Street art, junk shops, and mason jar beers
Emerging from the Morgan or Jefferson Street L stations feels a little like stepping into a Brooklyn warehouse wild west, where the tumbleweeds blowing in the wind are plastic trash bags and the cowboys are hipster artists and decades-long locals. The streets are wide and quiet compared to the constant bustle of other parts of town. The wind whips around corners, making the blacked out 3rd story warehouse windows feel that much more deserted. And yet, all it takes is a few steps beyond the view from the station to realize that Bushwick is a lot more than a sprawling industrial landscape and is in fact an impressively vibrant community cultivated by newcomer artists and decades-long residents alike.
It's been two and a half years since my first impromptu adventure to Bushwick for a surprise open house / perfect-excuse-to serve-PBR-party at the now bankrupt 3rd Ward Art Collective. In the short period since then, I've seen the neighborhood re-paint and re-imagine many of its faces. What was once another locked up warehouse is now a zen coffee shop brewing La Colombe or a Williamsburg-y combo spot serving charcuterie and craft beer. Though the majority of Bushwick's population is still low income (33% live below the poverty line) and Hispanic, the forces of gentrification are clearly knocking at every door of the neighborhood's industrial identity.
In the spirit of welcoming change and also celebrating the rooted spirit and community of a place, below are a few of my favorite newcomer and "been here forever" spots to visit.
Start your exploring: The Bushwick Collective
Now that 5 Pointz is sadly no longer, the Bushwick Collective is likely one of the most concentrated areas of beautiful street art in the city. To start your exploring, get off at the Jefferson street L station and walk a block toward the corner of St. Nicholas Ave and Troutman Street. You can follow the art up and down the surrounding blocks and even explore more painted walls a few blocks away around the Morgan Street L station.
The New York Times did a great profile of the Bushwick Collective and its history, an excerpt of which is below:
"Growing up, Joseph Ficalora would sit on the roof of his family’s steel fabrication business. In Bushwick, Brooklyn, in the 1980s, it was one of the few safe places outdoors. The view was grim. The streets were dirty. Graffiti was endless. After all the factory workers went home for the day, a rotating cast of prostitutes worked the block, withering under their addictions. [...]
Most people want to hold onto their past as it was, but Mr. Ficalora has found greater comfort in obliterating it, bathing the neighborhood in paint.
Today the rooftop of that family business, GCM Steel, offers an eye-popping panorama of street art. More than 50 multicolored murals have transformed a swath of nearby buildings into a vast outdoor gallery called the Bushwick Collective, anchored at the intersection of Troutman Street and St. Nicholas Avenue."
Mid-morning pick me up: AP Coffee
AP coffee is a beautiful zen space (think white Eames chairs, waterfall, skylight, and minimalist stone benches) which serves La Colombe coffee as well as such enticing options as Vietnamese iced coffee and Horchata Lattes. While it feels almost like a Manhattan-y imposter in Bushwick, its still a beautiful spot to sit and sip a delicious cup of coffee.
Thrift stores and local purveyors of random junk
If you've ever wondered where all that thrifted hipster flannel comes from, look no further. Thrift shops are on every corner, but L Train Vintage should have the hipster bases covered. If you're more interested in the broken lampshade and old converter box variety of thrifting, the Green Village Corporation is a multi-room cavernous jungle of crap, so (fascinatingly) useless that my friend couldn't even find a white elephant gift there.
The Shops at the Loom
This renovated textile mill is home to 20+ local shops and creative spaces, all accessible through an unassuming storefront area or by entering random unmarked doorways (clearly choose the latter). Among the random yoga studios and assorted start ups are a screen printer, surf shop, yarn cafe (??? still not sure what this means...), and a really charming (non-yarn-related) cafe called Kave that has a backyard patio that I'm sure is awesome when its not 27 degrees out. More here.
For the book lovers out there: Mellow Pages library
This beautiful little independently run library (4,000+ titles!) and reading room is a mecca for local literary nerds. Stop by almost any day of the week for readings and events. Check the sched here.
Dinner time: out of this world pizza at Roberta's
No post on Bushwick is complete without a nod to Roberta's, which is still my favorite pizza place in New York. If you haven't been before, don't be alarmed by the industrial metal front door covered in graffiti OR the 3 hour wait that might greet you once you get inside. There is an awesome bar-in-a-tent sort of thing happening behind the beer hall atmosphere of the front area which even transforms into a wacky summer event called Tiki Disco. Beyond a great selection of local craft beers (obviously served in mason jars), the small bites and vegetables (obviously grown in their own garden) are a delicious treat while you wait to be seated for the real prize: the out-of-this-world-creative-and-classic-at-the-same-time pizza.
Happy Hour (or beers at other hours) at Pine Box Rock Shop
I love this place. From the 60's throwback music to the tatted up bartender who's been there 9 years to the locals that fill the bar to share the weekly dirt on Tuesdays, this spot feels like real Bushwick.
Mapping your trip
In case you are a visual learner like me and have no idea how to plan out a trip in which you seamlessly visit all of the above... here is a map. You can easily spend a good 3-4 hours wandering these spots, especially if you take a pause to eat (and wait in line) at Roberta's.