As much as I dislike Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I must admit, I respect the heck out of it. Every time I’ve gone on the L train from Manhattan to Brooklyn, my experience has been the same: Billysburg is still a ghetto! From the moment you exit the underground to the second your foot is on the subway platform, there is someone in the nearby vicinity cat-calling you or giving you a generally creepy stare. There are police patrolling, sirens wailing, and the men sitting on lawn chairs on the sidewalk always seem to be eyeing you while speaking loudly in Spanish. Well, that’s a “ME” experience, I think. They know I don’t speak any Spanish. It’s quite obvious.
Williamsburg is still a ghetto, yet there are so many stores, bars, and restaurants that keep the place booming. Rent is heading towards Manhattan prices and every cool kid and his pope live off the L train. Admittedly, when I do make the trek and check out a restaurant in Williamsburg, I really give them credit.
Thus, I didn’t complain too much when I realized there was a vegan diner on the WBurg/Bushwick border that I had to try.
When I approached Champs Diner (or is it Champ’s?) I was immediately excited. It had the look of a true diner, the kind my family would go to after a late night concert or festival. We’d be tired and starving, and just want to go somewhere with a palatable veggie burger and fries. Of course, this is New York, so it didn’t have the shape and size proportions down, but considering what they had to work with, I was impressed.
Note all the bikes out front. That’s how you know I’m not lying about the location.
Going inside, I was rather excited by the scene, even though my insides were rolling their figurative eyes.
Punk music: Check!
Black and white theme: Check!
Lots of tattoos and skull caps: Check!
Although, the choice of headwear made me wonder why there were so cold. I was rather warm, and I’m nearly always cold. Why am I sweating while these people require warming accessories? Maybe it was in honour of the pope arriving in town, as it was the same day as this event. Did I not get the “Wear a Yarmulke like the Pope” memo?
My favourite clothing piece was the man with the denim vest. The patch on it read, “No Cash!” Considering this guy was in a pricey vegan diner in Williamsburg, my guess is that he only uses credit. Platinum card, baby! Nothing less!
…maybe he really dislikes Johnny Cash
I realize this picture doesn’t demonstrate any of the things I was just mocking, but I swear it was a real thing that was happening! I just happened to take a flattering photo.
When I was finally seated after waiting about 5 minutes for a seat-for-one to open up, I was placed at the bar. This both makes me self-conscious, but also gives me the feeling of being important. It’s like the exclusive bar seating. The reality is, however, all the other seats were taken. As I mentioned, the place wasn’t huge, but considering the cuisine, I was surprised that every single seat was claimed.
The menu itself was pretty traditional, which I liked. Plastic covering with stained, wet pages inside. Same font and same feel as your average diner…. Now, that’s comfort.
After going over every menu item several times, I finally settled on two items I hadn’t had in at least 10 years, and might not get another chance to experience. I went with the chocolate egg cream and mozzarella stick. $4 for the cream, $10 for the sticks. All in the name of research!
After watching the waitress make my egg cream, I realized it would be extremely easy for me to make one at home. I simply had been too cheap and lazy to purchase necessary ingredients and do it. What a sad world I live in where mixing seltzer, chocolate syrup, and soy milk was too much effort. Clearly, it also required too much intelligence for me to realize I could easily make this special little drink at home.
I wanted to save the beverage to have with my meal, but having little self-control, I took a couple sips. It was definitely an egg cream, but not too well done. Not enough carbonation or chocolate syrup. Part 1: Happy, but somewhat disappointed.
When the mozzarella sticks arrived (or mozz sticks- as the cool waitress called them) I basked in their greasy, fried glory for a few moments. Although there were only four of them, yes, FOUR mozz sticks, I was still delighted to see them there. In my basket. Next to my egg cream. As I sat on my exclusive bar stool. They looked hot and crisp and exceptionally unhealthy. Praise the Lord.
One bite of a mozz stick, presumably that pretty one on stage left, and I was content with my presence on this Earth of ours. That cheese, though. What even? How could it be? Even the marinara sauce was a magnificent gift from the Champs angels. To this moment, I don’t fully understand how the cheese in my sticks was so gooey and artery-clogging (minus the artery clog….) When I asked the type of cheese used, I was told it was Daiya. Daiya is not a cheese alternative I typically enjoy. It tends to hold its shape and taste funky. Not in this case, though. This was the new and improved Daiya. Between the crunch of the stick and the goo of the cheese, along with the zing, pop, bang of the egg cream, I was quite impressed with this Williamsburg find. Not to mention, the punk-loving high schooler in me was beginning to emerge from the depths of my past. Part 2: Feliz Navidad! (See? I’m down with the Spanish!)
I don’t know if I’ll ever be returning to this area, honestly. I can’t say when or where our hearts may meet again, but I do truly believe we will be reunited. Until that day, I think fondly of what could have been. Adieu for now, mon cheri!
As long as you’re willing to wait a bit, pay the prices, and make the sojourn to Williamsburg/Bushwick, I think Champs diner is worth checking out. It’s a full diner experience if you’ve been missing that.
Tune in next time when I review something else!
Rating: 8/10 unicorn hugs
Check out things you’re not eating right now: