The Williamsburg section of Brooklyn has long been known as a working-class neighborhood with a gritty industrial waterfront and an ethnically diverse population ranging from Hispanic to Hasidic. Today the neighborhood's demographics include a third group that begins with H, for Hipster, and along with those trendy 20-somethings wearing porkpie hats and Chuck Taylor sneakers have come a slew of unique diversions that are starting to attract tourists. Here are a few local favorites:
Through Nov. 19-20, two of Williamsburg's biggest draws are being held weekends on a waterfront lot with spectacular views of Manhattan across the way. On Saturdays, crowds come out for Smorgasburg, a food festival, created just this year. Food vendors sell everything from lobster rolls to frozen bananas. On Sundays, they jam it in for Brooklyn Flea, a flea market that includes a number of food vendors. The Flea has been around for a few years in other locations, but this is its first season in Williamsburg; finds range from your very own Statue of Liberty to used bikes. (East River Waterfront between North Sixth and Seventh streets, brooklynflea.com/smorgasburg)
Howard Kogan, 66, comes from Hoboken, N.J., to enjoy the Williamsburg scene. He's a fan of Mast Brothers Chocolate: "What they do there is phenomenal," Kogan said. "On weekends, there are tours where you can watch them do their thing, and they'll have little plates out you can taste." The tours show various stages of the chocolate-making process, "from bean to bar," as co-owner Rick Mast put it. The tours are $10, Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.; reservations are required. (105 N. Third St., 718-388-2625, mastbrotherschocolate.com)
Brooklyn Brewery, in a former matzoh factory, gets 1,500 to 2,000 people a weekend sipping suds in the shadow of its towering vats. Friday night Happy Hour is 6-11 p.m.; beer tokens are $4 each or 6 for $20. The brewery's free weekend tours also are popular; hourly on Saturdays 1-5 p.m. and Sundays 1-4 p.m. (79 N. 11th St., 718-486-7422, brooklynbrewery.com)
A great place to hang out after dinner is The Gutter, an old-school bowling alley and bar in what was once a manufacturing warehouse for comforters. The lanes were brought in from a defunct 1970s-era alley, and the bar is lit up by cool old signs for retro brands like Schlitz, but the draft beer includes trendy selections like Chelsea Checker Cab Blonde and Smuttynose Robust Porter. At $6 a game, the bowling is affordable by New York standards. Just don't expect a digital overhead display blinking your name when you get a spare; amenities here are way more basic than that. There's live music many nights, and a trivia game on Mondays.
P.S., you can't bring the kids; 21 and older only. (200 N. 14th St., 718-387-3585, thegutterbrooklyn.com)