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What makes Bushwick so weird?
It’s the brightly painted warehouses that you can’t tell are functional or abandoned.
It’s galleries that double as yoga studios and coffeeshops that double as life drawing classes.
It’s strange parties in abandoned furniture stores where people wear crazy costumes.
It’s being hit on by guys who always end their catcalls with “God bless you.”
A Brooklyn Unlike Brooklyn
Of all the neighborhoods I’ve visited in Brooklyn (not all of them, not by a long shot, but a great many), Bushwick stands out as being the least like the others. Rather than brownstones or high-rises, this is an industrial-looking neighborhood of warehouses, many of them covered with bright paint. Everything is spread out.
Bushwick is one of the largest Latino neighborhoods in Brooklyn with sizable populations from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Bushwick was a rough neighborhood for a long time — a blackout in 1977 led to mass riots and you can still see some damage to this day. The neighborhood began to turn a corner in the mid-2000s, when the city began pouring much-needed financial resources into the neighborhood.
Then came the Williamsburg factor.
In the early 2000s, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, went from being a no-go zone to the hipster artist enclave of New York City. Over the past decade, however, Williamsburg has gone from hip to yuppie and has become one of the most desirable (and thus expensive) neighborhoods in New York City.
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Many low-income Williamsburg residents, including artists, were pushed out as a result, and many of them moved immediately southeast — to Bushwick. Now Bushwick’s longtime residents are dealing with an influx of gentrification. I don’t think Bushwick will ever be on the same level as Williamsburg, but you see a troubling number of luxury buildings popping up.
How is gentrification affect longtime residents? Both positively and negatively, as it always does. Bushwick’s crime rate is lower than it’s been in decades, yes, and those who own property are seeing their values go up. But most people are trapped in a neighborhood progressively growing more expensive by the day.
I strongly considered living in Bushwick at one point; after spending a few days there, I declared it a little too “out there” for me and decided to live elsewhere and visit often. (For the record, I think you get much more value for money in Hamilton Heights, where I live now, plus the rents are cheaper.)
Bushwick is the only place in New York that I recommend visiting with a guide or someone who knows the neighborhood well. Not because it’s dangerous — far from it — but because so much of it is hidden in plain sight.
Take this, for example:
That’s my favorite coffeeshop in the neighborhood, Little Skips. Aside from a few bright bursts of paint, you’d have no idea there was anything there, let alone a cool coffeeshop. And that’s one of the more obvious ones!
Lots of places in Bushwick are like that — you pass right by without knowing what’s inside, and they don’t advertise it. In that way, the neighborhood reminds me of Melbourne, Australia.
For that reason, it’s great to go with a guide. And I received a chance to do so on a Bushwick Beer, Bites & Art #Instawalk, a tour created by my good friend Jessie.
Now, Jessie is not just a girl who does tours — she is a certified New York City tour guide. With Jessie, you get a professional tour and a real insider’s look to Bushwick, as she’s lived here for years.
Jessie invited me, along with two of our blogger friends, on a complimentary tour through the neighborhood.
Our first stop was at a cafe called Italo, where we had a cappuccino- and mocha-making demonstration. It’s a warm and homey cafe and I recommend stopping in! (2018 update: sadly, Italo has closed. I hope you enjoy the photos anyway.)
(I love these pictures so much! Thank you, Brooklyn hipsters, for dressing vintage-y and making it look like these are pictures from decades ago!)
Street Art Galore
The street art is everywhere in Bushwick. Here are some of my favorite pieces:
This is just the briefest of tastes. There is SO MUCH.
Beer and Meat Tasting
One of the highlights was stopping at Hops and Hocks, an adorable specialty store featuring food products from all over Brooklyn and the region. Yes, they have artisanal mayonnaise.
Here Jessie arranged for us to have a beer and meat tasting. And it was out of this world! They actually had a beer flavored like Samoa (Caramel DeLite) Girl Scout Cookies! And some chorizo-like Croatian meat that blew my mind.
SCANDALOUS CHOCOLATE! (If you’ve got time, read up on the Mast Brothers’ chocolate scandal. It’s juicy as hell. This is a good starting point.)
Odds and Ends
Here are some of my other favorite photos from the day:
This is one of the creepier courtyards I’ve ever seen.
Creepiest of all — that skeleton!
Pure Bushwick: sitting in a bicycle chair next to a thrown-out Christmas tree. In February.
