Friday, September 21, 2012

What should our Wisconsin wedding party do/eat in Brooklyn?


I'm a grad student in Virginia planning a courthouse wedding with my partner in Brooklyn this December with our families shipping in from Wisconsin. We feel very strongly about getting married in a state that allows all of our friends to be married, which has caused some family grief over travel and location, but we simply can't care about all of that BS. Our values, our wedding, and the fact that they support our relationship outweighs their frustrations with how we are actually signing the documents.

Here's the thing: I've only been to Brooklyn once, at least four years ago, and my partner has never been there. We are using you and my sister (grad student at Columbia and former Brooklyn resident) as our sources of trustworthy recommendations. The only things set in stone are a courthouse wedding at the Brooklyn Courthouse in the early afternoon and rooms reserved at the NU Hotel. Oh yeah, and Love & Brain will be doing our videography! We would like to keep activities in the relatively small vicinity of Downtown Brooklyn due to unpredictable and cold December weather. Also, moving a group of about 10-12 adults across the city (when only one is a Big City person) sounds stressful.

My problem is this: our families present a bit of a culture clash. Mine: urban, architects and musicians. His: rural, mechanics. We have 6 adult siblings between us, and their interests fall all over the map. The two of us are urban and veer toward trendy. Again, our wedding, our rules, but seeing as we have already asked our families to come all of the way out to NY we would like to find an activity for a December afternoon and a nice restaurant where we can treat these 10 adults (and possibly three of our nieces) to a fun experience after the ceremony.

I am looking for your help in recommending the following things:

An activity within a smart distance from the courthouse or NU Hotel for the afternoon of 12.12.12 that will be neutral enough to be enjoyable for most of our group.

A restaurant for the evening of 12.12.12 that is affordable enough (under $600 for all of us), family friendly, but also nice enough to celebrate our marriage.

Is this even possible?


I brought back my expert.

Matthew Downes is currently in Wyoming, preparing a 12-course Austrian-style dinner for 18, but he was kind enough to write up a few restaurant recommends while sitting on the plane:

I can’t think of a more robust location for dining than Brooklyn. There tends to be an overarching theme of good, wholesome, seasonal food in this borough, but it certainly comes with plenty of variety. Given the size of Brooklyn, you could traipse near and far for great eats, but Smith and Court Streets in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens provide enough choices for those staying off Atlantic Ave. Dining anywhere in New York always adds up, but if you can stay away from the more expensive cocktails (though I’m not sure you should!), you should be able to fit the food within your budget.

Char No. 4: I think this is the perfect spot to bring a crowd from a varied background. It’s hip enough for the urbanites, but not pretentious in the least. The food has a southern accent, but this is no BBQ joint. I highly (highly) recommend the pork nuggets as a little tasting tease. Think chicken nuggets, but oh so much better! Other notables include the house cured lamb pastrami and the hangar steak. It’s definitely meat heavy, but there are plenty of vegetables to go around and a risotto in case there are any vegetarians among the bunch. It is a whiskey bar and they have a huge selection of bourbons and ryes. For the best Bloody Mary ever! Chipotle and Bourbon marry perfectly for this drink enjoyed any time of day.

(Char No. 4 by Noah Sheldon via New York Magazine)

Seersucker: Another Southern inspired restaurant, Seersucker is a great neighborhood joint. The décor is soft and simple and very inviting. You’ll find favorites like biscuits, fried chicken and collard greens with potlikker, along with delightful creations combining Southern soul and local produce and meats. Though this dish won’t be around in December, the Upstate Duck Breast, paired with sweet corn, beets and burnt sorghum, is a great example of a Southern chef cooking in Brooklyn.

Buttermilk Channel: Moving from Smith Street to Court Street, you’ll find some great options for a wedding meal at Buttermilk Channel. Like many of Brooklyn’s restaurants, Buttermilk Channel is just a great neighborhood restaurant serving up quality seasonal food. While the South has moved further north with culinary influences on many menus, including Buttermilk Channel’s (Fried Chicken and Cheddar Waffle anyone?), it’s the attention to seasonal produce that I find most appealing here. The clean approach to using amazing local products is evident in the Mediterranean inspired Warm Lamb and Romaine Salad. They also have a full vegetarian menu making it the most vegetable friendly of the group.

