Middle Eastern     |    American     |    Pan Asian     |    Organic     |     Employment     |     Conclusion

Over the course of several weeks Kelly and Manal have been exploring the relationship between gentrification and the restaurants in Williamsburg through the use of ethnographic research.  After gathering this research we have noticed several themes.

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Do It Yourself Vibe (Bedford’s Unique Culture)  

On our initial trip to Williamsburg our group was very perceptive of the people shuffling up and down Bedford Avenue. Through paying careful attention we noticed that English was the lingua franca in Bedford; however, we could not help but overhearing some French.

Bedford Avenue has a large hipster population: this population of young people tends to have a college level education. At El Beit and Radish the employees we interviewed are pursuing their graduate school and college educations at NYU and Hunter respectively.

They are working these job in the food service industry because of the laid back atmosphere and the general respect the residents of Bedford have towards the people who work these jobs. Thus in turn helps to create a tight knit community and solidarity in the neighborhood.

We have found that there is a general agreement among the residents of Williamsburg is that the lack of big name fast food chains is better off for the community. These “Mom and Pop” shops have loyal customers who are looking for food that satisfies their consumption needs. Having big name corporations in Bedford would disturb the Do it yourself vibe that makes Williamsburg such a unique neighborhood.

Help Wanted!

When passing by numerous restaurants, we noticed the Help Wanted signs that decorated many of the doorways of these businesses. These businesses were looking for a variety of positions from prep cook to a delivery boy. There were also eateries, like NY Muffins who did not post any signs on the outside of the door but were hiring new positions.

On the other hand, the owner of Bayleaf said that he is not hiring because in the summer business is slow. Moreover the cashier at Pop’s of Brooklyn also mentioned that the restaurant is a part time place, which provides flexibility for the workers, who are there for the experience and most often are also pursuing their college or graduate education at the same time.

Search for the Authentic

The ethnic restaurants in Williamsburg serve food catered towards the American residents. For example, at the Oasis, a Middle Eastern restaurant, the menu is translated to cater to them. Next to each item on the large menu is a caption explaining the contents of the food. For example, next to grape stuffed leaves there was a little caption explaining the contents of this exotic food.

Moreover, at the Pan Asian restaurants like Wild Ginger and Mizu the menus are located outside of the eatery and have Asian language and English descriptions to match.  In these two restaurants the employees we spoke to said that they primarily cater to middle class Americans.

The prices range greatly from $2 for soup to $52 for a sushi meal. The venue is an open space and decorations are contemporary Asian. The restaurant caters to the hipsters in search of the authentic Asian, Polish or Middle Eastern cuisine which are remodeled for consumption for these people. These ethnic restaurants reflect the consumption interests of this young educated creative class.


Through pursuing our ethnographic research we came into contact with people who either refused to speak to us or did not know much about the business or could not communicate with us due to a language barrier.

In one instance our group went to the Swedish coffee shop on Bedford and kindly asked the employee if we could ask him some questions about the neighborhood. He responded by saying that he could not answer any questions. Our initial reactions were confusion and frustration as to why he would say no.

However, through this hurdle our group decided to take a different approach. Rather than aimlessly approach an employee with questions we decided to create a worksheet with a set list of questions to ask the employees.

Ultimately this was a much better approach because the worksheet has the name and logo of the Macaulay Honors College and a list of accompanying questions. Owners and employees of restaurants were much more receptive towards this approach because initially when we told them that we were doing a school project they looked at our group rather suspiciously.


At first our hypothesis regarding this project was vague and general: our goal was to discover Williamsburg’s culture and solidarity through visiting different restaurants.  However, as we proceeded with our ethnographic research, we realize that there were more specific sociological themes that were emerging. For instance, the “DIY” vibe due to the lack of big corporate food chains is one thing that many of the residents of Williamsburg take pride in. This serves to create solidarity within the community. Moreover, we observed that the restaurants address the local residents search of the  “authentic.” Ironically, many ethnic restaurants on Bedford Avenue do not cater to their respective ethnic groups rather they cater to the creative class. The “hipsters” of Williamsburg are in search of authentic Asian, Polish, Middle Eastern cuisine, but yet this “authenticity” they are searching for is being remodeled precisely for their own consumption.

                                                                                       Works Cited 

Florida, Richard. “Cities and the Creative Class.” City and Community 2.1 (2003): 3-19. Web.

Patch, Jason. “The Embedded Landscape of Gentrification.” Visual Studies 19.2 (2004): 169-87. Web.

Zukin, Sharon. “How Brooklyn Became Cool.” Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places. New York:Oxford UP, 2009. Print.



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