Dear Guest of a Guest: Where Can I Find A Brooklyn Vibe In Manhattan?

by BILLY GRAY · July 21, 2010

We receive emails and comments all the time from readers who turn to our (not inconsiderable) knowledge of NYC for advice, so we've decided to take time out of our busy day of internet surfing to answer questions. Today: Where can Bradford feel all Brooklyn without leaving Manhattan?

Bradford turned to us for advice on recreating Kings County right here in the City:

"I love Williamsburg, but can't afford it. So I'm marooned in the Garment District, with friends traumatized by an evil ex out in Bushwick. What's the closest you can come to Brooklyn--the music and the mellowness, but not the strollers or smug, without crossing the East River?"

Let's give it a shot, Brad:

I can't afford Williamsburg

Who can these days? Luckily, there are plenty of dirt cheap drinking options in glossy, monied Manhattan within reach of even those of modest means. International Bar is a shockingly cheap option in the heart of the East Village, on 1st Avenue near St. Mark's. You can grab a (just barely potable) whiskey and perfectly decent beer for $4, less than a roundtrip Metrocard to Bedford Avenue. The Brooklyn vibe is achieved through a lovely back garden (assuming you can find it through the dark, narrow main room) and vinyl and indie movie haven Kim's Video just up the block.

Traumatized by evil ex in Bushwick

Fact: dog owners get more tail than just about any other demographic in Manhattan or Brooklyn. And they can thank the city's dog runs for it. Rarely is breaking the ice as easy as at a dog run, where canine-related questions can quickly lead to a shared plate of spaghetti straight out of Lady and the Tramp. Hit up the run at Tompkins Square Park, which is so close yet so far from the 1st Avenue L stop, where your libido usually goes to die. Your mutt must be fixed, but the men and women are free to be in heat.

The Music

Despite the luxury hotels, boutiques and condo towers that have breached the once-shabby Lower East Side, the 'hoods music scene continues to thrive. Top indie acts frequently jump straight from the Music Hall of Williamsburg to the similarly designed (but more charming) Bowery Ballroom. Mercury Lounge is one rung below MHOW and Bowery on the rock venue ladder. (Bowery Presents runs all three.)

Ludlow Street might have gone too upmarket to host the kind of DIY venues found on Kent Avenue, but Cake Shop and The Living Room are scrappy enough. Pianos is hell on weekends, but hosts solid lineups when the joint is bereft of the striped shirt/high heels crowd. Other nearby options include: Rockwood Music Hall, Fontana's, National Underground and, just north of Houston on Avenue C, The Stone.



Smack dab in NYU Land, Vol de Nuit somehow maintains a serenity wonderfully at odds with downtown's nightly boozy chaos. Maybe because the name is French and therefore classy. It also translates to night flight, which is perfect. Anyway, there's an inner-courtyard sandwiched between two main bars, one of which is lit in muted red, like a bordello. But a bordello with Delirium Tremens on tap and heaping portions of moules frites.

I hate children!

Stay away from Tribeca, which is essentially Westport-on-the-Hudson these days. Other than that, the baby boom in Manhattan hasn't yet crawled into the borough's saloons as it has in Park Slope. Hit up Circa Tabac in SoHo or Karma in the East Village, two bars where--gasp! cough!--you can still smoke cigarettes, legally, to insure the absence of pristine, shrieking baby lungs.

I hate smug assholes!

Sorry, Bradford. You're still in NYC. Although hanging out with the old-timers who never leave Strawberry Fields might provide a whole different kind of mellow. If not, try Queens.

If all else fails Brad, you can always hit up beer and scotch haven DBA or pizza titans Motorino and Totonno's, all of which have locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. And Carnival at Bowlmor Lanes on Wednesday nights is as close as you'll get to Coney Island in New York County, with Amanda Lepore presiding over the sideshow.

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Photo 1 via Miss Lisa, 2 via Ousiders, 3 via Sky Report, 4 via Michael Appleton/NYT