There are many reasons why Brooklyn is the most populated borough of New York, from the cost of living to its low-key vibe. And you might want to add one more: While Manhattan offers the most drool-inducing skyline in the country, you can’t see it while you’re stuck on the island.
So it makes sense that you might want to make Brooklyn your main destination the next time you travel to New York. Consider the Williamsburg neighborhood, perched across the East River from the East Village. It shares many of the same qualities as that Manhattan neighborhood, having been deemed a trendy spot by locals for several years. Those traits are why the Hoxton, a British hotel chain, made Williamsburg its first U.S. location when it opened in September.
As you step in the Hoxton’s front door, you’ll look down a wide staircase and observe a swirl of activity on the ground floor. One thing you won’t notice? The front desk. Tucked in a small area off to the left, it’s purposely out of view, so you won’t feel like you’re at a hotel. Judging by the bustling scene at all times of day, that’s been achieved.
At the heart of the ground floor is Klein’s, the hotel’s all-day restaurant that serves breakfast dishes such as a Dutch baby skillet pancake and lunch options like a chickpea veggie burger. Counter seats surround an open kitchen, while a more formal dining area and a larger bar is off to the right. The rest of the lobby is filled with soft seating such as couches or chairs, where you can order from Klein’s and work on your laptop all day, or you can opt for treats from the coffee bar, which serves local Bushwick Tea and La Colombe java.
In the warmer weather, outside hot spots at the Hoxton abound. A ground-level patio with bleacher-style seating hosts movie nights and other get-togethers for the neighborhood, while the second floor is home to an outdoor bar dubbed Backyard, where you can play pingpong or relax in the lounge seats. But the crown jewel of the alfresco spaces is the rooftop restaurant, Summerly, which provides stunning Manhattan views as well as seafood faves like lobster rolls and clam pies.
BOOMING BOROUGH: The Hoxton offers a welcoming vibe in its lobby and views throughout the hotel.
The 175 rooms are two sizes—cosy (170 square feet) and roomy (239 square feet)—and make the most of the tight quarters despite the king-sized beds taking up much of the space. Each room comes with 10 books that are handpicked by a local, part of a program in which the Hoxton tapped 175 Brooklyn residents as “Hox friends.” Elsewhere, there’s electronics like a vintage-looking Roberts radio and a rotary-style telephone that lend a midcentury vibe to the rooms, which offer views of either Brooklyn or Manhattan. Glance down to the hubbub on the streets below—and then join it.
The retail scene in Williamsburg is filled with enough interesting stores to make shopping worth your time—and it starts nearby on Wythe Avenue. Women’s store Bulletin trades on the Broad City vibe, with plenty of witty T-shirts and even a pouch with Elaine Benes emblazoned on it. Heatonist dishes out dozens of different types of hot sauces from local purveyors like Bushwick Sauce Company. Not too far off, a sidewalk sign offering coffee and motorcycles isn’t kidding: You can buy an espresso and a two-wheeler—or accessories—at Jane Motorcycles.
Photo: Emily Andrews
Whether or not you need fuel for your hog, you’ll need fuel for yourself. There are only two meals a day in Brooklyn on weekends: brunch and dinner. Come morning, there’s a bevy of options, but the Williamsburg outpost of Café Mogador—the original opened in 1983 in the East Village—is worth the likely wait. The Mediterranean menu includes a Moroccan benedict, a spicy stewed tomato sauce on the usual egg favorite, as well as sides such as housemade merguez sausage.
For an upscale dinner spot, head to South Williamsburg, where you’ll find Italian go-to Barano. The kitchen whips up loads of housemade pasta dishes such as the red-hued saffron gigli drizzled
with honey or striped arso caramelle filled with fontina and fonduta and finished with delicata squash. Head across the street for a cocktail-lover’s paradise at Donna, where you’ll have plenty of options of on-tap, large-format and frozen drinks.
If you’re in the mood for more than simply dinner and drinks, stop at National Sawdust, a nonprofit music venue in an old sawdust factory. Performers range from singer/songwriters to orchestras, and Karole Armitage and the American Modern Opera Company are among the venue’s curators. It’s one of many rehabbed former factories that make up large swaths of Brooklyn. In fact, the Hoxton’s lobby showcases the brick facade from the Rosenwach Water Tower factory that used to operate on its site. If that tidbit makes you thirsty, it’s time to head to your room—and drink in those views. ◆
— Walk, bike, drive or take the subway along the Williamsburg Bridge to get into Manhattan.
— The Hoxton delivers complimentary continental breakfast. Hang a bag outside your room each night and mark a time when you want options like juice, a banana and oatmeal.
Mogador, cafemogador.com; Donna, donnabklyn.com; Heatonist, heatonist.com; The Hoxton, thehoxton.com/new-york/williamsburg; Jane Motorcycles, janemotorcycles.com; National Sawdust, nationalsawdust.org