(Chicken and Waffles from Buttermilk Channel)

Prime Meats: Another Court Street favorite, there is nothing Southern American about Prime Meats. A great décor with plenty of dark wood and leather, this Bavarian style menu offers up plenty of meat, which might be what the doctor orders if a chilly wind blows through in December. The rustic menu isn’t fussy, just delicious, with great little spins on ingredients, such as pretzel dumplings. The wursts and schnitzel are great, as well as the spätzles. Prime Meats is definitely the most expensive of the four and can fill up fast, so definitely inquire as to what they can offer.

Finally, just a few more suggestions in the neighborhood. For a great cocktail, perhaps after dinner, hit up The JakeWalk. For something more divey and arguably the best jukebox in the city, I recommend Boat Bar on Smith St. And one more brunch suggestion, in case you need to cure the wedding hangover, is Mile End. They serve up scrumptious Montreal-style Jewish deli food. A step above Katz’s Deli, in my opinion.

(Karlsbad Old Fashioned from The Jake Walk)

Please Note: I let Matthew off the hook on the activity front (that is if COCKTAILS don't count as an activity), so please have at it in the comments.

Image at top: Trent Bailey via Brooklyn Bride


  1. There's always the Transit Museum. It's small, but hanging around the vintage trains is extremely fun, and you guys could have a blast taking pictures in all of your wedding finery. Plus the mechanics will probably apprecitate some of the exhibits. I'm also a member of the Brooklyn Museum, which is also beautiful and indoors.

    Or, renting a small bus that everyone will fit on (one of the fancy, plush ones) is both possible and fairly inexpensive. Then the lot of you could troop over to Brooklyn Bowl, whom I'm sure would be a big hit with everyone.

  2. If it's not too cold for a stroll you could head to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for spectacular views of Manhattan. It will almost certainly be too cold to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, but if there's an unseasonable heat wave, that's what I would do. You could keep warm with the unbelievably decadent hot chocolate from Jacques Torres in DUMBO and take a stroll down there - again, spectacular views. There's also the New York Transit museum, if that's your kind of thing. Vintage subway cars and the like. Or if there's a mutually agreeable show at BAM ( that's an option. If anyone's in town the night before, you might consider going to Dyker Heights to see the outrageously over-the-top Christmas lights ( It's my family's favorite thing to do when they come to visit (from the midwest) for Christmas. It does not fulfill the requirement of being close by, but if you can get a car service to take you there and back, it'll be fun.

  3. I don't know how much it would cost but you could try to rent out rerun theater at rebar and have a private little movie afternoon

    1. I was going to suggest reBar for dinner, but the movie idea is a great one as well. I had my wedding reception there (the bar/restaurant part) and it was pretty much the best ever.

    2. I would also suggest dinner at reBar. Like Amy above, I had my wedding there as well. It is a part time restaurant, part time event venue. The food is excellent and it can certainly accommodate a large party. It has a really good atmosphere; it's an old tea factory and feels very urban yet welcoming. I would suggest contacting them and seeing if they have any deals for what you are looking for. They are so friendly and helpful, I'm sure they would have some recommendations for what would be best for your party.

      Right now they are featuring a 3 course prix fix dinner for $39, which sounds right in your price range. I'm actually doing that for my anniversary in a couple weeks.

      Also, they are right off of the F train. It takes 12 minutes to get from Nu Hotel to reBar.

    3. I'm getting married at reBar in Feb. Glad to hear that it worked well for you, Amy. Was going to suggest it for dinner. The food is excellent. Haven't been to the rerun theater, but I feel like I read it was shutting down for a while.

      Also, check out Brooklyn Bridge Park if the weather is mild. The views are spectacular.

  4. All of those restaurants are amazing, but if you can feed 10 people at any of them for under $600, you are a wizard. Or a complete teetotaler. Also none of them are really walkable from Nu Hotel. I'd try Sottocasa on Atlantic Ave, a couple blocks down from Nu Hotel. It's pizza, but classy authentic Italian pizza, and pricey imported beers but a pretty reasonable wine list. Pizza pleases everyone, and while it's Neapolitan style it would fit a Brooklyn theme.

