As close as you can get to Manhattan…without actually being in Manhattan

A weekend in Williamsburg.

When I describe where I live, I always tell people that the closest you can get to Manhattan is without actually being in Manhattan. Every day I come back from class in the city across the Williamsburg Bridge and settle down in Williamsburg, which offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan while still having everything you could want.

The best thing about my neighborhood is that every time I leave my house I find a new place or see something I’ve never seen before. Just the other day, my brother and I were looking for a neighborhood restaurant for lunch and found a Polish restaurant, Dziupla, a block from my apartment that I had never noticed. Walking home from the subway station another day, I discovered a martial arts studio around the corner from a smoke shop that I frequent. Part of that experience is due to my general forgetfulness of the world around me, but it’s also the charm of the neighborhood I live in. It’s a whole exciting world enclosed in a few square miles.

To give you a picture of my experience in Williamsburg, I’ll describe my perfect day in the neighborhood. I’m addicted to caffeine so my first step of the day is always coffee. Like almost every neighborhood in New York, there are about 1,000 coffee shops every two blocks, but I have a few favorites. If it’s a weekend and I have some spare time, I go to my favorite cafe, Oslo, on Roebling Avenue. Her mocha latte is to die for, and the option to add a second double shot makes it absolutely delicious. When it’s a busy day that I have classes, I go to Martha’s Country Bakery, one of my most visited spots in the neighborhood. There’s a weekday breakfast special where every pastry is free with the purchase of an espresso drink, which helps save time when I’m rushing to class. Aside from their weekday special, Martha’s is the go-to place for me and my friends to party or treat ourselves. Almost every time my best friend comes over to my place, we go to Martha’s to share some desserts. Slowly but surely, we work our way through the menu, incorporating each new dessert we try. We’ve tried over 30 items in the months we’ve been on the road and we’ve yet to try them all. At the top of the list are caramel mousse cake, Black Forest cake and triple berry tart.

After getting a coffee, I usually walk around the neighborhood and visit some of the local shops. One of my favorite neighborhood stores is Mother of Junk, a hardware store on Driggs Avenue. Mother of Junk is essentially a large warehouse full of assorted merchandise: Stacks of paintings, posters, and stained glass panels fill the front of the store, while standing shelves of jars, figurines, candlesticks, and more take up the back, all conveniently sorted by color. In the center are containers with old sports cards, photos, buttons, handles and other things. It’s the perfect place to wander around on your days off as you’ll always find something interesting. If you decide to visit Mother of Junk, be prepared to navigate the maze of narrow aisles and crowded shelves. Although it’s difficult to shop there while it’s packed with people, it’s worth the trip as I always leave Junk with a new treasure. If you’re looking for a more traditional thrift store, head towards 8th Street on Driggs Avenue where you’ll find Buffalo Exchange and Monk Vintage, two clothing stores that have a lot to offer. If you have the patience to see through a maze of things, Monk Vintage is the perfect place for you. You have two locations around the corner, each filled to the brim with unique items. Next to Monk is Buffalo Exchange, a popular and always busy store that stocks trendy pieces sold by other customers.

Williamsburg is the perfect spot for a shopaholic like me, as Artists and Fleas, an open-air market in an empty building where artists sell wares, comes to the neighborhood every Saturday. Walking around the room is a great way to spend the day and experience the neighborhood. Another option is to stroll along Bedford Avenue and see the street vendors selling jewelry, clothing, accessories, and homewares.

Shopping and heavenly food are some of the main reasons I love where I live. The best thing about Williamsburg is that everything you could possibly want is available nearby. When I’m in the mood for pizza, I go around the corner to Joe’s, a neighborhood institution that’s always open and never disappoints. When I’m in the mood for Asian food, I grab a Combo Roll from Ako Sushi or Mr. Bao’s Dumplings and Stir Fry Green Beans. When I’m looking for something light, I grab my favorite sandwich from my favorite bodega, Joe’s Busy Corner. No matter what mood I’m in, there’s something to satisfy my cravings.

Recently, with the possibility of a looming rent increase, my roommate and I considered moving out of Williamsburg. While he insists we find an apartment in another neighborhood, I can’t bear the thought of leaving. I used to think I would always stay in Manhattan, but now that I’m here I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

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