Monday, August 23, 2010


The neighborhood in Brooklyn that I am perhaps most unfamiliar with is Bushwick. I'm still a little shady on where Williamsburg ends and Bushwick begins (I suspect this murkiness plays into a scheme fueled by developers) but I thought I'd check it out. In order to provide my travels with a bit of coherence (and incentive!) I decided to use everyone's favorite gentrification barometer, the coffee shop, to plot my course.*

I'd read that some of these creatures existed out in the Bushwilds, and indeed this is true. However, I think they have a ways to go before they hit the stride of their more genteel counterparts. In the midst of a Monday rainstorm last week, I stopped in at W'burg's Bakeri, where my sodden tastebuds and I were treated to an extraordinary macchiato. With this memory lingering on my tongue and an awareness that I'd better drink small if I intended to hit up more than one place, I decided that the macchiato would be my taste test beverage. So bear this in mind; perhaps the iced coffee or something is truly stunning at these places. However, as far as I can report:

1. Cafe Orwell. Definitely the most isolated (one lone bikeshop punctuates the factory and construction ambiance) and the most undrinkable. My macchiato was so acidic I practically couldn't get it down. The whole place was dark and shadowy, filled with a correspondingly darkly shadowed laptop mob. The countergirl seemed confused when I asked how much my drink cost. The answer: too much! At $2.75, it was a regrettable choice. So I gulped and turned the corner to...

2. Archives Cafe. This counterfellow was a bit more with it, as was the price ($2.50). I found this one potable but not extraordinary. There was a nice row of carpeted benches on which to sit, though I do echo one Yelp reviewer's concerns about what sorts of fluid might be lurking in that ratty shag. Archives was also on a somewhat more inhabited stretch, with a fancyfoods store and an entrance to the local subway (Morgan L stop) just a couple beats away. But I walked back along Bushwick Ave. towards more civilization...holy cow! a bodega! a bar! a hardware store!...and my final destination...

3. Boulevard Cafe. The guy behind the counter here was positively delightful. The cookie I ordered (got to keep up your energy on these taxing treks) was delicious, especially melted in ($2!--and this place the closest to civilization of all!) macchiato. Unfortunately, it was still not as delicious as the nearer-to-hand and basically-as-charmingly-decored Bakeri, but if I lived in the neighborhood I would definitely be back often. The facade is a nice friendly not-too-hipstery blue, and the tables are comfortable for some people watching. This place is definitely the winner of the outing, if not of my whole heart (though arguably is in W'burg not Bushwick. Or are all of them? Geography skillz, as previously stated, shady in this department.). It is also right near the Montrose L stop, though being a complex and variegated soul, I of course ignored its earnest entreaties and walked a ways to pick up the B43 (not a fully-worthy successor to the 48, but it'll do, pig, it'll do.).

Now that the three-drink jitters have worn off (I was up mighty late Thursday, and may or may not've munchily inhaled most of the remains of a bag of chips at the time), I am contemplating hitting up the remaining three cafes that Bushwick seems to play host to. Stay tuned...

*My feelings about gentrification generally, and in this neighborhood in particular, could power about eleven more posts (and already have fueled some). Suffice it to say I felt more uncomfortable wandering through the projecty area than the industrial park one; buildings can't judge you, and you can't feel like you're impinging on their personal space. On the other hand, hipsters surrounded by factory wasteland make a disturbing image (rather like the brightly-colored weeds that sprout and spawn from cracks in the buildings' facades). Can you believe there's a youth hostel out there? Reviews seem favorable (and I do concede the price is right), but have these folks seen other parts of New York as a comparison point? Yes, it's close to a subway and a coffee shop, but it's a nuclear winter out there. I am pretty cavalier, but in contrast to the reviewers, I'm not sure how I'd feel about the neighborhood after dark. (Feel free to contract me, those more in the know.) Hostile, indeed.

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