    As good as the places above, and close to budget if you're careful on drinks (and definitely walkable) would be Colonie, on Atlantic at Henry. You will love it and you will want to return when they open at 11 the next morning for brunch, because their biscuits are basically the carb version of orgasms. Call them, they can be kind of weird about reservations.

    For an activity, bundle up and go to the Brooklyn Brige Park and/or Brooklyn Heights Promenade (if the latter, the Brooklyn Historical Society is nearby and is gorgeous AND educational!) and enjoy the view- it's definitely worth the cold.

  5. These are all wonderful restaurants, but mostly terrible suggestions for this particular request. Why? Because they're all tiny and/or don't take reservations, even for large groups. I seriously doubt they'd like to stand outside waiting for a table of 12 in December.

    Char No 4 is mostly booths and 2-tops, so I don't even think they could accommodate 12 people, although maybe in the back area, which is really bright and unwelcoming. They're great with children though, if the nieces are coming along. Great food.

    Mile End is SO SMALL. Accommodating 12 people is probably impossible. And you come out smelling like smoked meat. Is that what you want?

    Seersucker is also small, but they could perhaps do it, but it really kills the whole idea/vibe of the restaurant. It's not intended for large groups. Good option for food that will please everyone though, and I think they can just fit 12 people.

    Prime Meats, which has a very strange layout, making seating 12 people difficult. They also have a no-stroller rule, which leads me to believe they don't welcome children. Also, the food is straight up Brooklyn hipster food. If your relatives are put off by 'weird' food (like mine), they will not enjoy this place. Plus the staff is cooler-than-thou. Not a fun vibe for your wedding day.

    Buttermilk Channel and Frankies 457 are decent options, but for a group of 12, they usually offer you 530p or 1030p. But at least the food is great for everyone and I think they welcome children.

    Try Brucie. It's sweet and homey, and the food is incredible. They have a big communal table in the middle that would work perfectly for this. Just not sure how they are with kids.

    Also try Rucola. It's very small, but the layout means they can accommodate 12 people, and the food is great. The service is always wonderful. They will make you feel special.

    Other suggestions, which might suck for various reasons that I'm too lazy to look into right now:
    Bocca Lupo
    Chez Moi (new and I haven't been there but people love it. Not sure if they can accommodate a group)

    An activity is way harder. I can echo the Transit Museum idea, or going up to Dumbo to take (very cold and blustery) photos under the bridge with the city in the background. Not really an 'activity' but it's stunning.

    Ok, I spent way too long on this. Good luck and congrats!

  6. P.S. it's December. You're not walking anywhere unless it's around the corner. Get the NU hotel to call you a few taxis or call Aricebo yourself. You can get just about anywhere in the area for $8.

    1. Or just take the F train. Its a 4 minute walk from NU to the Bergen stop. Or the B57 bus goes down Court Street and up Smith Street.

    2. All those spots are a hop skip and jump away from NU hotel. It should be no trouble to walk provided it's not doing any of that sideways rain BULLSHIT that sometimes happens here.

      Since you'll be close to it, I highly recommend Pacifico to your crew. It will be STEPS away from where you'll be staying. It's a total dive (in a charming way), but they have great nachos and a FIREPLACE ! It's pretty big, and they serve margaritas by the pitcher ... all in all, a fantastic place to get shitfaced. (You may not be doing too much of that, but some family members might want to indulge after-hours)

      There are more high-end Mexican places in the hood (Gran Electra in DUMBO, for instance) but something tells me that the rural mechanics in your group may get irritated when they see a list of 15$ margaritas.

    3. Actually, Gran Electra does have enough space for a private party, and it's at the foot of the BK bridge ... it's a great pit stop if you're doing touristy things, or want some awesome photo ops. And head and shoulders above Grimaldis and all the other shitballs restaurants on 'tourist row' in DUMBO.

    4. I was in NY a couple years ago in December. We walked everywhere like we always do, including across the Brooklyn Bridge where my husband proposed. Coats and boots and gloves and hats. Plus it makes that sidecar before dinner taste that much better.

