Category Archives: Brooklyn

Sweet Relief for Sweetleaf

View of Manhattan from the Williamsburg waterfront.

This Uptown girl has recently developed a compulsive affection for Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I seem to venture here as though I’m a resident. True story.

Let’s start with the Flea Market, an urban oasis situated south of East River State Park between North 6th and 7th. The hip bazaar offers vintage, handmade and antique goods, ranging from art, clothing, jewelry, postcards, soaps, and even rustic picture frames (and this is far from random).

Don’t even bother wearing a watch. Fact: you will spend an ample amount of time here, during which you can feast on artisan foods along the east perimeter. Deluxe delicatessen Mile End—yes. Crafty confections from Kumquat Cupcakery —yes. The dangerous-and-necessary Milk Truck Grilled Cheese —why, yes. All you have to do is forget the meaning of calories and unforgivingly dive in.

Or, if you’re a health nut, don’t live a little and just steer yourself to the sliced mango and watermelon stand.

Arrive via the East River Ferry on 34th street, a welcoming alternative to playing a forced game of standing Twister on the L train.

Williamsburg reason deux. I’ve fallen for the grilled kale Caesar salad at Isa. I immediately know what you’re thinking: you’re the health nut who doesn’t live a little. This is not true.

The creation is one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten in New York. It competes with Print’s heirloom tomato offering married with opal basil, feta and champagne vinaigrette; also in the running, Café Mogador’s plated Greek garden, which is delicately dressed with the right amount of tahini and Israeli spices.

Back to Isa, the kale is charred, producing a smoky flavor that’s complemented with a simple Caesar dressing, emphasis on the lemon and salt (I’m convinced it’s pinched with an extra something special). Really, it’s that simple — and easy to devour without regret.

Alright, thanks for reading this far. The big reason I love Williamsburg is for all the amazing coffee houses on offer, Sweetleaf in particular.

Draw yourself to the corner of Kent Avenue and North 6th street, where “Sweetleaf Espresso Bar” stares in white paint stamped along the bottom of the entrance.

Sweetleaf Espresso Bar

Sweetleaf Espresso Bar

Inside, the décor immediately consumes your senses. From the flooring, oversized chairs, small round two-tops and wood trim — everything is espresso-colored. It’s not overwhelming though, more like mesmerizing and comfortable.

Behind the barista bar large white bags of Ritual coffee are shelved out of reach. Not to worry. Purchase the beans, along with Stumptown coffees, upfront alongside vegan and gluten-free goods made in-house. If you like cinnamon and nutmeg, go for the carrot cookie.

My drink of choice: Iced Rocket Fuel, a concoction of cold brew fused with chicory, an herb especially popular in New Orleans-style coffee. The bev also includes maple syrup.

Sweetleaf Rocket Fuel

Sweetleaf’s Iced Rocket Fuel

Initially, I was skeptical, but that lasted for a spell, broken as soon as the sweet and creamy combo flowed down my throat like a river of caffeine and unprocessed sugar.

The order immediately warrants a punch card because you’ll definitely be thirsty for more.


The Breukelen Way

The Breukelen Coffee House, Franklin Ave.

You know you live in a studio when it takes max 15 minutes to clean your apartment. This is both a pro and a con. The plus is obvious — done with cleaning in 15 minutes (who wouldn’t appreciate that?). The downside is that you live in a place so small you only need 15 minutes of upkeep.

This is what makes me entertain the idea of leaving Manhattan for Brooklyn. There. I said it.

I’m not ready yet, plus I’m still under lease. However, whenever I visit Brooklyn (operative word, visit), I’m amazed at the differences in space, lush green grass, trees, cleaner air and locovore living that abound the borough.

Brooklyn’s a convincing idea, but feels a little far away. I would know from experience because I spent my first month shuffling from Carroll Gardens to Madison Avenue as I started a new job and searched for a brother-free living quarter (Cass, I still enjoy your company).

Should I ever make that move, it’s assuring to know that Brooklyn is brimming with good coffee spots, like the Breukelen.

This Prospect Heights house makes my list and makes me laugh for multiple reasons. One, the Notorious B.I.G. lyric turned motto front and center on the coffee spot’s website, “Spread love. It’s the Breukelen way!”

Two, one does not often see chocolate mint growing from a wall. Yes, there’s a little corner where herbs like pineapple mint, lemon balm, basil and parsley are carefully nurtured. It’s strangely sweet.

Three, the multiple bird feeders by the outdoor patio are refreshing (I’ve been around too many pigeons in the city, so I fully appreciate seeing real birds).

And four, the S word — Stumptown. Yep, it seems like I can’t turn my head without spotting the hottest bean around. So far Stumptown’s integrity has remained (the company rapidly expanded thanks to a major investment from a private equity firm last summer).

Stumptown is still hip at the Breukelen, which boasts an uncomplicated menu—basics like drip coffee, cold brew, espresso, caps, cortados, and then there’s hot chocolate for those who don’t know how to order. Or you can sip loose-leaf tea.

Menu aside, the Breukelen is the kind of spot perfect for a laptop so you can crush procrastination, or at least fake like you’re doing so—an observed trend from a Sunday rendezvous.

The interior’s exposed brick and mismatched wooden tables and chairs add to the vintage feel of the place, which is comfortable and inviting.

Also, if you appreciate good music, the baristas have a good playlist going.

Café Pedlar: Best Coffee in Brooklyn

A good cup of coffee is much appreciated on its own, but more than once in a while it’s nice to have a sidekick. Biscotti is an obvious fail-safe as is dark chocolate. If calories especially aren’t of concern, a Levain chocolate chip cookie is one of the best ways to undo a week’s worth of exercise. And for those extra rough mornings, Baileys (hey, why not?). Then there’s this combo: a cup of Stumptown coffee with an Emmentaler Cheese Sandwich on Health Bread … That sounds good? It’s an option, at least, at Café Pedlar, area code 718.

Believe it. Manhattan isn’t the only popping place to grab a good cup of coffee. Head down to Brooklyn’s finest, located at 210 Court Street, just a subway stop away from its sister property, Prime Meats, aka one of the best brunch spots in the borough. The farm to table restaurant is famed for its Germanic alpine cuisine, and rightly so. A few brunch notables: sauerbraten on a pretzel braid, pork schnitzel and WeissWurst—all fine pairings with a fresh cup of Stumptown coffee, a menu staple. My personal favorite, the gruyere and caramelized onion omelet with said Joe.

Prime Meats rocks, and naturally so does its artisanal coffee shop. At Café Pedlar, you’ll no doubt get brewed perfection, orders made under the hands of dedicated baristas, like Aaron, imported from Florida, who just might whip up your next piping cup. In the mood for espresso? Good choice. All shots are made with Stumptown’s Hairbender blend. Thirsty for a French Press? Good choice. Try a seasonal single-origin coffee. Overwhelmed by so many solid options? Maybe you’re better off just grabbing a bag of beans, freshly roasted in neighboring Red Hook.

CP is cool not just for its coffee. It offers lots of sweet and savory baked goods, from almond croissants to olive oil cake to pretzel braids with grey salt (eye the menu here). And if you’re really in the mood for some agave nectar and steel cut oats, yes, they are available for purchase. You  read that right. Agave—sold alongside Pennsylvania maple syrup and olive oil soap. Slightly peculiar, but hey it works here.

Come prepared, as it’s cash only and absolutely delicious.