice shops or serve pies that function like delicious Ambien, so they’re not great options for dates. Dough Vale is an exception. The narrow, brick-walled space feels like a place you’d find on a side street in Florence, and it’s filled with the smell of charring crust coming from the oven behind the bar. Order any of the pies, which are all big and less than $17.
La Cafette is a small French spot next to Have & Meyer and around the corner from Four Horsemen. And while those wine bars tend to be packed at 6pm on a rainy Sunday, this place almost always has an open table or seats at the bar. Keep that in mind the next time you’re looking for wine and small plates with a date, and don’t feel like making small talk for an hour while waiting for a host to text you. Start with steak tartare and glasses of French wine, which are $6 during Happy Hour, and if you decide to hang out for a while listening to live jazz, share the tender rotisserie chicken served with potatoes that soak up the rich jus.
At some point during Williamsburg’s influx of natural wines and workout classes that double as influencer meetups, you may have forgotten about The Saint Austere. So allow us to jog your memory. This casual Mediterranean spot is on Grand Street, it serves housemade pastas and very good, reasonably priced wines, and it offers a Happy Hour that includes $3 beers and $4 tequila shots. In other words, if you haven’t been to Saint Austere since the last papal term, you should sit at the bar for a drink and snack after work, or come with a date and share the lamb shank parmigiana and pork shoulder cavatelli with meatballs.
There’s a Peruvian restaurant a short walk from the Lorimer L stop that you might not know about. Most dishes on the menu at Chimu are under $20 for a generous portion, so two people can easily share an appetizer (like the avocado stuffed with shrimp and vegetables) and an entree (like the fried rice with a ton of mixed seafood) without spending too much money. This place also works well for casual group dinners, when you can split some wine (all bottles are $40) and sides, like the fried yucca with a variety of sauces.
Bahia is a Salvadoran restaurant in Williamsburg, and it’s somewhere we go on weeknights when we want large, affordable plates of objectively delicious food. We usually get grilled pork chops or a lean cut of steak with some rice, beans, and Salvadoran cheese - but the soups are also satisfying and filling, the fried yuca with chicharron is always delicious, and it’s essential that you get a least one pupusa. The space is pretty big with a couple of TVs, so it’s great for either a big-group meal or solo dinner.
There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of DeStefano’s, which is weird, because it’s one of the best places to grab a steak in Williamsburg. It’s an old-school spot on a relatively quiet block just north of the Lorimer stop of the L train, and from the outside, it looks like a small house you’d find in a much quieter town than Brooklyn. The inside is just as charming, with wedding photos covering the walls, and, while it isn’t an especially fancy place, it still feels special. In large part, that’s because of the food. Start your meal with a few slices of the sweet, charred bacon, then finish with some creamed corn and a porterhouse that comes out sizzling in a puddle of its own jus.
Federoff’s is not a large place. In fact, it’s just a narrow room with no tables whatsoever and a couple of stools along each wall. But it’s important that you come here and get yourself a sandwich. That’s pretty much all they serve here, and the cheesesteak dripping with bright orange dairy product is our favorite thing on the menu. The roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and whole cloves of garlic is another intelligent way to spend your money - but if you get here early and aren’t yet ready for ridiculous amount of meat, we highly suggest the BEC with Taylor Ham.