  7. Queen Restaurant all the way. It's not hip, but it is in budget, around the corner from the courthouse, great Italian food, and super nice to large groups. I've been there for two birthdays, one time they gave us a free champagne toast, the other time they comped the cake. It'll be a lovely, warm cozy meal. Get great pictures at the Transit Museum or promenade (although the Promenade is a wedding picture mob scene so be forewarned). And then get your hip side taken care of at one of the gazillion bars in the area (either cross Atlantic and go down Smith or Court or walk away from Atlantic and head deeper into Brooklyn Heights or towards Dumbo),

    But hands down, I would eat at Queen. It'll be a crowd pleaser for your group, and you'll get the love from the staff.

    1. I echo the Queen Restaurant suggestion! It's not pretty but the food is amazing!

      Info here: Queen Restauant

      Easy walk from the courthouse and then an easy walk to Floyd's (another great suggestion from below)

    2. Queen is definitely super delicious ... but not at all sexy. It's like stepping in a time machine, which is certainly charming.

  8. I second the other commenter, while the restaurant suggestions are great...most of them are small.

    Bubby's in DUMBO is huge, has amazing views of the bridges, southern comfort food, the prices aren't too bad either BUT its cash only. There is plenty to do around the restaurant too...if you have kids with you, there is Jane's Carousel within walking distance(but I'm not sure if it will be open in the winter).

    There is also Grimaldi's, which just moved into the larger building next door...but the lines are always long to get in, no res. It's solid pizza and certainly a must-do in Brooklyn.

    But dining aside, BLDG 92 in the Navy Yard is a small museum about the Navy Yard with a great cafe and shuttles (free) that run to and from the museum. There are also bus tours of the Yard. I got married there this month and Ted & Honey has great food and the museum is awesome.

    As for drinking, Flyod bar (near Colonie) bar with bocce ball indoors.

    Someone also mentioned Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg which is so much fun and huge with great food (and check out their concert schedule) but around the corner is the Brooklyn Brewery and Radesgart Beer Hall (best burger I have ever had in my life) but if you have kids with you then, well...)

    Good luck and congrats. There is more than enough to do, see, and eat in the area, you're in for a great time.

    1. Radegast is awesome. The food is spectacular - spaetzle, bratwurst on pretzel roll... and I've seen kids there during the day. Most beer gardens/halls are cool with kids in daylight hours.

  9. I'd suggest Vinegar Hill House - they could definitely accommodate that many in the downstairs area, I think. (I also second the commenter that said you'll just want to get taxis/car services for everyone in December.)
    Activity: See if something is going on at Galapagos Art Space

    1. Vinegar Hill House could accommodate a large party, but probably not the budget. And it's a pain in the ass to get to. Taxis would be required. It is fantastic though.

  10. Also, as others have mentioned, Char No. 4 is very small, but incredibly delicious. If you do manage to go there, please please please get the cheese curds. They are divine. I dream about how delicious they are. I would even suggest ordering a bunch of orders to go and eating them at the hotel. It could be like a "welcome to brooklyn snack" or something. (I have ordered them to go before...any time I am near Char No. 4 I have to get some).

    If drinking counts as an activity, I would suggest 61 Local. It is a cavernous beer hall/public house. They have an excellent local beer selection and delicious snacks. Its a 4 minute walk from Nu Hotel.

    This is reminding me how much I love Smith St. I need to get back there soon!

  11. Wisconsin Bride here:

    Thank you, ESB, Matthew, and Brooklyn crowd! I appreciate all of the recommendations and especially the honest criticisms. While the FH and I could probably wing it through any weather (and our tough Wisconsin weather parents could too), honestly if it's our wedding day we might as well be comfortable. The promenade and/or transit museum sound perfect for "activity", and I will have to look into EVERYTHING you recommended for food (Matthew, how did you know about southern food and whiskey- is it because we are living in Virginia? you sneaky dog). Good idea with spending some time just enjoying cocktails in a restaurant.

    What is this "Brooklyn Bowl" you speak of? Please explain. Also, reBar? Is this a big room type of venue? We are only 12 people.

    As for cheese curds- we are from Wisconsin. We got that one down pat.

    1. Brooklyn Bowl is a bowling alley/restaurant/concert venue with amazing food. It's a great place to go for partying and there may be an awesome show when you're in town.

      reBar is a gastropub with an amazing assortment of beers, a great wine list, and the most amazing smoked gouda mac & cheese EVER. And all the other food is fantastic too.

