It was Brooklyn's hippest 'hood and now it's the borough's most rapidly gentrified. In the process, Williamsburg has become the New York hot-spot for food, and it's often artisanal, locally sourced, much blogged-about and in the process of starting a fad (hello, ramen burgers). But where on earth do you begin? There are so many great places to dine and so much variety that it's difficult to know where to start. Fortunately I'm here to do the tasting for you. I recently spent a week eating my way around Williamsburg's restaurants, cafes, diners, bars and food markets, finding the best breakfast, brunch, burger, brisket and ... um ... bacon doughnuts. Here's my list of the best of the best in the 'burg. Now I feel like a salad and a lie down.
Egg had to move from its tiny original space because the queues were too long. The new place is three times larger but maintains the decor (whitewashed walls, paper table cloths) and – most importantly – the food. The go-to dishes are the country ham biscuits and the Eggs Rothko, a slice of brioche with an egg in the hollowed-out middle, covered in melted Grafton cheese. 109 N3rd Street, eggrestaurant.com
First thing – it opens at 10.30 on weekends. Get there at 10.15. Or earlier. Because Juliette is popular. Second thing – ask for a table on the roof garden or the indoor skylit terrace. It's like being in a Parisian bistro. Third thing – order the banana-stuffed french toast with walnuts and bourbon maple syrup. Believe me, just do it. 135 N5th Street, juliettewilliamsburg.com
There are lots of great burgers in New York, but this Bedford Avenue spot lays claim to one of the best. The house burger is eight ounces of meat on a brioche bun with red onions, pickles and lettuce, but you can add just about anything to it, from caramelised onion to bacon. It's just as good naked as it is dressed up with the trimmings. 314 Bedford Avenue, dumontburger.com
Sandwiches? Who cares, right? Well, Saltie will make you care. From a compact shopfront that looks a little like a ship's galley, it bakes everything in-house and serve up thick, salt-speckled sandwiches with nautical names such as The Captain's Daughter (sardines, pickled egg and salsa verde). 378 Metropolitan Avenue, saltieny.com
BEST BACON DOUGHNUTS
Yes, bacon doughnuts. Bear with me here. Traif doles out excellent small plates from an open kitchen right behind the long bar. It's noisy, it's aromatic and it's fun. But back to those doughnuts – they're smoky and sweet, shaped like oversized gold balls, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, and they come with a scoop of coffee ice-cream. 229 S4th Street, traifny.com
Ask 10 people to name the best pizza in Brooklyn and you'll get 10 different answers. So this one is a fool's errand. Still, Motorino is the real deal. Its pizzas are cooked in a huge dome-shaped oven you can see from your table. From a simple margherita to a Cherrystone Clam with oreganata butter, they know what they're doing. 139 Broadway, motorinopizza.com/new_york/williamsburg
THE MEATBALL SHOP
You choose your meat, you choose your sauce and then you have to decide if you want "naked balls", a slider or a hero. The nomenclature may take some getting used to, but the proof is in the eating, and these meatballs are exemplary no matter which way you scoff them. 170 Bedford Avenue, themeatballshop.com
BEST CHICKEN AND WAFFLES
If you think deep-fried chicken and sweet, crispy belgian waffles don't go together, then you've never been here. With three types of butter on the side – lemon, herb and blueberry – it's as sinfully good as it sounds. Sit at the formica-topped bar or the communal tables among the chicken pictures and toys that line the walls, sip a drink served in a jar, and dig in. 164 Bedford Avenue, sweetchicknyc.com
Established in 1999 by restaurateur Andrew Tarlow, Diner is one of Williamsburg's pioneering eateries. The fact that it's a converted 1920s railway car underneath the Williamsburg Bridge only makes it that more appealing. The menu changes daily, scrawled onto white paper at your table, but it's all good and the house burger is the business. 85 Broadway, dinernyc.com
MARLOW & SONS
Another of Andrew Tarlow's restaurants is this wood-panelled spot that has the feel of a beach house. The menu is Mediterranean-influenced and the "brick chicken" is tender and mouth-watering, but specialty of the house is fresh oysters, sourced from Maine and Rhode Island. 81 Broadway, marlowandsons.com
