Here’s the skinny:
Best Bread Pudding
310 S. 4th St., at Rodney St., Williamsburg; 718-388-4012
As an expression of their Japanese and Jewish heritages, chef-owners Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel bake their daily challah with sake kasu, a by-product of sake production often used in Japanese cooking. What to do with the leftover loaves? Bread pudding was the obvious answer. Okochi soaks the challah in custard (which includes E. Guittard dark chocolate, ripened bananas, and Battenkill Valley Creamery milk and cream) overnight, and then bakes it “low and slow.” The result’s a dessert that’s soft and gooey on the inside, with a crispy exterior. It’s served piping hot between a spoonful of crème fraîche and a pool of whiskey-caramel sauce.
64 Frost St., nr. Lorimer St., Williamsburg; 718-384-8900
The owners here proudly display on a chalkboard their jerk-sauce recipe (in proportions that reflect just how much the restaurant goes through: 15 pounds scallions, eight ounces house-secret jerk dust). The recipe’s the result of much tinkering of traditional ones, but “what separates us,” says co-owner Etan Fraiman, “is we use fresh ingredients,” not onion or garlic powder. Also: Since the sauce’s heat dies quickly, the kitchen churns out a new batch every three or four days. You can (and should) try it on everything: Happily, the fiery, bright, habit-forming stuff is bottled and served with every meal, for dousing to your heart’s desire over dishes like Jamaican patties and jerk pork buns.
Best Concert Venue
Baby’s All Right
146 Broadway, nr. Bedford Ave., Williamsburg; 718-599-5800
Considering Williamsburg’s reputation for raw DIY spaces (Death by Audio, the recently shuttered 285 Kent), the elegant Baby’s All Right, designed by the folks behind the Box, feels very done-up. There’s a floor modeled after the maze in The Shining, orb-chomping laser-cut alligators, and LED installations by industrial demigod Tucker Viemeister. Yet proprietors Zachary Mexico and Billy Jones share the same anything-goes spirit as their new neighbors, with laid-back parties and live shows that cut across a wide spectrum of experimental (Pharmakon, Stephen O’Malley), guitar-guided (Nobunny, Sebadoh), and sample-spliced (Powell, the Range) sounds. They also offer a reputable food menu from Ronald Murray, late of Acme and Bouley.
Best College Dance Party for Adults
“Oh Yes!” at Tutu’s
25 Bogart St., at Varet St., Bushwick; 718-456-7898
For those who lived and played in a pre-Flea Williamsburg, lately it feels as if all the spots where one could get footloose with a group of friends have been overrun with weekend warriors. The solution? Go East—down into Tutu’s somewhat-secret basement, for a dance party that is as comfy, carefree, and drunken as the shindigs you attended in college. One Friday a month (for future parties check tutusbrooklyn.com), the basement gets sweaty with Bedford Avenue exiles dancing like only their closest friends are watching. The unpretentious vibe comes courtesy of DJ’s John McSwain, Anette Lamothe Ramos, and Lucas Walters, whose selections range from the familiar to the revelatory: from Ginuwine’s “Pony” to A$AP Ferg to Stevie Nicks.
Best Romper Room
144 Frost St., nr. Graham Ave., Williamsburg; 718-349-1300
Cookie-cutter play spaces have no business in Williamsburg, as the neighborhood is dotted with custom-designed spots like Frolic!, Klub4Kidz, and, now, Twinkle. This former warehouse is more children’s museum than kiddie gym, with interactive exhibits for the 6-and-under set that challenge developing motor skills. Thrill-seekers can put out pretend fires with real water at the Red Hot Fire House station, while the dress-up salon (equipped with styling chairs and primping mirrors) caters to more subdued play. On weekdays, locals drop by for less crowded sessions with their toddlers ($25 for the first visit; $135 for a six-visit pass), while the high-energy older crowd takes over on weekends.
Best Women’s Boutique
60 Broadway, nr. Berry St., Williamsburg; 347-227-7023
Considering the drapey, languid pieces that define Leana Zuniga’s seven-year-old label Electric Feathers—jewel-tone silk jumpsuits ($578), the dyed- cotton Infinite Rope dress, with adjustable cord straps that can be tied into countless styles (from $645)— it’s not surprising that her first storefront conjures Ali MacGraw’s walk-in closet. The clothing against both walls frames a vignette of home items, including Electric Feathers abstract-print silk pillows ($118). Add a peppering of other brands like Lauren Manoogian’s sculptural leather bangles ($70) and you have the best thing to happen to Williamsburg shopping since Beautiful Dreamers.
Best Secondhand Clothes
People of 2Morrow
65 Franklin St., nr. Calyer St., Greenpoint; 718-383-4402
Some vintage stores make you work for your finds, rifling through bins of tatty rags. And the ones that do the sifting themselves charge you for it. This store is neither. Opened in November by a hip husband-and-wife team (he a co-owner of Williamsburg Afro-Brazilian nightclub Bembe; she a florist), People of 2Morrow is as tightly edited as a Chelsea gallery. Over here, a rack hung thoughtfully with glammy American Hustle furs ($58 to $138) and a weather-beaten women’s motorcycle jacket ($88). Over there, mixed in with the secondhand, are new home items like tribal-print tea towels ($36 for four). And, oh, look—a dynamite kids’ section packed with wee pre-loved kimonos ($48), ponchos and Kenzo jumpers (both $38), and a smattering of new toys to boot.