Jo and I eat our way round Williamsburg, New York
We came to Williamsburg hoping to find a brilliant indoor market I'd been to a few years before.
But somewhere in between not being able to remember which one it was, and thoughts of breakfast, we instead decided to spend the day eating everything.
I was there with my mate Jo, who I'd surprised a few days before for her birthday. As our plan evolved we got excited, coming up with rules as we went along:
- Eat every two hours
- Choose the equivalent of one meal to share to leave room for more
- Get to the next place by foot to assist appetite work-up
After all, people may roll their eyes at Williamsburg and knock it for being hispterville beard-land, but it boasts great restaurants, bars, cafes, dumpling shacks and the rest that make it tough to decide where to go.
So we made it easier for ourselves. We just decided to eat it all.
We hadn't planned on starting so early but we walked past Vanessa's Dumpling House and it screamed “EAT ME”. So we did.
From a menu packed with dumplings of every conceivable type we started with a plate of assorted steamed ones (2 each of pork, vegetable, chicken and shrimp, $5) and then some pork and chive ones with spicy sauce (black vinegar, chilli oil, spring onions) .
And my god were they good. The stand-outs were the pork & chive with spicy sauce – mellow, flavoursome meat and that sauce, slightly sweet, tangy and spicy all at the same time.
Their bubble teas are also lovely – especially the coconut milk tea.
Oh, and their sriracha comes in the recognisable bottles but is blatantly a different blend. A more vinegary, zesty, delicious one. If anyone knows what it is or where it comes from, let me know.
Now 4th Street Bar & Cafe wouldn't have been included in this list, as we only intended on having an ale while we waited to eat again.
But as we sipped our pints a British middle-aged former punk parked at the bar told us there was free pizza in the back room. The NFL was on, so to lure drinkers bars put on free pies.
In a remarkable display of restraint I got just the one slice for us to share. It was bloody huge, one slice nearly filling the entire paper plate. It was good, a margherita loaded with cheese, but we had better eating to do. Our exit was hastened by the punk's penchant for saying unnecessarily sexual things so we left after a pint and a slice.
I first came to Pies 'n' Thighs a couple of years ago and savoured their fried chicken. So that's what we ordered this time – three pieces of bird, a biscuit & black eye pea salad. And I had a mimosa, Jo a Bloody Mary (made with sake, which Jo explained is because of the different liquor licences in the US – vodka would require the harder-to-obtain spirit licence).
Anyway, that chicken. The beautifully seasoned, crispy, non-greasy exterior gives way to the most beautifully moist, just-cooked flesh. The salad was nice and tangy but I wish we'd got some sausage gravy to dampen that scone. Bit dry for my liking.
I left with an orange and clove donut – this place is renowned for theirs and often win awards - and remembering it the following morning made my day..
After a mimosa pitstop at the Roebling Tea Rooms we were joined by Jamie, Jo's husband. As we made our way to our next food stop the three of us were stopped in our tracks by the most beautiful smell of barbecue.
It was coming from Fette Sau, which I'd never heard of, but that smell of wood, meat, smoke and memories – the three of us, plus my beau Kate, were in Austin, Texas earlier this year and ate barbecue for breakfast - so the smell had particular resonance for us.
But in the end I had to resist. Eating here would have inevitably meant ordering too much brisket, or adding a cheeky shortrib when one really wasn’t needed, leaving us stuffed and unable to continue our mission. So reluctantly we passed. Perhaps we'll go back another time.
Though we did stop at Milk Bar, brainchild of the Momofuku restaurant group. Jo had already spoken of wanting to take me to one, and we didn't realise there was one in Williamsburg so went for it.
Jo loves this place while Jamie says it's overrated and reminds him of cereal bowl dregs (to be fair, it is called cereal milk) but as an ice cream lover I was keen to try this soft serve I'd seen so often on Instagram.
My verdict? It was nice but I've had better. The cereal sprinkles tasted a little stale to me, though I grew to appreciate their saltiness against the sweet creaminess of the ice cream. But I'm glad I got to try it.
This place only does whisky – more than 400 different bottles of it – and seven different grilled cheese sandwiches. Brilliant.
I'd always hated whisky but then three Burns' Nights ago I managed a whole tot of Laphroaig. It took me the whole night to drink it, but I actually enjoyed it.
So I was as excited about the tipples as I was about the food, which I already knew I’d like.
The brilliant bartenders, Nate in particular, patiently (in hindsight we may have been a bit tipsy by now) went through the different types of whisky explaining their nuances and different characters.
I'm not saying I now know what I'm talking about - I walked in ignorant and left ignorant. But for those couple of hours I was a tiny bit informed. I started on a Michter's Whiskey Straight Rye and a Karen: fromage blanc, Gruyère, NY sharp cheddar and havarti on sourdough.
At the end we'd tried scotch, bourbon, rye and Irish. And a Japanese one too. This place is brilliant, so relaxed and homely, and my favourite experience of the day.
I can't remember how we heard about Suzume, a sushi and ramen place, but we liked the sound of it and managed to bag a table after a short wait at a nearby bar.
Dark, cosy and really busy, I liked it from the moment we walked in.
Their menu had dishes like Hawaiian Fried Chicken Rice Bowl and sushi rolls that all sounded amazing.
Over some Kikusui Nigori cloudy sake we devoured some poke – salmon and tuna – that were deliciously fresh. We also had their spicy butter wings, which I'd seen other people enjoy with envy.
But the winner – surprisingly – were the tacos. Berkshire pulled pork shoulder, pickled pineapple, radish that exploded this gorgeous, silky pork juice as we bit into it, before the sweet tickle of the pineapple and then the peppery crunch of the radish. So good.
We hadn't planned on going anywhere else after Suzume but someone told us about M Shanghai's soup dumplings.
We sat at the back of the restaurant, dark save for the glow from the red lights outside and jumped straight to the 'steamed juicy pork buns'. They were lovely, slightly thick pastry that spilled their guts of rich soup as we bit through. So good.
And it was here, over soup dumplings and a pint of Brooklyn Pale Ale, that a day's worth of eating and drinking hit. Suddenly overcome by a wave of food-induced delirium I felt the urge to sleep so strongly I thought I might not make it back to the apartment.
But what a day. This is my guide to eating out in Williamsburg. Where would you recommend?