The name sounds like a boast, but this south Williamsburg spot that looks like a roadside cantina lives up to its motto: "Kiss Manhattan's lousy street food goodbye." The place is always packed, always loud and always good. The fare is Mexican street food, from a daunting taco list to Mexico City's famous gorditas (corn cakes) filled with chorizo, potato and a ricotta-like cheese. 295 Berry Street, lasuperiornyc.com
It's easy to miss Fette Sau (German for "fat pig"), as it's a former car mechanic's garage – and it still looks like one. But follow your nose and you can't miss the sweet aroma of pulled pork, ribs and brisket being smoked inside. You buy by the pound – or part thereof – and the food is served on brown paper on a tin tray. Choose a craft beer from one of the taps with meat cleavers for handles. 354 Metropolitan Avenue, fettesaubbq.com
BEST HOT DOGS
This sister joint to the East Village stalwart has everything from the original apart from the secret bar accessed through a telephone booth. From the Chihuaha (bacon, avocado, sour cream) to the Tsunami (bacon, teriyaki, pineapple, green onion) the dogs are the same, perfect for a late-night stop during a Williamsburg bar crawl. 555 Driggs Avenue, criffdogs.com
BEST AVO SMASH AND FLAT WHITE
Yes, it's Australia's own Toby's Estate. It set up here in Brooklyn in 2012 in a high-ceilinged former meatpacking factory and brought flat whites to Williamsburg. The locals also took to Toby's signature smashed avocado on toast topped with tahini and sesame seeds, and they pack the loungeroom-like cafe every day, marvelling at this simple, tasty treat. 125 N6th Street, tobysestate.com
BEST JEWISH/JAPANESE FOOD
He's Jewish, she's Japanese and they're married. So the two chefs behind Shalom Japan decided to combine their heritages. Shalom Japan's signage features a Star of David overlapping a rising sun and the food reflects that symbol, including a matzoh ball ramen soup with foie gras dumplings. It may sound like a gimmick, but it sure doesn't taste like one. 310 S4th Street, shalomjapannyc.com
BEST EL CHEAPO ASIAN FOOD
Make your order, take a number, keep an ear out for your digits to be yelled from the counter, then jostle for a seat. You'll probably have to share a table. But you'll probably also get change from 10 bucks. The dumplings are plump and crispy ($1.50 for four) and the chicken noodle soup ($5.50) has cured my jetlag on more than one occasion. 310 Bedford Avenue, vanessas.com
FIVE MORE WILLIAMSBURG EATING EXPERIENCES
EAT AND BOWL AT BROOKLYN BOWL
Knock back southern US fare and dude (and dudette) food while knocking down pins in the adjoining bowling alley. 61 Wythe Avenue, brooklynbowl.com
EAT AND WATCH A MOVIE AT NITEHAWK CINEMA
Fancy watching Earth Girls are Easy while eating brunch? You can at this Williamsburg movie house, which specialises in cult films, food and booze.
136 Metropolitan Avenue, nitehawkcinema.com
EAT, SHOP, PLAY AND DANCE AT BROOKLYN NIGHT BAZAAR
Part flea market, part music venue, part amusement parlour, part food market, you can do it all under one roof until one in the morning. 165 Banker Street, bkbazaar.com
EAT AND WANDER AT SMORGASBURG
With about 100 of Brooklyn's best food vendors set up on the Williamsburg waterfront every Saturday, this is your one-stop shop for sampling the best of Brooklyn. East River State Park, 90 Kent Avenue, smorgasburg.com
EAST AND SLEEP OVER AT REYNARD
Yet another of Andrew Tarlow's award-winning restaurants is off the lobby of the Wythe Hotel. Head to the rooftop bar Ides after dinner, then crash at the hotel. 80 Wythe Avenue, reynardnyc.com
United flies daily from Sydney to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and daily direct from Melbourne to Los Angeles on its Dreamliner 787-9, providing customers with connections to New York City. For reservations and inquiries, call 131 777 or see united.com/au.
McCarren Hotel & Pool – Situated in the heart of Williamsburg opposite McCarren Park, the hotel has a saltwater pool, rooftop bar Sheltering Sky and brand new restaurant Oleanders. Rooms from $260. See chelseahotels.com/us/brooklyn/mccarren-hotel-and-pool.
Nu Hotel – Nestled between Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and downtown Brooklyn, the Nu has a complimentary breakfast buffet, free use of bikes and a 24-hour fitness centre. Rooms from $217. See nuhotelbrooklyn.com.
Barry Divola was a guest of United, McCarren Hotel & Pool and Nu Hotel.
See also: The 20 must-do experiences in New York