Welcome home! This is an artists’ enclave, unsurprisingly.
All this van needs is a FREE CANDY sign…
Cool water on a chilly day.
I love how these heads are illuminated.
Chocolate Factory? YES, PLEASE!
We were just there to gorge on the free samples. And I might have bought a teeny-tiny chocolate bar for five dollars, but maaaaaan. That salty chocolate was TASTY.
We ended up at a rum distillery. (How amazing does this bartender look?)
Cheers to a day very well spent.
This was one of the best days that I’ve had in New York City so far! I’m totally serious. I loved this tour, I loved the neighborhood, and I loved the camaraderie.
Bushwick is such a cool and different place, and spending time there makes me feel like I know New York on a more intimate level. If you’re visiting New York, I recommend getting beyond the quintessential sights that everyone visits. Bushwick is a way to do that.
A Final Note — My Favorite Bushwick Eats
If you do this tour, extend your time in Bushwick long enough to have a meal! These are all places that I discovered when spending a week here last fall.
If you’re up for coffee and a sandwich, the aforementioned Little Skips is my favorite coffeeshop in Bushwick and one of my favorites in New York. Another great option is Dillinger’s, where they do a lovely matcha latte and avocado toast, pictured above. (These are both located close to where the tour starts, so you may want to go beforehand.)
Roberta’s is one of the iconic pizzerias of New York City — and definitely one of the hippest. Ask for the Bee Sting, which comes topped with honey and soppressata. (It’s always available, even if they tell you they’re only serving off the menu that night.)
983 (Bushwick’s Living Room) is a warm, cozy place with truly excellent down-home comfort food. I got the chicken under a brick, on my server’s recommendation, and it was SO flavorful!
One restaurant I have on my list to try soon is the Arrogant Swine, which specializes in Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue.
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Essential Info: I visited Bushwick on the Bushwick Beer, Bites, & Art #Instawalk tour with NYC Tours and Photo Safaris.
The tour takes 3.5 hours and costs $65 per person, which I think is a very fair price for a great tour in New York City.
In the tour, you’ll visit local Bushwick businesses, do tastings, see a lot of street art, hear about history, and learn tips for getting great photos on your smartphone or regular camera. Your Instagram will be set for weeks!
Note: our tour was slightly altered from the itinerary. Speak to Jessie personally if you want to do this tour exactly as we did.
Jessie can also customize a tour to your preferences. If you like this tour but don’t eat meat, or drink alcohol, she can create a tour featuring what you like personally. She even customized a tour for someone who wanted to photograph interesting textures!
See the calendar and book now here.
Looking to stay longer? You can find the best rates on hotels in Bushwick here.
Many thanks to Jessie and NYC Tours & Photo Safaris for hosting me on a complimentary tour. All opinions, as always, are my own.
24 thoughts on “Inside Bushwick, The Weirdest Place in New York City”
What a neighbourhood! I see a lot of familiar street art here.
This post makes me regret leaving Brooklyn <3
I won't lie… I am terribly excited to see more NY posts here 🙂
I spent some time in Bushwick last summer and I agree with at lot of your points. The comparison to Melbourne is a good one!
Looks like a great place to spend a few days! Very urban, yet charming and different. I love the street art!
Years (and years) ago, I spent a somewhat terrifying night at a friend’s place in Bushwick. She had lost her keys and left me alone on her stoop (in a very shady part of the neighborhood) while she broke into the building (which took her an alarmingly short amount of time to do). She lived with a bunch of other people, including a stranger they took in off the street who was sleeping on the kitchen floor with a dog that was injured and bleeding. The apartment was filthy and I barely slept that night.
The next afternoon, I headed to another friend’s place (on West 66th) and when he answered the door and tried to hug me, I said “Don’t touch me – I need to wash the Bushwick off of me!”
I’m glad to see a post like this showing that it’s not like the horrible first impression I got of it all those years ago. I will need to visit the neighborhood again!
I really hated Williamsburg (gah, so predictably hipster!) but I’m curious about Bushwick – it seems a lot grittier but with a quirky side.
Wow that looks awesome, so not what I had pictured for NYC. Must pay a visit next time I’m in New York.
Thanks for sharing
I used to live near little skips and would go with my roommate all the time. Super Yum! I miss it!
And Roberta’s is an absolute must if you visit NYC. I often take my friends from Manhattan out to Bushwick just for Pizza at Roberta’s (L Train Morgan Ave stop). It’s the best. p.s. did you know they grow their own veggies in a garden out back? Seriously. The best.
