Southern Comfort

If a hip neighborhood follows the same life cycle as a fashion trend, then Williamsburg is like camou¦age: So beyond over, it’s verging on timeless. With giant skyscrapers coming to the north waterfront by the 2010s, the area is squarely on the path to fully gentriÞed respectability—like it or not—in record time. If North Williamsburg is Brooklyn’s East Village, the Southside below Grand Street—just out of range of the waterfront-redevelopment plan, with a firmly entrenched population of Hispanics and Hasids—is still the Lower East Side of a few years back. Not for long: There are so many new condos, Southside looks like a giant construction zone. But they won’t be filled for at least a year, which means you’ve still got time to discover the neighborhood.

(1.) City Reliquary
307 Grand St., at Havemeyer St.
Southside’s unofficial entrance gate is the outside wall of this apartment building. Essentially a tenant’s art project, it has painted directions to local landmarks like the Metropolitan Pool and the Lorimer Street subway stop. Peek through the windows at the obsessive collection of New York memorabilia, including pieces of the Manhattan Bridge and the World Trade Center.

City Reliquary, Southsides's unofficial gateway.

(2.) Lodge
318 Grand St., at Havemeyer St.; 718-486-9400;
With its mammoth wood bar and deer-antler chandeliers, this restaurant feels like a lakeside cabin in the Adirondacks. It’s the best place to eat outdoors, with one of the few sidewalk-café permits.

The Tainted Lady's soft-core paintings.

(3.) Tainted Lady Lounge
318 Grand St., at Havemeyer St.; 718-302-5514
This ode to your inner voyeur has walls covered with soft-core-porn paintings—all by a fifties truck driver. Be sure to see both bathrooms—a “color” one covered in pulp-novel covers and a “black-and-white” one with early-sixties National Enquirer headlines like GIRLFRIEND WAS ALIVE WHEN … HE CUT OFF HER HEAD.

(4.) Taco Chulo
318 Grand St., at Havemeyer St.; 718-302-2485
That’s Taco Pimp. Don’t leave Southside’s newest restaurant without trying the Michelada, a surprisingly refreshing Mexican drink made of lime juice, chile, and Dos Equis. Cash only.

(5.) Ghosttown
335 Grand St., nr. Havemeyer St.; 718-387-0990
This vintage boutique’s legendary bashes, sometimes D.J.’d by members of the Rapture, left it reeking so badly that the owners swore off throwing them (it didn’t take: The next one is September 23). Pick up local designer Brendan Donnelly’s eagle-stenciled hoodies, fit for a tasteful Hells Angel.

(6.) Atlas Cafe
116 Havemeyer St., at Grand St.; 718-782-7470
Southside’s only true coffee shop, with huge windows, free wi-fi, H&H Bagels, and really strong dark-roasted organic coffee trucked in from Oakland, California, just like the owners’ laid-back attitude.

(7.) M Shanghai Bistro and Den
129 Havemeyer St., nr. S. 1st St.; 718-384-9300
Upstairs, there’s the only good Chinese food in Williamsburg. Downstairs, struggling writers do hip-hop karaoke on Sundays.

(8.) Spokes and Springs
140 Havemeyer St., nr. S. 1st St.; 718-599-2409
Where elitist messenger types gather to mock recreational cyclists. The focus is strictly on custom-built track bikes (from $750) and hybrids (from $379) designed for pothole abuse. For basic repairs, try Bicycle Doctor (133 Grand St., nr. Berry St.; 718-302-3145).

(9.) VGF (Very Good Food) Town
163 Havemeyer St., nr. S. 2nd St.; 718-782-1756
This family-run market caters to Havemeyer’s sizable Dominican population with an impressive selection of plantains and strange roots like apio, malanga coco, and yautia, brought in from a tropical market in the Bronx (all for under $2 a pound).

(10.) Sweet Virginia
164 Havemeyer St., nr. S. 2nd St.; 718-963-3999
The gauzy, pastel dollhouse interior makes this the most charming thrift shop on the block. Deconstructed T-shirts from local designers are overpriced, but there’s a terrific collection of dresses from the late fifties and early sixties, including a filmy gold Audrey Hepburn number for $55.

(11.) Peter Luger
178 Broadway, at Driggs Ave.; 718-387-7400;
Despite recent griping that the porterhouse institution is coasting on its reputation, it’s still the only place in the neighborhood you can take your dad to, to convince him that you don’t live among heathens. Try the superb burger for a change.

(12.) Williamsburg Art and Historical Center
135 Broadway, at Bedford Ave.; 718-486-7372;
Set in the beautiful landmarked Kings County Savings Bank building, this nonprofit, multi-use art center is home to poetry readings, dance, avant-garde theater, and exhibitions by big names like sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Closed for renovations until January 2006.

