The British, while reviled for their native cuisine, created a marvelous community around a fairly mundane beverage: beer. The public house — or pub — served as both watering hole and community center for generations (ok, centuries). Sadly, the pub is now in decline and, with it, many fear, a certain neighborliness.
Ms. Paper lived in London for about six months when she was just out of college. Far too often she was still toiling away when the pubs closed, but she would occasionally manage to join her colleagues for a pint of an evening. And Ms. Paper grew to love the pub near the crumbling flat of her struggling actress friend, in Brixton. Inevitably, Ms. Paper’s chums would see people they knew or had at least a nodding acquaintance with. Ms. Paper came away thinking of pubs less as bars than as grown-up extensions of the smelly fraternity basements she had recently left behind — which, for all their flaws, did actually seem to create some genuine fraternity.
Now, truly grown-up herself, Ms. Paper sees the pubs in a new light — as community crossroads where one can see and share a moment or two with neighbors. It’s a tradition hard to find in America’s cities, although it exists here and there.
Recently, Ms. Paper is beginning to find the pub tradition in a not-altogether-surprising venue: the coffeehouse. Increasingly, Ms. Paper’s local, Cafe Grumpy, is beginning to feel like an episode of Cheers, without the one-liners. Nearly every barista knows Ms. Paper’s usual order. And Ms. Paper increasingly meets her neighbors, or Rose whom she used to work with, or the nice man whose furniture workshop is two blocks away.
Surely Starbucks paved the way by providing convenient meeting places all over cities. But, for all their efforts, the McDonald’s-like efficiency of Starbucks-style barista-ing does not encourage lingering over today’s cup. Staying put for more than a few minutes makes Ms. Paper feel that she is impeding today’s sales per square foot target.
Grumpy has set the stage for neighborly interaction by forbidding laptops, making it impossible to bury oneself in work and opening up the possibility of conversation with a neighbor. People sip espresso on the benches outside, or have quiet chats inside. Dogs socialize by the front door while their people place an order. There is a calmness, and a sense of place.
Don’t look now — it’s a pub, my friends.
Other coffee venues achieve the same effect without the laptop rule — Ninth Street Espresso in the East Village comes to mind. Ms. Paper would love to know about your favorite coffee pub — do drop me a line. Here is fine, or try email@example.com.
What’s Paper&String all about? Finding that little slice of heaven right down the street. There is nothing like a NYC neighborhood, and Ms Paper found hood happiness in a single fabulous block of Williamsburg this week.
What with so many things to get done each day, Ms. Paper occasionally finds herself wolfing down meals in a most unladylike fashion. Depanneur is medicine for that speed-eating illness.
From the carefully edited selection of butters (Ms. Paper selected a demi-sel Beurre Baratte from France) to the highest-quality India Tree spices, Depanneur is a place where your senses are forced to slow waaay down and drink it all in. Recommended provisioning: balsamic vinegars, green cleaning supplies (refills, too), unusual cold beverages, and a damn good cappuccino.
242 Wythe Ave (at N. 3rd St)
If you are one of those people who is occasionally immobilized by the multiplicity of choice, buying jeans may have you whimpering in the corner. Ms. Paper highly recommends Brooklyn Denim Co to help you cut through the clutter. Its lovely proprietor, Frank, wants everyone to be able to buy jeans in a beautiful environment with high-end service. Indeed, the selection is well-edited (Adriano Goldschmied, Levi’s LVC, Earnest, James & Nudie, among many others), the space is large and stunning and the sales folk helpful and never overbearing. Prices range (widely) from $78 - $450.
Brooklyn Denim Co.
85 North Third (enter on Wythe)
New York, New York
Wines, that is. It is the rare wine shop that allows one to taste before buying. Brooklyn Oenology, which makes many of its wines in-house, offers tastings throughout the day in its open and airy location. Most wines hail from Long Island and the Finger Lakes, and the company also sells at both the New Amsterdam and Park Slope greenmarkets. Ms. Paper was quite taken with the wall composed of barrel staves (above).
209 Wythe Avenue
Ms. Paper invited her young friends William and Wilhelmina on a little Williamsburg scavenger hunt. Both little darlings loved walking across the Williamsburg Bridge (“most excellent graffiti, Auntie Paper”), and they found these gems for youngsters.
