I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It used to be really industrial, but over the past decade it’s gone through a huge development and is now gentrified. But it has great stores, restaurants and coffee shops – a lot of coffee shops. I love the neighborhood because it is like a village in NYC. It’s just one stop to Manhattan, but the pace is quite mellow. It’s so different from Midtown and the Financial District where I used to work. I love to walk by the river and look at the view on Manhattan. It’s a total cliché, but you can’t beat the view of Manhattan from Williamsburg.
Bêp shares a space with Simple Café: They serve breakfast and lunch all week, as well as a killer brunch on weekends, and we’re open every night from Monday to Friday. So it’s two restaurants in one space. We also just opened a small shop in the space where we sell flowers, ceramics and chocolate bars from our Vietnamese friends at Marou Chocolats. At Bêp we serve traditional Vietnamese cuisine; we want to share the Vietnam experience in a very casual setting. We could serve you a bowl of phở (Vietnamese noodle soup), bò bún (bowl of cold vermicelli) or bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwiches), but we could also give you a taste of Vietnam’s terroirs with our Vietnamese coffee or Marou Chocolats.
I opened Bêp in 2009 as a pop-up. We were open once a week, every Monday for six months. Then step by step, we opened more days to become what it is today! Vietnamese cuisine was hard to find in Brooklyn back then and people in Williamsburg were hungry for something new. So the opportunity was there and I took it.
Williamsburg picked me! Simple Café was closed on Mondays and it is three blocks away from my home. I saw it was closed and asked the owner, Sammy, who’s now my business partner, if she was cool with me doing a pop-up there, and she said yes.
Every day I make different specials. People really love my Bêp Vietnamese-style chicken wings. Someone even called me Lord of the Wings!
Make sure my wife is happy, my staff are happy, and they will get my back!
For a quick breakfast, try Northerly at 181 Havemeyer Street. A very good breakfast burrito and very good coffee. Ask manager Julien to make you a caffè con panna or a matcha latte. For a longer breakfast I like to go to Egg at 109 North Third Street: great French toast and any style of eggs, obviously. It’s better to go in the week, because weekends are too busy.
It could be fancy, but it is always better when it is a good deal! So here are some places to go for lunch à petit prix. In Williamsburg, there’s Peter Luger Steak House (178 Broadway) for amazing steaks and a $9 burger. Aurora (70 Grand Street) is a great place for a nice al fresco lunch in the garden, and it has a $17 menu. If you’re in Manhattan, try Soba-ya in the East Village (229 East Ninth Street) for its fantastic soba and a $21 lunch box. For a classic French lunch, try Le Relais de Venise – L’Entrecôte (590 Lexington Avenue) in Midtown: steak frites and salad for $28.75.
I go to Saltie (378 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn) or head over to Chinatown in Manhattan for a pork pancake at Spicy Village (68B Forsyth Street).
I rarely eat pastries in NYC because I was spoiled by growing up in Paris, but I sometimes go to Maison Kayser (eight locations in Manhattan).
Fairway. I love it, especially the one in Red Hook.
For a glass of wine, try Four Horsemen (295 Grand Street), James Murphy’s new gig,three blocks from Bêp.For cocktails, there’s Maison Première (298 Bedford Avenue), two blocks from Bêp.
Semilla (160 Havemeyer Street), definitely. A vegetable- forward gastronomic restaurant run by Pam and José, who are doing a great job. One of the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants around! Then there’s 1 or 8 (66 South Second Street), an amazing Japanese-French omakase from chef Kaizuo and a great wine selection by owner Shinji.
Sunday brunch in Manhattan and Brooklyn is so hectic and the wait is always two hours, so we go for Chinese dim-sum brunch at Dim Sum Go Go (5 East Broadway, Manhattan) or Golden Unicorn (18 East Broadway, Manhattan). Or we sneak in at Simple Café for a traditional brunch.
Chinatown and Lower East Side in Manhattan, and Williamsburg.
I love going to 1 or 8 on Friday or Saturday for its late-night, after-midnight menu at the bar.