Even though my apartment was robbed twice while I was living there…I miss do miss it. It is a very strange place.
Weird, but fascinating-
Copacabana Beach, Rio, New Years Eve
We were on the beach with about 500,000 happy Brazilians and around every 500 feet or so there were these Spiritism priestesses with big pictures of saints in the sand surrounded by candles. The priestesses were chanting and dancing, and putting laymen into convulsing trances. This all seemed out of place compared to all of the salsa dancing that surrounded them. It was like a train wreck. I just couldn’t stop watching!
A diferent place of new york that anyone shows.. thanks for share
Holy crap, that was an extensive tour! I spend tons of time in NYC but, it seems, have trouble busting out of the LES. Gonna need to change that. Outstanding report.
Great post about Bushwick! I love that area as well and it’s a great day trip out of the crazy bustle of Manhattan!
What about the Bushwick Collective murals! I think that part of Bushwick is so amazing as well! This is coming from a Singaporean where graffiti is illegal!! Eeeeep.
Free tours by foot has a great Bushwick art tour as well, no affliation with them but I went on the one in Bushwick and really enjoyed myself! http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/new-york-tours
Cheers Kate! Love your travel writing !!
Bushwick seems amazing! I love the last pic with the food and the Kindle… great combination… It’s been a while since I had time to enjoy a good book on my Kindle during my travels. I wish I could travel more like that… slow… relaxed… with lots of extra time to burn…
Add Faro to your Bushwicj must eat list. I went last month for my birthday and am still dreaming about the meal.
Pretty sure Little Skips is the coffee shop my sister took me to when I last visited her! She’s a printmaker/paper maker that lives off of Bushwick Ave and it’a always a weird but fun time when I go there to see her!
Just got news from my sister that this IS the coffee shop she brought me to and it’s literally around the corner from her apartment! I showed her your post and she was excited because she walks by a lot of what you’ve highlighted here like everyday haha! If you ever want to see more of Bushwick with another tour guide, I’ll put you in contact with her! I’m sure she’s aware of all kinds of weird art events and whatnot. 🙂
This is super weird, what’s with all the pinky fingers?
I loved this article. You are exactly correct about Bushwick. Since 2010, I’ve visited Bushwick a number of times. I have friends that have lived on Harman street in Bushwick for many years. That is where I stayed when visiting the area. I didn’t fully understand the culture of Bushwick. But I always enjoyed being there. Your article cleared up a lot of curiosities I’ve had. And yes, the prices of homes continue to rise. My friends say that they continuously get unsolicited offers to buy their home. I think it would be nice if Bushwick became like Williamsburg too. Thanks for the cool and informative article!
looks like a fascinating slice of NYC. Hopefully one day I’ll make it back there and check it out!
Interesting to see Bushwick from your perspective. I’ve heard it’s an edgy and artsy neighborhood which does not surprise me since I have a few cartoonist coworkers who live there. One of them illustrates a satire cartoon called “Stranger than Bushwick.”
Wow, Bushwick looks amazing… Love the street-art!
I love the prospective you went with of my home neighborhood. I’ve lived here in the area of Bushwick and Ridgewood since I’ve been a toddler. You are very right about the unique aura this places gives and although it is extremely annoying. The effects of gentrification is bittersweet I love the new shops and community spaces popping up however I cannot help but feel like I’m some form of alien when I try and participate in enjoying the new things to do around here. Many of the native Bushwick and Ridgewood residents do feel like they don’t belong in their own home anymore. Which isn’t cool and is what causes a rift between the new and the old.
I’m glad you liked it, Krizia. You’re right — there are no easy answers.
As someone from the Caribbean I have to say that Bushwick is shit. Honestly its been so gentrified it doesn’t know what it is. Just moved here and I’m already regretting it. Everything is over priced, there are a few spanish restaurants but everything else is some kind of cafe with $6 lattes. The restaurants do not deliver unless you pay like $15 and the food is always bland with poor ratings. I thought I’d atleast have chinese food to rely on but nope (just bugs, hair and raw chicken). All the good areas are being so gentrified now that white owners are opening up ‘ethnic’ foods that are bland. Maybe I’m pissed off and frustrated but yeah this area has to the most boring and dull neighborhood. Also the green space here is at a minimal. Overall living here has been a terrible experience and I’m looking to move out.