Find Your Inner Child
Engage Judith Pushett and Kevin Irby to peer into your child’s soul — or just take a hauntingly beautiful picture. This Brooklyn-based team uses an 11x14-inch wooden camera from the turn of the century (the one before last) and limits themselves to available light. The results, like the photo you see, are stunning.
Pushett Irby Photography
Preteen Wilhelmina loves fake fur, particularly when used to create small woodland creatures such as those found at Sweet William. Hansa seems to be the dominant brand, and prices start at $26. Ms. Paper found Sweet William to be a treasure trove of baby gifts, with many unusual brands from around the globe not often in the US. Of note: cotton sweaters from Mormor (Denmark) and cuddle-able mushrooms from h.luv.
112 North Sixth St.
Open 11-7 M-F, noon-7 S&S
Dino on the Double
William, bored with shopping, became outright animated – make that insistent — when he stumbled upon this fabulous dresser stenciled with dinosaurs ($450). Ms. Paper did her best to distract him before heaving him into a fireman’s carry and exiting at a run. But perhaps he will find it under the tree this holiday season…
Moon River Chattel
62 Grand St. (at Wythe St.)
Ms. Paper is pleased to let you know about Paper&String’s first online contest. If you visit this link — http://apps.facebook.com/sweepstakeshq/contests/152533 — you can enter to win two tickets to Taste of Williamsburg. Here are some details:
Head to the Williamsburg Waterfront for this Brooklyn foodie festival, where you and a guest will enjoy unlimited tastes from acclaimed food purveyors like Caracas Arepa Bar, Dressler, Dumont, and Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream. Sip on wine, beer, and cocktails from Maison Premiere, the Natural Wine Company, and Brooklyn Brewery. This unlimited access ticket is a $180 value! Sept 17-18. Rules are on the link.
No doubt you have often wondered what happens in your hood while you are still under the spell of your lavender-scented eyeshades. Ms Paper, up with the sun in the early Williamsburg AM, is here to help.
Better Living through Chemistry
Coffee first, of course. On Mr. String’s advice, Ms. Paper headed to Blue Bottle Coffee, a mini-theme park of coffee. The Yrgacheffe perked Ms. Paper right up, as did the dramatic brewing and steaming taking place behind the counter. Blue Bottle coffee is delicious, but it looks pretty much like other coffee so Ms. Paper is sparing you the pic of the cup in favor of this cool coffee distillery system. It reminds her fondly of 11th-grade chemistry class.
Blue Bottle Coffee
160 Berry St. (btwn. N 4th & N 5th Sts.)
Bet the Farm
Who can resist a restaurant with a website called pigandegg.com? Not Ms. Paper, who fondly remembers providing child labor on her grandparents’ mini-farm. True to its name, Egg offers a wide variety of egg dishes: For you southerners, Anson mills grits (cheese optional) and eggs any style ($9). For art lovers, Eggs Rothko, an egg-in-brioche concoction ($9.50). Ms. Paper opted for the homemade sorghum granola, which arrived with lots of dried cherries ($7.50), and consumed it at a very pretty table like the one pictured here. Opens 7am Mon-Fri, 9am, Sat/Sun.
135 North 5th St.
Breakfast is Ms. Paper’s favorite meal, so what could be better than two of them? On to Ella, where Ms. Paper eyed the fry-ups: “breakfast skillets” with rosemary potatoes, eggs, onions, mushrooms, onions, cheese, and peppers (add your choice of bacon or kielbasa, $7.95 to $9.95). Egg wraps are a bargain at $2.50 to $3.00, and the egg sandwich with lox, scallions, cream cheese and tomato ($5.95) screams New York, doesn’t it? Sadly, Ms. Paper’s office was screaming, too, so off she trotted to the dreaded L with only a yummy fresh-squeezed juice for Breakfast #2. Opens 8am Mon-Fri, 9am Sat, 10am, Sun.illi
177 Bedford Ave. (btwn. 7th & 8th Sts.)
Ms. Paper & Mr. String reside on http://paperandstring.com/.
Pushy lot. I have to post before I can look around?