    2. But the cheese curds come with this spicy pimento sauce that is just...I can't

      reBar is really less of a venue and more of a gastropub/restaurant. People started getting married there because it is one of the more reasonably priced options in NYC, and it has a good vibe. If you went there for dinner they have a big long table in the middle that would be perfect for your party. And the prix fix menu for $39 is a restaurant special, it's not an event thing. They also have a side room that they sometimes rent out for small private functions, but I'm not sure how that would fit into your budget. I'm sure if you contacted them they would have different options for you.

      I've only been to Brooklyn Bowl once and it was a horrendous experience. Expensive. Crowded. We waited over 3 hours to get a table and eventually just left because we still weren't seated. That was a couple of years ago, so maybe it's different now. I also remember it feeling a bit clubby inside. Also, it slightly out of the way from where you are staying. You'd have to take the G train, which is one of the more infrequent lines and prone to breaking down. It'd take about 30 minutes. And during the week, they open at 6pm. There are so many good places just south of where you are staying, there is no need.

    3. Brooklyn Bowl is open on weekends to kids, so if you have little ones in tow, this might be a good option - and wont be as packed as a typical night where there is concert etc going on. highly recommended.

  12. Building on Bond might work for this.

    Lots of other good suggestions.. But $600 is a tricky price point if you're trying to incorporate alcohol into this meal (which I wholeheartedly endorse)... Maybe look for a BYO in the area? Anyone have any good suggestions?

    And yes, it's December but your family is coming from Wisconsin? I don't think they'll be blown away by the winters here... Last year was actually ridiculously mild (our photographer gave us a free engagement session, which we used to get to know him on a Saturday in January, on the Brooklyn Bridge, without jackets....) not saying I'd do it again, just saying.... NYC is not the tundra, so don't be afraid to walk around and explore bc if it isn't raining/slushing you very well might want to.

    1. "NYC is not the tundra" ....EXACTLY!

      I got married December 11, 2010. I wore a strapless dress and was ok outside. At night I threw on a wrap and was fine. Between the fact that it was a rather mild day and my adrenaline was spiked from being so super happy, I barely felt the cold. Don't worry too much about the weather. NYC in December is really not that bad. January & February are the coldest months.

      Check the weather the week of your weather. Any earlier than that and you will not get an accurate picture of the day. Chances are the weather will be in the 40s or even 50s. Perfect walking weather in any northerner's opinion. Otherwise you bring an umbrella or appropriate footwear.

  13. Shout out to WI homies!!!! Congratulations on your impending wedding!!! :)

    1. Oh YAY! We are from Milwaukee and are having a big post-wedding shindig at the Urban Ecology Center in May when I graduate with my masters and he turns 30. Where are you from?

    2. Not sure if you were asking me, or the girl who wrote in, but I live waaaay north- on Lake Superior in a small town called Washburn. :)

    3. Or way, crap, was it you who wrote in?? I'm all confused. :) Oh well. Go Packers!!

    4. I'm also the one who wrote in, gotcha there. Never been to Washburn- but we wanted to get married in Door County (sorta close by) before we decided to go to NYC!

  14. Everyone's given so much feedback already! I just wanted to second the suggestion of Floyd's on Atlantic Ave. So close and the bocce ball is super fun. Maybe just call ahead and make sure there's not a league meeting there when you want to head over.

  15. Can I just say "same same" but for Toronto, Canada? Do you think it's possible to feed >25 people for less than $900? We can do booze separately if necessary...

    1. I'm in T.O... if Cluck, Grunt and Lo is still open head there...

  16. I'd say hop on the touristy double decker buses and cruise around the city seeing the sights... and grab some pics up top with the whole fam damily even if it's freezing out.

  17. also, the Brooklyn Nets (basketball..) will be playing on the 14th of Dec. might be a fun indoor activity, tickets under $30 on stubhub.

    food wise, i'd check - they offer up to 30% off food & booze, and its free, you just make a reservation through them. also 12-12-12 is a wednesday, so you may luck out on a large group seating. check it out 30 days out. right now there are a few good options for 10+ on a wednesday night. (ex verde on smith offers 15% off dinner on a wednesday night)

    december isn't that that cold in new york, im sure you'll be fine! maybe a museum trip like PS1 MoMa, in LIC.

    and congrats!