In the days of the internet, it’s difficult for a neighborhood as frequented as Bushwick to be home to a restaurant, bar, or store that hasn’t already been reviewed, Instagrammed, and explored by the local public. And if you’re new to the area, it’s certainly tempting to head to Google and search “Best Bushwick bars” for your next night out, or just head to that place you’ve seen featured on The Infatuation over and over again for dinner.
I moved to Bushwick in 2015 as a junior in college and lived there until 2020, when I decided I wanted to live closer to friends in South Brooklyn and (no offense to Maria Hernandez) the magnificent Prospect Park. Although I love my new home, I do miss my collection of local gems that — while I wouldn’t call them “hidden” — made the neighborhood feel like home, and not just a place I slept after classes and my startup job. If you’re new to the area, or just tired of going to the same three places every weekend, keep reading for my recommendations.
Bushwick is well known for its authentic Mexican food, and Taqueria Los Hermanos is probably the most popular spot for its tacos, tortas, BYOB policy, and homemade tortillas. You can find it packed on weekends, with lines of people from across the city scribbling their orders on index cards and scouting tables in the open air garage. I definitely appreciated Taqueria Los Hermanos for a quick meal before a night out with my friends, but it wasn’t my go-to taco spot when I lived in the neighborhood. That would be Taqueria Cocoyoc on Wyckoff Avenue. It’s unassuming from the outside, but packs a punch when it comes to flavor and portions. I always ordered the pollo tinga and al pastor tacos with an agua de sandia (aka watermelon juice) to wash it all down. There’s enough seating inside, but it’s also close enough to the park to enjoy it outdoors.
Part used bookstore, part coffee shop, part bar and community space, Molasses Books is the quintessential community bookstore. Unpretentious and cozy, this small spot is tucked away on Hart Street and offers everything from one dollar books on a rack outside to rare art books, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, history, and zines on the inside. When I lived nearby, I loved heading over on a Saturday morning to find a new book from the dollar rack and start reading it with a cup of coffee and a pastry at the bar. At night, Molasses Books sells wine and beer, and pre-pandemic, hosted events open to the whole community. I once got my photo taken there with a camera that printed poems. Pretty cool! Another fun fact: Molasses Books was the neighborhood’s first bookstore.
Located on Flushing Ave, Bunna Cafe (aka Bunna) is a Bushwick mainstay that should be on your list for any occasion. Birthday dinner with friends? Go to Bunna. A third date with a vegan? Go to Bunna. Exploring the neighborhood with new roommates? You’re going to want to go to Bunna. This Ethiopian spot serves up food that’s not only delicious but sharable and well-priced. All of their dishes are also vegan, and if you call ahead of time you can even request gluten free Injera, the Ethiopian flatbread that comes with many of their meals. I recommend splitting a Feast for 2 (or 3!) with a group, trying a glass of Sheba Tej (an Ethiopian honey wine), and finishing the night with a cup of the restaurant’s namesake coffee, Bunna.
Northern Brooklyn is well known for its bar scene and Bushwick is certainly no exception. There’s a dive or cocktail bar for almost any night you’re trying to have, but on the weekends you’ll find that most of them are packed with people from across the city. While my favorite bar in Bushwick was always Three Diamond Door (I celebrated several birthday parties there) I always recommend The Keep for people who are new to living in the area. Whether The Keep is in Bushwick or Ridgewood is TBD — it’s somewhat on the edge of both — but it’s always a good time. The decor is eclectic, the drinks are good, the crowd is mellow, and there’s a nice outdoor seating area for summer nights.
Other Times Vintage
I spent many weekends in Bushwick at the neighborhood’s many thrift stores, browsing racks on racks of clothing at L Train Vintage, selling – or trying to sell – items at Beacon’s Closet, and finding delight in the independent designers and vintage finds at GG’s Social Trade & Treasure Club. But one spot that never failed to inspire me was Other Times Vintage. Right off the Morgan L stop, Other Times Vintage sells a wide array of plants, planters, and beautiful mid-century modern furniture and accessories. Their larger items are on the pricier side, but their plants are well priced, and the staff is super helpful when it comes to answering questions about plant care.
One Bushwick classic I couldn’t leave off this list is Tina’s Place. Located on the corner of Wilson and Flushing, Tina’s has been a neighborhood staple since the 1970s, when the owner Tina Skermo, bought it after immigrating to Brooklyn from Greece. The restaurant opens at 3:30 AM and serves up everything you’d expect from a diner – bacon, eggs, and toasts, sandwiches, soups, salads, and more – for truly affordable prices. Its old school, classic feel has also made it the site of several movies and television shows, like HBO’s The Deuce. It might seem unassuming from the outside, but once you go there, you’ll understand why it’s been in business for decades.
When I moved to Bushwick, I lived in a 3 year bedroom apartment with 2 other girls. The rooms were tiny and the kitchen was even smaller, although there was a skylight and exposed brick, which was enough to make me sign a lease. While I cherish the memories I had in that apartment, I definitely recommend that anyone moving to Bushwick check out Common first. Not only are Common’s Bushwick homes fully-furnished, beautifully designed, and within walking distance to many of the places I listed above, they take the stress out of moving and living in New York City – so you can find time to discover your own local gems.