(13.) East River
97 South 6th St., nr. Berry St.; 718-302-0511
This bar is the best place to soak up the last of summer, thanks to the gigantic stone patio. Bring your own food; they’ll let you use their barbecue grill and clean up the mess.

(14.) Bembe
81 S. 6th St., at Berry St.; 718-387-5389
There’s almost no natural light inside—and just a tiny blue light outside—this terrifically fun Brazilian hangout. Upstairs doubles as an art gallery and tropical retreat (complete with hammocks), with the soccer-jersey-clad owner serving vodka out of a watermelon. Downstairs, there are D.J.’s every night, often accompanied by live percussion. Get there around 10 p.m.; dancing typically rages past four in the morning.

Sampling wine at Marlow & Sona.

(15.) Marlow & Sons
81 Broadway, at Berry St.; 718-384-1441
An offshoot of Diner next door, this relatively new shop does triple duty as a pantry, wine bar, and the “world’s fanciest bodega,” selling gourmand staples like Austrian pumpkin-seed oil and “hooligan” raw-milk cheese ($25 a wheel).

(16.) Southside Lounge
41 Broadway, nr. Wythe Ave.; 718-387-3182
It prides itself on being the last bar to close on Saturday (4 A.M.) and the first bar open for hangover relief (1 P.M.). No brunch, but you can bring your own food (and your dog), and if you show up early and are really thirsty, just yell—the bartender lives upstairs.

(17.) The Dollhaus
37 Broadway, nr. Wythe Ave.; 718-486-0330
Skip the small, dank exhibition area and ask the cute and very bored Canadian gallerist to let you peep behind the curtains at the endlessly fascinating collection of mutilated dolls—including Kewpies skewered on poles in a miniature carousel.

(21.) Giando
400 Kent Ave., at Broadway; 718-387-7000
Hipsters dare not enter this forbidding black-marble box on the river, which hosts weddings and provokes whisperings about exactly which Italian family runs it. The menu doesn’t live up to the chandelier-lit interior, with its breathtaking view of Manhattan.

(22.) Wyeth’s Nook
123 S. 4th St., at Bedford Ave.; 718-216-4069
This charming, cluttered antiques shop deals in twenties-to-fifties American wares that match the painter Andrew Wyeth’s realist aesthetic. Look for costume jewelry, pillbox hats, crystal decanters—and a full-size stuffed lion “caged” under a bunk bed.

(23.) Cafe Rafiot
331 Bedford Ave., nr. S. 3rd St.; 718-388-1266
Favorites at this traditional crêperie are the Milanese (Emmentaler cheese, egg, bacon, and tomato, $7.50) and numerous sweet options with ice cream, fruit, and flambéed rum ($7 to $7.50). Before you go, check out the compass in the floor. North isn’t where you think.

(24.) Bonita
338 Bedford Ave., nr. S. 3rd St.; 718-384-9500
The specials are your best bet at this simple Mexican restaurant—especially the sandwich of buttered bread and tangerine-marinated pork. Outdoor seating gets cramped in summer, but it’s better than sitting at the bar, opposite a grill with leaping flames.

(25.) Lint
318 Bedford St., nr. S. 2nd St.; 718-387-9508
Known for its bright, Warhol-esque silk-screened T-shirts of classic celebrity photographs mixed with psychedelic flower drawings. The real draw is Southside’s best collection of ladies’ vintage shoes.

(26.) Roebling Hall
390 Wythe Ave, nr. S. 4th St.; 718-599-5352;
This gallery’s break came when its Eve Sussman show coincided with her Whitney Biennial breakthrough. A Chelsea branch recently opened, but—unlike peers who’ve crossed the river—the Brooklyn space will remain to showcase emerging artists (next up: Anne Deleporte’s wall-mural installation). Grab a Wagmag guide and move on to Holland Tunnel, Sideshow, 31 Grand, Art 101, Parker’s Box, and Pierogi—after double-checking the hours.

(27.) Police Cars Unlimited Inc.
60 S. 2nd St., nr. Wythe Ave.; 718-387-8888
Your go-to spot for used Ford Crown Victorias (none older than 1996). Stripped of their sirens and trademark paint job, these po-po rides ($2,500 to $12,000) have never been crashed, though there’s no guarantee that nefarious dealings haven’t happened inside.

Laxing at Grand Ferry Park.

