When I first moved to New York 20 years ago, friends who visited always wanted to see the major attractions: Times Square, Ground Zero, and anywhere Carrie went on Sex and the City. But over time, I’ve found that people have become less interested in the landmarks you see on TV because that’s not real life in New York.
Real life in New York is when temperatures rise above 60 degrees and people flood every sidewalk brunch cafe for a long-awaited reunion with sunshine. Or when someone discovers a new happy hour spot where your crew can blow off steam about your crazy job without burning a hole in your wallet. It’s the cozy beer gardens and hidden gathering places that turn young and skeptical interns into ride-or-die lifers in this great city we all love.
Local tours highlight this “real life” side of NYC with specialized tours in various neighborhoods in the city. Curious to see what they considered “a local,” I joined founder Lauren Beebe and her team for their Boozy Brooklyn Food Tour in Williamsburg. I knew the tour was authentic when the first two stops were places I frequent but was pleased to discover many new places that I had never been to!
If you’re visiting New York for the first time and are willing to break away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, check out their Sunday Funday tour! Below are a few highlights from the tour, and some tips for your trip.
Our group met here at Station restaurant, right outside the Bedford stop on the L train. They suggest having brunch at Station or somewhere nearby before it starts so you get the full Brooklyn brunch experience. On our way to the brewery we passed this dope mural by Eduardo Kobra that makes a pretty cool statement about street art using the likeness of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
79 N 11th St, Brooklyn, NY 11249
I’ve actually been to Brooklyn Brewery with my bike crew., How Brooklyn is that? Ride to a beer garden to drink craft beer and then hop on your hipster bike to ride home wasted with that warm and fuzzy feeling. However, I wasn’t aware they had so many offerings here. From daily tours for die-hard brewers, to foodie events like this grilled-cheese cook-off, there’s a lot to do here even if you’re not into beer.
Mable’s Smokehouse & BBQ Grill
44 Berry St, Brooklyn, NY 11249
I’ll keep it real. I’m super skeptical of Southern food in New York. So when we stepped foot in Mable’s my expectations were fairly low. But one forkful into their pulled pork will make you a believer. I shamelessly cleaned the little cups you see in the photo, and made a mental note to stop by next time I’m in the neighborhood!
It’s also really cool that this place is a family-owned business. A couple who threw backyard BBQ’s using their grandmother Mable’s recipes opened it up to honor her legacy. If you need any more reason to check this place out, watch the video above.
Oddfellows Ice Cream
44 Water St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
This place gets a high five from me on the simple fact they once had Cornbread, Pecan Pie, and Banana Puddin’ ice cream (with an apostrophe) on their menu! There’s a long list of wild flavors they’ve tried in their almost 2 years of business, and pride themselves on hormone and additive free-ingredients. If dairy makes your tummy sad, you’re in luck! They sell Lactaid pills at the register. I hear this place gets packed in the summertime, so the earlier you get in the door, the better!
Brooklyn Oenology Local-based Winery
So before you ask, no, there are no vineyards in Brooklyn (frankly that’s probably a good thing). Brooklyn Oenology is a “locally-focused” winery based in Williamsburg that works with New York vineyards for the product, and local artists for the labels. I chose a white wine for my tasting which was okay, but I’d need a full tasting to accurately rate their selection. Perhaps they can invite me back during their $1 oyster happy hour to sample their full range of wines. No pressure.
Mast Brothers Chocolate
111 N 3rd St, Brooklyn, NY 11249
My stomach has a love-hate relationship with chocolate, so unfortunately I had to skip the tasting at Mast Brothers. However, when you walk in the door there’s these big bags of cocoa beans that make it very clear that they are serious about their chocolate. They offer tours if you want to see the process, and from what I hear, if you love dark chocolate, you’ll love their bars!
Overall, if you live in Brooklyn and are familiar the funky hip vibe of weekends in Williamsburg, this tour will come with few big surprises. But if you’re coming from out of town, this a great alternative to being shuffled around with the herds of tourists in Manhattan. Start off your day with brunch in the area, then enjoy the walking tour with Lauren and her team. You’ll come away with a better sense of what life is really like here, and an appreciation for the small businesses that continue to thrive in The Big Apple.