(28.) Grand Ferry Park
Grand St. at Kent Ave.
Sandwiched between a power plant and five blocks of Domino Sugar factory, and anchored by a 70-foot-tall brick smokestack from a long-gone molasses plant, this beautifully maintained sliver of green is a terrific spot: Watch ferries float by in summer and mammoth chunks of ice in the winter. Almost as interesting is the adjoining parking area, in which Hasids sit silently in their cars by day and randy teenagers steam up their windows by night.

Browsing for utilitarian beauty at Moon River Chattel.

(29.) Moon River Chattel
62 Grand St., nr. Wythe Ave.;718-388-1121
Less a design store than a paean to the simple life, this ten-year-old institution revels in the beauty of utilitarian objects like cacti, vintage sinks, and hemp linens from Transylvania. Bonus: expert lamp repair.

(30.) Aurora
70 Grand St., at Wythe Ave.; 718-388-5100
Sip grappa and amari in the year-round garden of this authentic trattoria, or nestle against exposed brick walls with pappardelle and duck ragù or buffalo mozzarella so fresh it oozes off the plate. Cash only.

(31.) Therapy/Chawan
115 Grand St., nr. Wythe Ave.;718-486-0370 and 718-384-4424
Up front, Asian gift shop Chawan sells the only fresh flowers in the neighborhood (Tuesdays or Wednesdays are best), while Therapy has asymmetrical jewelry, Havania flip-flops, and Argentine bikinis for people with very small behinds. In back, there’s a massage room.

(32.) The Free Store
131 Grand St., nr. Berry St.
Anything that’s not tied down is fair game at this shack filled with clothes, books, and cassette tapes that look like, well, it’s a good thing they’re free. (The policy has already backfired on the volunteer staff, since someone took the power cord to their radio.) Community groups use the space for meetings—first to protest the waterfront-development plan, now to gripe about it.

(33.) Calliope
135 Grand St., nr. Berry St.;718-486-0697
This sparsely stocked new boutique sells high-quality vintage on consignment, as well as clothing by young locals like Sarah and Mociun, whose aesthetic could be called “hard girlie.” Look for “Glove Notes”—tufts of feather fixed flapper style to the head by trails of black lace.

(34.) The Trash Bar
256 Grand St., nr. Roebling Ave.; 718-597-1000
With furniture that looks ripped from an old airplane, this rock club lives up to its name. Among the four to five bands a night ($6 to $8 cover charge, with open bar and free tater tots), you might be lucky enough to catch a next big thing like TV on the Radio.

(35.) Allman Fine Wine and Liquor
268-270 Grand St., nr. Roebling Ave.; 718-388-8872
It’s not the fanciest wine store—that would be Bottle Shoppe on Bedford Ave. (718-302-3433)—but this mural-covered space gets the job done with a big selection of $6 wines. They can make a $200 budget for a 100-person party work, and they’ll deliver anywhere in Williamsburg, usually within the hour and with no minimum.

(36.) Bozu
296 Grand St., nr. Havemeyer St.; 718-384-7770
This cozy, pretty Japanese sushi restaurant is a good place to try shochu, the grainier alternative to sake—twenty brands are lit from behind, apothecary style.

(37.) Foodswings
295 Grand St., nr. Havemeyer St.; 718-388-1919;
This vegan fast-food joint is run by refugee recyclers from Staten Island’s hardcore scene and skips the rice and veggies for truly delicious fake meat, breaded and fried. Buffalo wings and soy milkshakes attract an endless stream of bicyclists.

(38.) Larry Lawrence
295 Grand St., nr. Havemeyer St. 718-218-7866
Williamsburg’s most beautiful lounge is also its most peaceful, thanks to an unmarked doorway and a long hallway back from the street. Have a contemplative cigarette on the second-story smoking deck.

The colorful mural at Bicycle Doctor.

Reality Check
The countless McCondos under construction in South Williamsburg look remarkably similar, at least for now: pink-brick façade with green-painted wrought-iron balconies, or gray stucco with plate-glass windows. Most sites are still at the demolition stage, with façades, let alone occupancy, at least a year away. That hasn’t stopped some from selling out. Still available:(18.) Loft S1
242 S. 1st St., nr. Havermeyer St.
One of five properties repped by, this rehabbed cheesecake factory has all-glass penthouses for $900,000 each. (19.) Schaefer Landing
440 Kent Ave., at S. 8th St.
The old Schaefer Brewery site will have the area’s only water-taxi stop. A fifteen-story tower is sold; a 25-story tower (three-bedrooms, $1.15 million) is 65 percent sold through Prudential Douglas Elliman (718-302-4545). (20.) 342 Bedford
nr. S. 3rd St.
One of nine luxe properties from the Developers Group (718-222-1545), this black brick-and-glass monster has one-bedrooms at $600,000, two-bedrooms for $700,000.

Southern Comfort